Connecting You to Nature Spring 2022

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Spring 2022

SIXTY-THREE YEARS OF MONITORING AND PROTECTING

Sea Turtles

Sea Turtle Program — 2 Inspiring Young Scientists — 10


Spring 2022

Connecting You to Nature is published by SCCF, a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) founded in 1967 on Sanibel Island, Florida. Through stories about how we fulfill our mission to protect and care for Southwest Florida’s coastal ecosystems, we hope to deepen your understanding of how our land, water, and wildlife depend on our stewardship. James Evans, CEO Barbara Linstrom, Editor Doug Cook Design LLC CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Jenny Evans, Cheryl Giattini, Paul Julian, Ph.D., Chris Lechowicz, Kealy McNeal, Carrie Schuman, Ph.D., Kelly Sloan, Shannon Stainken CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Shane Antalick, Jean Hall, Miri Hardy, David Meardon SPONSORING PARTNERS Bailey’s General Store Uhler & Vertich Financial Planners, LLC OPEN TO THE PUBLIC Native Landscapes & Garden Center at Bailey Homestead Preserve 1300 Periwinkle Way (239) 472-1932 Sanibel Sea School 455 Periwinkle Way (239) 472-8585 Main Office (239) 472-2329 SCCF Sea Turtle Hotline (978) 728-3663 Shorebird Inquiries shorebirds@sccf.org www.sccf.org | info@sccf.org P.O. Box 839, Sanibel, FL 33957

With your help, SCCF's good work goes on! As we move through the last quarter of SCCF’s current fiscal year, there is a great deal of solid, mission-driven work celebrated in this magazine that we proudly share with our valued members and neighbors. We are so grateful to Uhler & Vertich Financial Planners, LLC, and Bailey’s General Store for underwriting this issue of Connecting You to Nature. In addition to enjoying these articles that offer an in-depth look into the work we do, we hope you will also be inspired to use the enclosed envelope to make your tax-deductible gifts to our Annual Fund Drive before the fiscal year ends on June 30, 2022. SCCF proudly runs a “lean and mean” operation, and donors can be ensured their philanthropic investments are used to advance our conservation initiatives in many meaningful ways. To that end, we truly hope you can help SCCF reach our funding goal to balance the Fiscal Year 2021-2022 operating budget and other special projects and needs. Please call Development Director Cheryl Giattini at (239) 822-6121 with any questions you may have about SCCF’s focused direction and how you can help. Thank you in advance for your consideration of this sincere request for your support.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

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Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification imposes stringent standards for forest management that benefits people, wildlife, and the environment.

Cover photo by Shane Antalick

Please become a member or renew your membership by using the enclosed envelope or donating at www.sccf.org


Dear Valued Members, Neighbors, and Friends,

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elcome to the Spring 2022 edition of Connecting You to Nature! In this issue we highlight some of the important research conducted by our talented and hardworking staff to better understand the natural world around us. This work would not be possible without the support of our generous donors, amazing volunteers, and our dedicated Board of Trustees. A sincere thank you to all who have supported our mission to protect and care for Southwest Florida’s coastal ecosystems. Science and research are the foundation for all that we do at SCCF. They are the cornerstones which support our education and outreach efforts and inform our policy and advocacy work. I am very proud of the work we do, from cutting-edge research with the University of Florida (UF) to our work on land-based turtles under constant threat from poachers and habitat loss to investigations into the impacts of red tide and climate change on sea turtles and shorebirds.

