Learn the History of the Caloosahatchee

Proposed canal connecting Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee

SCCF’s Policy Director, Rae Ann Wessel, is to be featured speaker at the Captiva Island Historical Society’s final program of the 2017 season. Rae Ann’s passion for the river’s current condition stems from a long time understanding of its history. Join the Captiva Island Historical Society on Wednesday, April 5th, at 5:30 pm.

The Caloosahatchee was once a meandering stream which started in a little area known as Lake Flirt just east of LaBelle. The need to get vegetables and fruit to market as well as efforts to drain the swamp, advanced the concept of an inland canal network.

Farmers, many of whom moved south when several frost events further north, caused an increase in settlement along the banks of the Caloosahatchee. Steamers plied the waters laden with citrus and vegetables shipped downstream were bound for markets out of ports at Punta Rassa and Boca Grande.

Rae Ann’s recounting of the history of food to market and changes to the river will take place at the Captiva Civic Association building on April 5. The Captiva Island Historical Society event, sponsored by Sanibel Captiva Trust Company will start with a reception on the patio at 5:30 followed by Rae Ann’s presentation at 6 pm.

Rae Ann Wessel, SCCF’s Natural Resource Policy Director, works diligently with decision makers and motivating local residents to become engaged in the political process. This is a program of a different sort for Rae Ann allowing her to express her deep understanding of the waterway’s changes and honor her mentor Charles Foster aka River Rat whose life on the river spanned nearly all of the 20th century.

SCCF’s Conservation Forum to Show Deepwater Horizon: Dispatches from the Gulf

SCCF is presenting a documentary on the Deepwater Horizon, Dispatches from the Gulf at the Sanibel Community House. Followed by brief presentations and panel discussion about the findings and current research in the Gulf related to the Deepwater horizon.  Panelists are Dr. Michael Parsons, Professor, Florida Gulf Coast University; and Dr. Marie DeLorenzo Research Toxicologist, NOAA, Charleston, SC.  Thursday, March 23. Doors open at 6:30 pm; program begins at 7 pm.  At Sanibel Community House, 2173 Periwinkle Way.

Narrated by Matt Damon, “Dispatches from the Gulf” is a one-hour documentary that investigates the environmental health of the Gulf of Mexico six years after the Deepwater Horizon blowout in April 2010. That is when the world’s ninth largest body of water became a place where thousands of communities and millions of citizens were put in jeopardy by a single incident – the biggest oil spill in U.S. history.

The event initiated an unprecedented response effort and mobilized the largest, coordinated scientific research endeavor around an ocean-related event in history – orchestrated through the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI).

Dispatches from the Gulf shares the first-hand accounts from fishermen, scientists, and activists on how the Deepwater Horizon spill impacted their lives. Researchers from the University of South Florida, University of Miami, University of Georgia and others study the fishes, deep sea corals, and currents impacted by the oil spill, all of which are highlighted in the documentary.

A panel discussion of researchers working on the effects of oil and dispersants on Gulf of Mexico flora and fauna will follow the hour-long documentary. The panelists will present their findings and answer questions about the ongoing research related to the spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

A trailer can be found here: https://youtu.be/p_yD9ABHWdA

Thursday, March 23
Doors open at 6:30 pm; program begins at 7 pm
Sanibel Community House, 2173 Periwinkle Way
Free

Please call 239-472-2329 with any questions.

Presenting Sponsor set for SCCF’s First Farm to Table Dinner

SCCF Executive Director Erick Lindblad and President Gwenda Hiett-Clements raise a toast with Sanibel-Captiva Trust Company Executive Vice President Robin Cook and Founder and Chairman Al Hanser

SCCF is proud to announce The Sanibel Captiva Trust Company is the Presenting Sponsor of their first ever Farm to Table Dinner. The event will take place at the SCCF Bailey Homestead Pavilion at 1300 Periwinkle Way on Sanibel. It is set for Friday, March 31 at 6:30 p.m.

“We are delighted and grateful that the Trust Company has generously agreed to sponsor our newest fundraising event,” said SCCF Board President Gwenda Hiett-Clements. “Al and his team do so much for so many island non-profits year in and year out. Without their support, many worthwhile initiatives wouldn’t be possible.”

