The Friends of Rookery Bay held its 9th annual Batfish Bash for the Bay on March 16 at the Rookery BayEnvironmental Learning Center.

The re-imagined event gave guests the taste and feel of Old Florida thanks to event chair Karyn Capozzo and co-chair Milda Vaivada, both board members.

The native plant décor, farm tables and natural green color palette throughout the event tent transported dinner guests to the upland hammocks found within the 110,000-acre reserve. The setting was relaxing and invited guests to visit other tables and mingle at conversation areas set up beside the stage and dance floor.

During cocktail hour, attendees navigated a scavenger hunt to visit tables staffed by reserve scientists, biologists and educators to learn about the monitoring, stewardship and education work they conduct.

“The bash is a fun way to introduce Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve to new supporters who haven’t seen the Environmental Learning Center’s aquariums, exhibits and art gallery,” said Athan Barkoukis, Executive Director of the Friends of Rookery Bay. “It also provides an opportunity for people to understand the importance of protecting estuaries.

Approximately 40 percent of Collier County’s coastline is within the reserve’s boundaries. We need to help the reserve’s scientists in their work to ensure the estuary waters are healthy nurseries of the sea for marine life and that the mangroves do their job in reducing the impacts of storms like Hurricane Irma.”

Friends of Rookery Bay recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. The reserve is celebrating its 40th year of protecting and studying the local estuarine environment. Learn more at

1. Milda Vaivada, Athan Barkoukis and Karyn Capozzo
2. Sue & Tom Marquardt, Lori & Tom Wagor and Sandi Wilson
3. Dick Ingersoll, Nik Charov, Dr. Caron Staples and Nancy Wolff
4. Catie and Johnnie Dolan
5. Jim Trippler and Joni Brickley