LIN Rookery Bay Fish tankThe aquaria in the center introduce visitors to the amazingly diverse community of animals found in the estuary and nearshore  marine environment. Three 50-gallon focus tanks enable closeup views of some of the younger, smaller fish and unique marine  life. Tank residents have included hermit crabs, barbfish (a native venomous species), seahorses, polka-dot batfish (the Center’s mascot) and a southern stargazer, which is a fish that is able to emit an electric charge as a defense mechanism. Because oyster reefs are a primary habitat in Florida’s shallow coastal areas, a 300-gallon tank displays a sculpted reef that provides habitat for a small school of goldspotted killifish and sheepshead minnows, as well as tulip snails and other mollusks of the reef.

The 400-gallon seagrass tank has a life-like bed of turtle grass, an important habitat for sea turtles and fish, and houses flounder, seatrout and southern puffer, to name a few. The center’s largest tank is the 2,300-gallon mangrove aquarium. It features an 18-foot tall lifelike mangrove tree sculpture extending its leafy canopy skyward while arching prop roots provide structure for fish swimming below the water’s surface. Kids can even crawl into a ground level bubble to see what life is like for the fish living among the protective prop roots.

rookeryThe most engaging exhibit in the center is the marine life touch and temperature – using Apex Aquarium Monitoring and Control. As long he is connected to the Internet, Trager can check on the well-being of the organisms from afar. The system lets him make adjustments remotely and also alerts him if something is wrong with the aquarium. “I once got a call at four in the morning telling me the pH levels were critical,” he said. Funding has been secured to enlarge and enhance the touch tank, with built-in protection against chemicals on visitors’ hands – sunscreen or bug repellent – which can harm or even kill the creatures in the tank. Previously, the tank had to be drained, cleaned and refilled on a regular basis.

The new tank, which will have a flow-through system providing a steady supply of clean water, is expected to debut during the reserve’s annual National Estuaries Day celebration in September.

Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is managed by the Florida  Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Coastal Office in cooperation  with NOAA. For more information visit

programs, tours and events

August 5

Kids FREE Friday,

10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

This popular summer education program provides FREE admission for children ages 12 and younger who are accompanied by a paying adult each Friday through August 5. This week’s theme is Animals of the Sea: Predators! Scheduled activities include: story time, feature film, crafts
and activities, face painting, and touch tank. Russell’s Clambakes’ food truck will be onsite with sandwiches, salads and snacks. Registration is
NOT required, cost is $5 for adults (free for members). We recommend a ratio of no more than three kids per adult to ensure a safe and pleasurable experience.

August 8

Essentials of Digital Photography Workshop,

9:30 a.m. – 12: 30 p.m.

This workshop helps photographers get the most out of their digital camera. Learn how to use the camera’s shutter, aperture, ISO control and the drive modes to create images with impact and creativity. No previous camera or photography experience is necessary, just a desire to learn. Sonny Saunders has over 35 years of experience in photography and instruction and is renowned for his ability to communicate to a wide variety of students. Cost is $55, registration is required.

Tuesdays, August 9 – 30

Drawing in Graphite and Colored Pencil

Each Tuesday Lee will teach drawing in graphite and colored pencil. Learn a variety of techniques and learn to draw all subject matter including portraiture, animal drawing, flowers, nature and still life. This is a non-structured class and is perfect for beginners or the experienced artist. She will give drawing demonstrations and share examples on how to improve drawing skills based on her proven methods presented in her many art books. This class will meet once a week for four weeks, 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.: August 9, 16, 23, and 30.

Wednesdays, August 10 – 31

Painting in Acrylics

Each Wednesday Lee will teach painting in acrylics. This is a nonstructured class and is perfect for a beginner or the experienced artist. Lee provides guidance based on the techniques she features in her painting books. All subject matter will be demonstrated, such as still life, flowers, animals, portraits, and scenery. This class will meet once a week for four weeks, 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.: August 10, 17, 24, and 31.

Each student will work on their own project, and receive one on one instruction and guidance from Lee. Lee Hammond, Rookery Bay Reserve’s Artist in Residence, has been a professional artist and art instructor for more than 30 years. She has published more than 35 art instruction books. Class fees are $160 per month. Art supplies are not included.

Saturday Sept. 24,

9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Don’t miss the annual celebration of the special habitat where rivers meet the sea. Called National Estuaries Day, Rookery Bay Reserve’s day long event includes staff-narrated boat tours of the estuary, introductory 30-minute kayaking trips, paddle boarding on Henderson Creek, marine critter touch tank and other live animal presentations. There will be games and crafts for children, as well as behind-the-scenes tours of the science labs, films, food for purchase and more. Admission to the event is free, and tours are available on a first-come, first-served basis. VIP tickets are also
available for purchase.

September 29

Art Gallery Exhibition and Reception,

5:30 – 7 p.m.

The Friends of Rookery Bay and the United Arts Council of Collier County present the exhibition, Summer II: Water, from September 24 through November 9. Enjoy works by local artists Muffy Clark Gill, Lynda Fay Braun, and John Brady. The Opening Reception will feature wine and light hors d’oeuvres. Admission is $3 for the public and free for participating artists and their guest as well as members of the United Arts Council and the Friends of Rookery Bay.

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