Proceeds from the Farm to Table Dinner will benefit SCCF’s Native Landscapes & Garden Center, also located at the Bailey Homestead. “If you haven’t stopped by yet, please do. The Garden Center is a tremendous resource for home gardeners and a magical place for all visitors,” said Hiett-Clements.

SCCF also announced that the event will be co-chaired by Trustees Linda Uhler and Sandra Gross. Guest chef for the evening will be Frances Kroner of Cincinnati. Chef Kroner’s credentials include working for James Beard award winner and Iron Chef Michael Symon and opening one of Cincinnati’s first “pop-up” dining experiences.  She is currently the Executive Chef for the Sleepy Bee Cafes where she is known for her menus that promote local meat, dairy and produce with a creative edge. Chef Kroner will bring her culinary talents to the islands, designing a dinner featuring the best of Southwest Florida.

“We are so grateful that Sandy Gross, whose family owns the Sleepy Bee operations, was willing to underwrite Chef Kroner’s participation in this event, “ said Uhler. “It has been so interesting working with her and local purveyors to plan the menu and other details for the 31st. It will be a wonderful evening.”

This year’s event is currently sold out, but SCCF is hopeful it can be presented again in 2018. You can join the wait list through this link.

Start of Snowy Plover Season Kicks Off with a New Banding Project

Snowy plovers are small beach-nesting shorebirds that we share our beautiful beach with here on Sanibel. February 15th marks the official start to snowy plover nesting season in the state of Florida. Over the next few weeks, adult plovers will form mating pairs and begin to establish territories across Sanibel. SCCF recently teamed up with staff from the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge and a few volunteers to rope off a known nesting area adjacent to the Perry Tract on the east end of Sanibel. This small stretch of beach is located just to the east of Gulfside City Park.  For the last several months, a group of plovers ranging from 6- 12 individuals have been utilizing this area for roosting and foraging.

This year SCCF will continue its long tradition of monitoring the nesting of snowy plovers, along with 2 other beach-nesting species: Wilson’s plovers and least terns.  The shorebird biologist and shorebird intern will regularly be on the beaches monitoring plover activity and constructing protective boundaries around nests. Additionally, there will be presentations about our nesting shorebirds given bi-weekly at the SCCF visitor center throughout nesting season. The next presentation will be Thursday, February 23rd at 2:00 pm in the SCCF auditorium.

As a means to better track the movements and nesting success of our snowy plovers, SCCF’s shorebird biologist has initiated a banding project. To identify birds as individuals, adult plovers are captured and given a federally issued metal band and unique combination of color bands on their lower legs. Currently on Sanibel there are 6 uniquely banded individuals, one of whom was banded as part of a past research project in 2009. If you happen to see a banded snowy plover on the beach, please take a photo or make note of the colors on the legs, and the location of the bird. You can report any sightings of our banded birds, or send any further inquiries about our research to the shorebird biologist at shorebirds@sccf.org .

SCCF Hosts Water Forum with U.S. Congressman and Sanibel’s Mayor

Weighing in on the Water, a February 9 town hall event, was hosted by SCCF at the Bailey Homestead Pavilion and moderated by SCCF’s Natural Resource Policy Director Rae Ann Wessel.  In introducing U.S. Congressman Francis Rooney and Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane, she framed both the economic and ecological impacts from poor water management as key issues that must be addressed at  the local, state, and federal levels to improve water quality in the Everglades and Southwest Florida.

“There is insufficient capacity to store, treat and move water,” said Wessel. “We need new ways of doing restoration, and science needs to be the basis of all the solutions we pursue.”
Congressman Rooney briefed approximately 200 constituents on his efforts to address Southwest Florida’s water quality issues at the federal level.

“We don’t need new legislative authorization, we need funds to be appropriated for multiple Everglades Restoration projects authorized since 2007,” said Rooney.

The Congressman went on to say his first acts since taking office on January 20 were all focused on water quality for his district and Florida. He cited his one-on-one visits with members of the House Appropriations Committee, arguing for Everglades restoration funding. He also shared the letter he crafted and sent to President Trump, on which he secured the signatures of every member of Florida’s House delegation on Capitol Hill. (See a pdf of the letter here). The letter asks that the Trump administration’s fiscal 2018 budget “strongly support Everglades restoration projects, especially those within the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program (CERP).”