James Evans, CEO

No organization is an island. Our partnerships with the UF’s Center for Coastal Solutions, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, and Florida Gulf Coast University’s Water School have allowed us to share information and work collaboratively. Research conducted through these partnerships is shedding new light on the connections between freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee watershed and harmful algal blooms. We are also beginning to better understand the relationships between water management and impacts to seagrasses in Charlotte Harbor, which can drive policy changes. This year, we are excited to celebrate SCCF's 30 years of sea turtle research and conservation! We are beginning to see the fruits of our conservation efforts and the hard work of our scientists, volunteers, and community partners. We continue to see record numbers of sea turtles nesting on our beaches and hatchlings making their way out to sea. We thank all our partners on Sanibel and Captiva islands for their continued support of our sea turtle program. We are fortunate to live and work in such an incredible place that is full of natural beauty, surrounded by pristine beaches and world-class fisheries, but is also biologically diverse, provides an unrivaled quality of life for residents, and supports a thriving tourism-based economy. Our land, water, and wildlife are the economic drivers of Southwest Florida. We must continue to fight to protect this special place. If you are inspired by what you read in this issue, please consider contributing to our Annual Fund Drive using the enclosed envelope. We are proud of our 4-Star Charity Navigator designation, being one of only eight environmental nonprofits statewide to earn this distinction. You can be assured that your philanthropic investment in our mission-driven work will be used thoughtfully and efficiently. Thank you in advance for considering this heartfelt request for your support. Sincerely,

James Evans Chief Executive Officer SPRING - 2022 | 1


Sanibel Sea Turtle

HOME TO ONE OF THE LONGEST-RUNNING

MONITORING PROGRAMS

SEA TURTLE RESEARCH The SCCF Sea Turtle Program recently wrapped up the third year of a large-scale project studying the long-term effects of harmful algal blooms on nesting and hatchling turtles. Preliminary results show that many hatchlings had extremely high concentrations of brevetoxins in their livers, likely transferred from adult females through the yolk of the egg. 2 | SCCF — SANIBEL-CAPTIVA CONSERVATION FOUNDATION


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ach spring, warming water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico trigger sea turtles to start their migration from their foraging grounds to breeding habitat. Loggerheads (Caretta caretta) start mating near nesting beaches in March, and in late April females begin coming ashore at night to deposit about 100 eggs, shaped like ping-pong balls, in the sand. Driven by instinct, ancestors of today’s sea turtles have undertaken this arduous journey for more than 100 million years.

Islanders Take Action Sea turtles used to be the most vulnerable species on the island. In the 1950s, poaching, raccoon depredation, and especially incidental capture in shrimp nets, were significant problems that required intervention. Encouraged by J.N. “Ding” Darling, Charles LeBuff launched Caretta Research in 1959. Little was known about sea turtles in those days. Research was employed to learn more about the behavior and ecology of these animals, and every morsel of data collected provided valuable insight into their population. On May 26, 1964, the first flipper tag was applied on Sanibel. These tagging data provided the first glimpse into loggerheads’ foraging grounds and migration routes, with Sanibel females reported in the Yucatan, northern Gulf, and Bahamas.

Photo by Shane Antalick

If you’ve visited Sanibel or Captiva beaches during nesting season, it may seem like yellow stakes marking sea turtle nests are everywhere. However, that wasn’t always the case. In 2021, SCCF documented 671 nests on Sanibel. In 1971, only 70 nests were laid on a comparable 12.5-mile stretch of beach.

SCCF Carries On: Thirty Years of Protection and Research When Caretta Research disbanded in 1992, its marine turtle permit was transferred to SCCF staff, making it the longest-running uninterrupted sea turtle monitoring and research program. LeBuff obtained the first sea turtle permit in Florida (STP-001), which he transferred to SCCF. This work continues to serve a vital role in conservation and field research. We remain committed to protecting each > SPRING - 2022 | 3


BE A LIFE

SAVER YOUR BEACH VISIT CAN

SAVE COASTAL WILDLIFE

Photo by Shane Antalick

ENJOY OURhow ISLANDS AND PROTECT WILDLIFE AT THEon SAME TIME! Learn to give sea turtles local Sanibel and Captiva provide crucial habitat for many sea beaches a sharks. better chance at succeeding turtles, shorebirds, and You can help us protect these species by practicing a few easy wildlife-friendly atCheck SCCF’s Be a Life Saver website: habits. out our beach tips by visiting SCCF.org or simply scan the code. SanCapLifeSavers.org.

