Shark Research

Shark TaggingRookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve fisheries biologist Pat O’Donnell and a team of volunteers spend many hours on the water every month catching and tagging sharks that are using estuarine bays as nurseries.

Sometimes the hard work pays off, and when a tagged shark is recaptured it provides clues to how it has used the habitats in the Reserve. Last week, while monitoring in Fakahatchee Bay, the team captured a bull shark which was tagged in June 2013 in nearby Faka-Union Bay. Since that time (2 ½ years ago) this shark grew from about 40 inches in length to almost five feet.

Programs, Tours and Events at Rookery Bay Reserve

Pre-register for the following programs at or call 239-530-5972. Registration fees include admission to Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center on the day of event.

Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center is located at 300 Tower Road, off Collier Boulevard between Naples and Marco Island. Open Mon – Sat., 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. $5 adults, $3 kids 6 – 12, FREE for kids under 6 and Friends of Rookery Bay members.

Tuesdays – Fridays, 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.

Guided Kayak Tours

Join a Rookery Bay naturalist to enjoy a two-hour guided tour which explores the mangrove bays, creeks and rookeries that make this Reserve a valuable treasure. This is a beginner’s trip and includes brief paddling instruction and all gear. Cost is $59, $49 for members.

Tuesdays – Fridays, 2:00 – 5:00 p.m.

Guided Boat Tours

Explore the unique ecosystem of Rookery Bay through an intimate boat-based tour. With a maximum of six passengers, these intimate on-the-water adventures offer a relaxed pace and emphasis on learning designed to help visitors develop a true sense of place and a deeper connection to this unique coastal wilderness. Several different trips are available, each with a different theme. Cost is $89, $79 for members. Proceeds support the non-profit Friends of Rookery Bay, Inc. High Points: learn about the geology and wildlife of an ancient dune ecosystem (Jan. 12, 29)

Treasure Island: this ecological treasure is a rare tropical hardwood hammock (Jan. 7, 13, 28)

Essence of an Estuary: learn how human history and natural history intersect (Jan. 6, 14, 20, 27)

Life’s a Beach: explore Keewaydin Island, home to some of the best shelling in Florida (Jan. 5, 15, 19, 26)

Sunset to Starlight: Enjoy sunset on the beach and moonrise over the mangroves (Jan. 21, 22, 23)

Jan. 5, 2016, 12 – 1 p.m.

Lunch & Learn: Fire, It’s Good

The prescribed fire program at Rookery Bay Reserve is an important tool for preserving native biodiversity. Join Greg Curry, resource management specialist and “Burn Boss,” to learn about how fire is used to protect wildlife and people. Cost is $15, and $10 for Friends of Rookery Bay members, and includes a hot lunch from Carrabba’s.

Jan. 9, 2016, 8 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Wing It: A Beginning Birders Workshop

Learn basics of birding, including how to use field guides, plumage, flight patterns, behavior and field marks in bird identification. This class also provides an overview of binocular styles and functions, including adjusting the diopter and other “tricks of the trade.” The classroom session will be followed by a field trip to a nearby park to practice new skills. Cost is $35.

Jan. 15-17 2016

SWFL Nature Festival

Don’t miss the 12th Annual Southwest Florida Nature Festival! Three days of field trips are available in a variety of transportation modes including walking, driving, biking, paddling, buggy, and boat tours. Most tours are offered in cooperation with regional and local partners such as Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Up A Creek Kayak Tours, and Conservancy of Southwest Florida. New this year are an evening firefly walk in Big Cypress National Preserve, a behind-the-scenes private tour at Naples Botanical Garden, and a birding walk at Harnes Marsh Preserve, a part of the Lehigh Acres Municipal Services Improvement District (Lee County). Each tour has limited space and requires pre-registration.

In addition to field trips, the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center will host a day of on-site activities and lectures on Saturday, January 16. Marine life touch tank, guided trail walks, educational booths and other activities will be ongoing throughout the day. Hourly lectures by local and national experts will cover local wildlife and there is even a session on how to be a better birdwatcher.

Admission to the Environmental Learning Center on Saturday is $10 ($5 for members.) The Keynote Presentation will be “Florida’s Living Beaches” by authors Blair and Dawn Witherington. Our wave-swept coastline offers more than a sandy stroll amidst stunning scenery. As ever-changing ribbons of sand, these beaches foster unique life forms and accept beguiling castaways from a vast marine wilderness. Blair and Dawn have sought to satisfy beachcombers’ curiosity within four books on southeastern US beaches covering beach processes, plants, animals, minerals, and manmade objects.

The cost to attend the Keynote Presentation is $15 and includes light refreshments.

Jan 22, 2016, 5:30 – 7 p.m.

Amazing Adventures Lecture, “South African Safari: One day”

Keynote Speaker: Carl Kelly

This typical day on safari begins before sunrise tracking two cheetahs as they hunt, circle a lake, water hole and the wide variety of animals there, and concludes with a close encounter at sunset. Carl Kelly is a retired pastor and journalist. He currently works as a charter captain and ecotour guide, and volunteers at Rookery Bay NERR. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. for refreshments, the speaker’s presentation is 6 to 7 p.m. followed by questions and mingling. Cost is $15 ($10 for members) and includes refreshments.

Jan 23, 2016, 12:30 – 3:30 p.m.

Collage on Canvas

Local artist Marjorie Pesek will lead this three-hour worshop for adults of all levels of creative talent. She will share her unique art technique of Layered Imagery. Participants will be supplied with a sketch on a 9” x 12” stretched canvas, a template of the subject, glue, scissors, and magazines. Marjorie will work with you to create a masterpiece you can take home! Additional kits available for purchase in the nature store. See examples on Marjorie’s website by clicking here. Cost is $55 and $45 for Friends of Rookery Bay members. Registration fee includes one adult (ages 12+) and all necessary supplies. Come early and enjoy complimentary admission to the Environmental Learning Center.

Feb. 2, 2016, 12 – 1 pm

Lunch & Learn: A Snapshot in Time

Understanding landscape-scale status and trends of critically important aquatic and coastal upland habitats is crucial for resource management. RBNERR recently completed work toward producing its first ever comprehensive maps that classify and enumerate the relative acreages of the various aquatic and upland habitat types contained within the Reserve’s managed area. These maps are an important tool with which researchers and resource managers can begin to investigate how these habitats have responded to land-use changes, how they will respond to future changes including the effects from sea level rise, and can serve as a basis for designing and implementing resource management/restoration strategies that can allow for these habitats to be more resilient to natural and anthropogenic changes.

Kevin Cunniff is a coastal/estuarine ecologist, with particular expertise in seagrass habitats, who has been working in south Florida estuarine ecosystems since 1999. Cunniff has served as RBNERR’s Research Coordinator since November 2013. Most recently, Cunniff was a researcher in the Seagrass Ecosystems Research Laboratory at Florida International University where he was conducting long-term research on seagrass and water quality trends in the ecotonal mangrove lakes of northern Florida Bay in Everglades National Park.

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