“This was an extraordinary achievement for a recently arrived freshman member of Congress,” said Wessel. “The letter was bipartisan and included every House member representing Florida in Washington.  Advocates fighting for Everglades restoration and water quality have never had that demonstration of unanimous congressional support before Congressman Rooney brought this focus on water to Washington.”

City of Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane expressed his appreciation for Congressman Rooney’s efforts at the federal level, particularly in the way they complement the efforts Ruane is working to spearhead.

“We have worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and have gained their commitment to accelerate – to 2018 rather than 2021 – the design and planning process for a flow way for storage and cleaning south of Lake Okeechobee,” said Ruane.

The Mayor went on to speak in detail about his initiative to engage the 19 counties and 163 cities affected by poor water quality. These counties and cities represent 55% of Florida’s real estate values. Combined with their tourism income, the economic impact of poor water quality is $2 trillion. “If you’re in Tallahassee, that number is hard to ignore,” said Ruane.

The mayor has taken a leading role in bringing together the cities to work together in seeking state-level support, such as advancing the passage of Senate Bill 10 (SB10) to purchase 60,000 acres south of Lake O.  He told the audience to watch for planned efforts to highlight these issues during the Florida legislative session beginning March 7.

SCCF encourages you to forward this email to friends and neighbors, asking them to sign up for SCCF action alerts and become engaged in pressing our elected officials to take positive actions for moving restoration forward to protect our economy and water resources. Click here to sign up for our Action Alerts. 

Caloosahatchee Oxbow and Riverlore Cruises Underway

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Join SCCF on an Oxbow and Riverlore Cruise to experience the historic Caloosahatchee. These guided trips provide a relaxing opportunity to gain a personal perspective on the river, its history, folklore, issues and solutions, as we explore the meanders of the historic upriver Caloosahatchee. We follow the river back to a time when a waterfall served as the headwaters of the Caloosahatchee and settlers braved living amongst the wilderness.

The 2.5 hour adventure begins by locking through the W.P. Franklin Lock in Olga. Heading east toward Alva, we enter the historic bends of the river and revisit the activities of the pioneers who traveled the same river to find paradise. Stories of the settlements and their adventures are blended with an understanding of the river’s oxbows, the wild creatures that call it home and the challenges the river faces.

Tours are guided by Rae Ann Wessel, a river researcher, long-time river advocate, historian and SCCF (Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation) Natural Resource Policy Director. The boat is a stable and spacious 41 passenger pontoon boat. All seats have a great view for photographs and wildlife viewing.

Cruise Dates:

Sunday, February 12, 2017 1:00 to 3:30 PM
Sunday, February 19, 2017 1:00 to 3:30 PM
Sunday, March 12, 2017 1:00 to 3:30 PM (daylight savings start )
Sunday, April 9, 2017 1:00 to 3:30 PM
Sunday, May 14, 2017 1:00 to 3:30 PM

Location: Address: 1660 South Franklin Lock Road, Alva, FL.

Directions: SR 80/Palm Beach Blvd. east past I75 (exit 141) 6 miles to light at Old Olga Rd.
At light turn north/left onto Old Olga Road. Follow road around east 2.2 mi.
WP Franklin Recreation Area is on the left.
A map with directions will be sent to each e-mail address  by Inge Santos or Wendy Kindig a week prior to the trip.

Boat Information: The boat is a very stable 41 passenger pontoon boat with canopy shade over the majority of the seats. There is a bathroom on the boat. We are not able to take electric wheelchairs, but you can get on with standard wheelchair down a steep ramp with a small step at low tide. No dogs are allowed except service dogs that have on their official vest & may be restricted if boat limit is exceeded as determined by the boat captain.

What to Bring: Sunglasses, camera, binoculars, hat, sunscreen, water, snack and a
sense of adventure! Arrive 15 minutes before departure.

Reservations: Required and Pre Paid at $45 per person. Please call SCCF.
Coast Guard requires each passenger’s name – No Mr/Mrs

Questions: Call SCCF at 239-472-2329

Beach Meditation to Benefit YOU and SCCF Tonight!

Support SCCF while setting your personal intentions under the New Moon!

Please join us tonight, Friday, January 27th, at 5:15 pm. We’ll meditate at Alison Hagerup Beach Park at 14790 Captiva Drive. No previous meditation or yoga experience is required. Yali Zawady of Ambu Yoga leads a guided meditation as the sun sets. Suggested donations of $10-$15 are accepted for the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation. Please bring a towel or blanket to sit on. Public parking available.

Ambu Yoga is a yoga studio and clothing boutique in South Sea Resort’s Chadwick Square on Captiva Island. They offer a variety of in-studio classes, beach yoga, yoga on the lawn at South Seas Resort and SUP Yoga. Ambu Yoga is a member of the SCCF Business Roundtable and has made significant contributions to SCCF’s mission through its New Moon Meditation Series. Contact info@ambuyoga.com or 239-314-9642 (YOGA) for additional information.

Sonic Sea Film Screening – Evenings at the Homestead Returns!

Join us to view and discuss this award-winning film. Sonic Sea is a moving and provocative 60-minute documentary created by International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) about the devastating impact of industrial and military ocean noise on whales and other marine life.

Narrated by Rachel McAdams and featuring Sting, the film offers solutions and hope for a quieter ocean, and underscores that the ocean’s destiny is inextricably bound to our own. We are honored that Patrick Ramage, IFAW’s Whale Programme Director, will participate in SCCF’s screening. Patrick played a key role in the production of Sonic Sea, and is the son-in-law of SCCF’s immediate past President Ron Gibson.

Wednesday, February 15 at the Bailey Homestead Preserve, 1300 Periwinkle Way. Advance purchase required by clicking here. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Cost of the program and refreshments is $10 per person. Please carpool if at all possible.

Three Sea Turtle Internships Now Open

All 3 Internship have been filled – thank you for your interest

SEA TURTLE INTERNSHIP – NIGHTTIME TAGGING PROJECT (2 POSITIONS AVAILABLE)

Term:  May 1 – July 31
Compensation: $200/week stipend, housing on Sanibel, $400 travel stipend

Required qualifications:

  • High school diploma and related experience working outdoors
  • Ability and desire to work long hours overnight
  • Ability to work under adverse conditions (biting insects, rain)
  • Ability to work independently to accomplish set goals and as part of a team
  • Ability to maintain a positive attitude & sense of humor

Desired qualifications:

  • Previous experience conducting nighttime sea turtle surveys
  • Previous experience tagging sea turtles (flipper and PIT tags)
  • Experience driving ATVs and UTVs
  • Willingness to use your personal vehicle for work if needed (mileage compensated)
  • Experience with public outreach

Job description:

Two internship positions are available to help with sea turtle nest protection on Sanibel and Captiva Islands from May 1 – July 31. The interns will be responsible for monitoring the beach overnight in search of nesting sea turtles. Morphometric data will be collected for each turtle and the turtles will be tagged with flipper and PIT tags. Successful candidates must be able to work closely with other interns and a large group of volunteers. Previous experience conducting nighttime sea turtle nesting surveys and tagging sea turtles preferred but not required. Housing included. Surveys will start at sunset and will be conducted 4-5 nights per week.  Some weekend work may be required.

To apply:
Send cover letter, resume, and contact info for 3 references to Kelly Sloan at ksloan@sccf.org.
We will contact qualified applicants to set up interview appointments.  No phone calls, please.

 

SEA TURTLE INTERNSHIP

Term:  April 2017 – September 2017
Compensation: $200/week stipend, housing on Sanibel provided, $400 travel stipend

Required qualifications:

  • High school diploma and related experience working outdoors
  • Ability and desire to work long, irregular hours (including weekend hours)
  • Ability to work under adverse conditions (intense sun and heat, biting insects, rain)
  • Ability to work independently to accomplish set goals and as part of a team
  • Ability to maintain a positive attitude & sense of humor

Desired qualifications:

  • Previous experience conducting sea turtle surveys and locating egg chambers
  • Experience driving ATVs and other beach vehicles
  • Data entry/management experience
  • Willingness to use your personal vehicle for work (mileage compensated) if needed
  • Experience with public outreach (talking to the public when asked questions)

Job description:

An internship position is available to help with sea turtle nest protection on Sanibel and Captiva Islands. The intern will be responsible for completing early morning surveys to document sea turtle nesting activity and identify each crawl to species and crawl type, locate egg chambers, and conduct nest evaluations. Successful candidates must be able to work closely with a large group of volunteers in hot and buggy conditions. Previous experience conducting sea turtle nesting surveys and locating egg chambers preferred but not required. Housing included. Work will be 5-6 days per week starting early in the morning and potentially continuing into the evening.  Weekend work will be required.  Applicants must also be willing to assist with other departmental projects, such as habitat management and wildlife sampling, as needed.

To apply:
Send cover letter, resume, and contact info for 3 references to Kelly Sloan at whmp_internship@sccf.org. Please list the internship you are applying for in the cover letter.
We will contact qualified applicants to set up interview appointments.  No phone calls, please.

SCCF’s 25th Annual Tennis Tournament

Image result for Blackwood Tennis Academy at the Dunes

Join SCCF on the 28th and 29th at the Dunes for our 25th Annual Tennis Tournament! Register here for the event (payments and registration online only). Deadline for entries is Thursday, Jan. 26.

Located at the Blackwood Tennis Academy at the Dunes; 949 Sand Castle Road, 472-3522

Schedule:

Friday, Jan 27:

  • 9am Call for start times and court assignments
  • 5-7pm: Tournament Check In and Happy Hour at the Dunes Clubhouse

Saturday, Jan 28:

  • 8am: Play begins

Sunday, Jan 29:

  • 8am: Play Continues
  • 1pm: Raffle drawing and Silent Auction

Tournament Format

  • Double Teams competition
  • First round consolation
  • Winners advance to finals

Divisions

Mens and Ladies

  • 4.5-4.0
  • 3.5-3.0
  • 2.5-2.0

Mixed

  • 7.5 and Above
  • 7.0 and Below

All league players will compete at team level of highest ranked partner.  Non-league players will be placed at USTA rating &/or at discretion of head teaching pro.

Awards

  • T-shirts
  • Winners & runners-up receive Lucas Century etched wine glass
  • Consolation match awards

Refreshments

  • Breakfast & Lunch Saturday & Sunday
  • Friday Night Happy Hour at Dunes Clubhouse

Raffle

Tickets available until Drawing on Sunday, at 1 pm

Sponsorship Levels

  • Major $5,000
  • Tournament $2,500
  • Championship $1,200
  • Match $500
  • Set $250
  • Game $150

Sponsors receive:

  • press release & sponsor board recognition
  • SCCF acknowledgement letter
  • Attend all tournament events
  • Major & Tournament sponsors on T-Shirts
  • T-shirt and SCCF membership

To be a sponsor call Dee at SCCF 472-2329, dserage@sccf.org or Lisa Newmeyer-Cochrane at 472-8875

Register here for the event. 

Shorebird Internship 2017

sanderlings-sized

This position has been filled – thank you for your interest!

Description:

We are seeking one intern to assist the SCCF Wildlife & Habitat Management Program’s shorebird monitoring project from Feb. 6, 2017 through August 4th, 2017. Primary duties include: Assisting the shorebird biologist, shorebird monitoring and surveys, nest searching, setting up nest area enclosures, interacting with the public, communicating with our team of volunteers, and data entry.  Additionally the shorebird intern will assist with the care and maintenance of several live animal exhibits at our nature center (snakes and aquatic turtles) and may be occasionally required to give presentations about them. The intern will also assist with other departmental projects as needed, including but not limited to: invasive species removal, sea turtle monitoring, bald eagle nest monitoring, small mammal trapping, freshwater fish and invertebrate sampling, frog call surveys, prescribed burns, and vegetation monitoring.  Housing is provided.

Required Qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology, environmental science, or closely related field
  • Ability and desire to work long, irregular hours (including weekend hours)
  • Ability and desire to work outdoors in adverse conditions (intense heat, biting insects, etc)
  • Ability and desire to interact with the public and give presentations
  • Ability to collect accurate data and enter into Microsoft access and excel databases
  • Ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • Ability to live in shared housing
  • Ability to lift and carry heavy objects (up to 40 pounds)
  • Must possess a valid driver’s license
  • Willingness to clean and maintain several live animal exhibits (snakes and aquatic turtles)
  • Willingness to learn and assist with other projects as needed

Desired Qualifications:

  • Previous field experience with ground-nesting birds / nest searching
  • Ability to identify and re-sight banded birds
  • Experience with GPS and GIS
  • Willingness to use your personal vehicle for work on occasion (mileage reimbursed)
  • Bird identification skills
  • Experience with public outreach and environmental education

Salary: $200 week/ $400 travel allowance/ housing provided

To apply:  Please send a cover letter, resume, and 3 references to Audrey Albrecht at shorebirds@sccf.org   by December 31st, 2016 (no phone calls please)

2016 End of Season Sea Turtle Update

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Loggerheadlines

The first nest of the 2016 season was laid on April 22nd – what a great marker that was to celebrate Earth Day! We were coming off a record year for sea turtles on our beaches, with 522 nests laid on Sanibel and 133 nests laid on Captiva in 2015.

The sea turtles continued to impress us in 2016 and broke historical nesting records on both beaches, with a total of 636 nests laid on Sanibel (including two greens) and 194 nests laid on Captiva. This is the third year in a row that Sanibel has broken records, and the first record breaking year for Captiva since 2000!

loggerhead-nests

The East End of Sanibel has historically been a low density nesting beach, but in recent years has seen a notable spike in nest numbers. The average number of nests laid from 1996-2013 was 38 per season. In 2014 and 2015 there were 110 and 120 nests laid on the East End, respectively. Continuing with this trend, this season 174 loggerhead nests were on the East End, more than quadrupling the 20 year average.

Although statewide numbers do not reflect a corresponding increase in nesting, a statistical analysis of trends indicates that there has been a strong increase (71 percent) over the last ten years (2007-2016). This is especially good news considering it follows a sharp decline in nest counts in the previous decade (1998-2007).

Many years of sea turtle nesting data are needed to analyze sea turtle nesting trends, but it’s really starting to look like the coordinated conservation efforts over the past 20-30 years are starting to pay off, and loggerheads might be in the beginning stages of recovery.

Volunteers

The 2016 volunteer hours were nothing short of staggering. In less than 7 months, our 107 volunteers reported 4,752 hours on the beach. This is approximately 119 fourty-hour work weeks! Even on the long and hot days of July, these folks are always willing to help with huge smiles on their faces. We are so grateful to have such an amazing team!!

Tagging Project

This year we were proud to launch our nighttime tagging project to learn more about the nesting patterns of individual females on Sanibel. Our Nighttime Tagging Team, Andrew Glinsky and Jennifer Gooch, came to SCCF with a combined 6 seasons of tagging experience. Andrew worked on 3 tagging beaches in Costa Rica and most recently tagged leatherbacks in Western Africa. Jennifer also spent one season tagging in Costa Rica and then Grenada before coming to Sanibel. They were an excellent team that worked very well together, with the public, and with the turtles.

After obtaining the necessary permits, we were so appreciative that Mark and Gretchen Banks generously funded the entire project. Our only remaining limitation was finding housing for the additional staff needed to complete the project, and we were so fortunate to have the Wilmeth Cottage to accommodate our tagging interns!

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The goal of the project was to monitor the movement of individual nesting females. In addition to working with the turtles, Jennifer and Andrew were able to educate beach goers every night by encouraging sea-turtle friendly behaviors.  They distributed red filters for flashlights, tagged furniture left on the beach to remind beachgoers of the hazards to nesting and hatchling sea turtles, and shared information about the mission of our sea turtle program.

The project was more successful than any of us imagined! Between May 1 and July 27, Andrew and Jennifer encountered 239 turtles (representing 157 unique individuals). Of the 239 crawls, 50 were on the East End and 189 were on the West End. Preliminary data from the tagging project suggest that the East End turtles are generally distinct from the West End turtles (with a few exceptions). The lack of crossover between the East End and West End turtles could be great news for conservation efforts. Since sea turtles take about 30 years to reach reproductive age, the spike in nests we have been seeing on the East End could be from females that were protected as hatchlings 30 years ago and are now returning to the East End to lay their eggs. More crossover between West End and East End turtles could mean many things, including a potential shift in preferred habitat from the West to the East End. Several more years of data would be required to explore the alternatives, but if the results remain consistent, it would be fantastic news for the turtles!

Additional highlights from our results include:

  • One loggerhead was originally tagged on Sanibel in 1993 (23 years ago!) when she nested just 3 miles from where she was seen in 2016
  • Another was encountered 10 times from May 27th- July 16th. She was originally tagged on Sanibel in 2014 by a student from FAU and this season she typically only laid between 1-15 eggs ( the average number laid is 110 eggs).
  • A turtle that nested on May 26 was originally tagged on Melbourne Beach. It’s very unusual for loggerheads to nest on both coasts of Florida!

Tagging data on Sanibel also helps fill in the gaps and broaden the spatial scope of the long term datasets collected by Mote Marine Lab and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.  The results of the project are providing additional data to help prioritize management initiatives and conservation efforts both on Sanibel and statewide.

Coyotes

One of the recent changes in the nesting habitat on Sanibel involves colonization by coyotes in 2011. Coyotes are emerging as predators throughout the Southeast United States and it is important to learn more about their behavior and the impacts on nesting and hatchling sea turtles. We are in a unique position on Sanibel to further enhance our understanding of coyote/sea turtle dynamics.

To observe the ecology and behavior of coyotes that have colonized the beach habitat, five wildlife cameras were mounted behind sea turtle nests on Sanibel in 2014 – 2016. Ongoing data indicate that coyotes are considerably more active on the West End than the more densely developed and populated East End. Photos of coyotes are captured on the undeveloped stretches of beach on the West End almost every night.  In addition to nest depredation, they may also be causing sea turtles to abandon their nesting attempts and creating other negative impacts in the quality of nesting habitat. In fact, one of the tagging project goals was to characterize potential shifts of nest sites away from coyote-dense stretches of beach in response to these pressures, but based on 2016 data we do not see any indication this is happening.

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Wildlife camera data revealed a drop in overall coyote activity on the beach in 2016, and coyotes were seen twice as often in 2015 compared to 2016 (0.75 photos/day vs. 1.5 photos/day in 2015). A corresponding decrease in depredation rates was also observed this season, and we are now below the 10% threshold recommended by the Federal Loggerhead Recovery Plan. Previous studies suggest that night patrols on the beach significantly decrease the amount of coyote depredation on nests (for example, Eskew, 2010) and it is possible that our tagging surveys contributed to the drop in activity this year.

Another major factor that contributed to the decreased depredation rate is nest screening, a management technique that has been implemented on Sanibel since 2015. Our screening efforts increased this season with 88% of nests screened in 2016 compared to 64% in 2015. Only 6% of the screened nests were depredating, so all of our hard work seems to be paying off – many thanks to the volunteers that put in so much time to help protect these eggs!!

It is relevant to note that in 2015, the City of Sanibel contracted the University of Georgia to conduct a fecal genotyping project to estimate coyote population size and density on Sanibel. In light of this study, Sanibel biologists are now in a unique position to provide a comprehensive assessment of the coyote population on Sanibel. The collaborative effort among Sanibel biologists will make us well equipped to evaluate the true impacts that coyotes are having on both eggs and hatchlings on our beaches. These data will make it possible to prioritize management objectives and develop effective plans that have the greatest positive impact on sea turtle nesting success.

Storms

img_3728Tropical Storm Colin and Hurricane Hermine produced strong storm surge and extreme tides for Sanibel and Captiva’s beaches in 2016, completely washing away 145 nests 34 on Captiva, 15 on the East End, and 96 on the West End) and severely inundating many more. Storms are natural events in coastal ecosystems and sea turtles have a nesting strategy that accommodates for these pressures. Each female turtle deposits several nests throughout the nesting season, essentially hedging bets to make sure that even if a storm hits at some point during the nesting season, there is a high probability that at least a few of the nests will incubate successfully. For example, one of our tagged females was identified nesting on Sanibel three times in 2016, and while one of her nests washed away in TS Colin, her two other nests produced a total of 153 hatchlings.

Hatchlings

Despite some challenges this season, especially with storms, over 25,000 hatchlings were produced on our beaches this summer!

hatchling-data

Collaborations

Jake Lasala, Florida Atlantic University: The purpose of the project is to determine the mating behavior of sea turtles nesting in southern Florida. Specifically they want to find out how many males and females are actively contributing to the population, known as the breeding sex ratio.  From 2013-2015 samples were collected from over 60 individual nesting females and 850+ hatchlings. All of the nests have had multiple paternal contributions, and on average 2.5 fathers are contributing to each clutch of eggs. Our tagging information allowed Jake to examine changes in paternity of an individual female’s clutches over the course of the season.

Simona Ceriani, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: Simona is using a stable isotopes analysis to determine where the turtles that nest on Sanibel are foraging over the winter. Last year she focused on green sea turtles, and this year she incorporated our tagging data to use samples from 60 unique loggerheads. The results will contribute to protecting their overwintering habitat (potentially including federal critical habitat designation, closing the areas to threats such as commercial fisheries, etc.).

Clear Your Gear: Sadly, according to CROW records, more than 100 wildlife are currently lost each year due to monofilament or hook injuries. In response to this increasing threat, seven Sanibel-Captiva area conservation groups have united to create a new environmental campaign called “Clear Your Gear.” The organizations collaborating on Clear Your Gear include: City of Sanibel Natural Resources Department, CROW (the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife), J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society, Monofilament Busters, The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation and the Sanibel Sea School. Clear Your Gear will work to educate the fishing public on the harmful effects of fishing line (monofilament) and other fishing gear discarded in the environment, and thereby reduce the number of injured or destroyed wildlife. Currently, Clear Your Gear has established more than 20 monofilament recycling stations on Sanibel and the Sanibel Causeway.

Program Support

Operating support for the SCCF Sea Turtle Program comes from a wide variety of donors and grants. Two generous donors made significant gifts this season. Kirsten Recker funded the balance for two new beach vehicles, and Mark and Gretchen Banks funded our entire tagging project as well as matching all donations to the Adopt-A-Beach program.

As with the time and talent contributions of our volunteers, we could not be as effective as we are without the financial support of all these most appreciated donors.Turtle vehicle

First SCCF Evenings at the Homestead to feature Clyde Butcher – SOLD OUT

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EVENT SOLD OUT

SCCF kicks off its new program series “Evenings at the Homestead” on Wednesday, December 14 with acclaimed environmental photographer Clyde Butcher. Event tickets are $10 and can be purchased at www.sccf.org or by calling 472-2329.

This sure-to-be-sold out program will take place at SCCF’s Bailey Homestead Pavilion at 1300 Periwinkle Way. The evening begins at 6:30pm with refreshments followed by Mr. Butcher’s presentation at 7pm. His books and calendars will be available for sale and Mr. Butcher will sign copies before and after his presentation. He is graciously sharing sale proceeds with SCCF.

Recognized as both a legendary photographer and a national treasure, Clyde Butcher has been creating exquisite black and white photographs of the untouched natural landscapes for more than 50 years. Internationally renowned, his stunning photography transports the viewer into the primordial beauty of expansive horizons, endless vistas, and seldom seen splendor of the wilderness. His powerful images explore not only his own personal bond with the environment, but beckon us to our own personal communion with the natural world. Clyde has been called the next Ansel Adams by Popular Photography magazine, awarded as a humanitarian for acting for the betterment of his community, and recognized as a conservationist for bringing issues to the forefront of public consciousness through his art. His photography transcends political boundaries, challenging us to work together to protect natural places across the globe.

“We are so honored that Clyde agreed to be the first presenter for Evenings at the Homestead,” said SCCF Executive Director Erick Lindblad. “During SCCF’s Annual Membership Meeting, Mr. Butcher is being recognized as the 2017 Prize Recipient of the SCCF J.N. “Ding” Darling Brush of Excellence Environmental Art Program. It’s just great he can stay on another day to make this presentation the night of the 14th.”

During the Evening at the Homestead presentation, attendees can also purchase drawing tickets to win a signed and framed piece of Mr. Butcher’s art. The black and white photographic composition is valued at $1,500. Drawing tickets are priced at $10 each and three for $25.

Oyster Reef Constructed at Punta Rassa

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A large reef (200 cubic yards, 1 acre) was constructed this week at Punta Rassa. The reef was an idea that SCCF Marine Lab Director, Eric Milbrandt, discussed with Mike Campbell of Lee County Natural Resources over the past several years. The benefits of oyster reefs are to provide habitat and filtration of water, but the added benefit of this particular reef is that it is in a high traffic area with high education impact. Several educational signs and a video will be produced to inform visitors and others using the Punta Rassa ramp about the benefits of oyster reefs and the importance to our ecosystem. The site was permitted by SCCF in 2015 through the state of Florida and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Funds and equipment for the construction were provided by Lee County, Lee Reefs, and Kelly Brothers Marine Contractors, along with other partners.