nest laid on our islands, and our team of 75 enthusiastic volunteers patrols the beach every morning from April 15 to early November to document sea turtle activity. Predation, artificial lighting, and tidal inundation are issues that have been consistently recorded and managed since sea turtle monitoring began. This long-term dataset allows biologists and managers to establish trends and develop solutions. SCCF reinstituted the tagging project in 2016, and our research has expanded to include satellite telemetry, toxin studies, and investigations exploring how various incubation environments affect sex ratios and embryonic development. Sea turtles are long-lived species

that don’t reach reproductive age for 20 to 30 years, which means it can take several decades to see the effects of conservation efforts on nesting beaches. While there is no evidence of a significant increase or decrease in Florida’s loggerhead population overall, a localized increase has been noted in the Southwest Florida subpopulation. This encouraging trend is likely the result of decades of concerted efforts on land and at sea. All sea turtle populations remain fragile, and the threats posed by coastal development, warming temperatures, fisheries, and ocean plastics will continue to jeopardize their survival. Identifying best management practices, increasing awareness, and encouraging

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community stewardship will continue to play a key role for an enduring success story. Since SCCF began hosting the monitoring permit 30 years ago, 11,849 nests have been laid and 601,761 hatchlings have emerged on Sanibel and Captiva. We are optimistic that today’s conservation efforts will have contributed to sustained population recovery. Hopefully, in three decades, the turtles that are beginning their lives on our beaches today will be starting the long migration to their nesting grounds, their instincts guiding them to Sanibel and Captiva once again. —Kelly Sloan, Director, Coastal Wildlife


NATIVE LANDSCAPES & GARDEN CENTER

Past and Future

GENEROUS DONORS PROPEL PROPAGATION FACILITY

A Legacy of Conserving and Spreading the Benefits of Native Plants

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ince the 1970s, SCCF has been on the forefront of the native plant conservation movement. With the establishment of the Native Plant Nursery in 1978, SCCF became one of the first nurseries in the state of Florida solely dedicated to research and education about Florida native plants. At that time, little was known about plant propagation methods; most were grown by rescuing species from areas where impending development threatened their existence. By 1979, nursery volunteers and staff focused their efforts on 10 plant species to determine the best methods of growing and caring for these plants. Fast-forward to 2022. There is a well-established plant conservation community and native plant nurseries across the state. Despite these advances, only around 600 Florida native plant species are in cultivation—of more 3,300 species in the state. Extensive hands-on research remains: Unfortunately, we understand how to grow less than 20 percent of Florida’s natives. In addition to growing plants to restore natural areas, native plants are being increasingly utilized in home landscapes and included in development codes and public projects. Due to the conversion of natural areas to urban and suburban use around the region and state, the need for plant conservation and providing wildlife habitats has become

more apparent and important to homeowners and civic leaders. SCCF’s Native Landscapes & Garden Center has continued the tradition of education, applied research, and the propagation of native plant species for the past 44 years. The construction planned this year for the Ruth Brooks Propagation Facility at Bailey Homestead Preserve will facilitate the next chapter of SCCF’s work towards native plant conservation efforts. The facility will allow the nurturing of the upcoming generation of native plants, particularly species that are not commercially grown, are rare, or at risk of extinction. Of particular interest are species that show promise for home landscapes that cannot be obtained from other native plant nurseries around the state. “As plant species continue to be threatened by development, encroachment of invasive species, climate change, and other perils, maintaining the plant diversity and unique character of our barrier islands and larger region becomes even more important,” says Native Landscapes & Garden Center Manager Rebecca Grotrian. Learning how to grow invaluable, irreplaceable flowers, shrubs, and trees—the base of the food chain—is one way that SCCF continues work on the conservation front through its research efforts. —Jenny Evans, Director, Adult Education

Bill and Ruth Brooks

Adele and Richard Mattern

The Ruth Brooks Propagation Facility would not have become a reality without the help of many generous donors, among them the Brooks and the Mattern families. The Ruth Brooks Propagation Facility honors one of SCCF's most dedicated supporters, a true naturalist and advocate for the botanical world. A seasonal island resident since 2004, Ruth is a SCCF Weeds 'n' Seeds leader, City of Sanibel Vegetation Advisory Committee member, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge volunteer, and decades-long SCCF supporter. Adele and Richard Mattern have spearheaded a $25,000 challenge grant. Encouraging others has always been a specialty of the Matterns; both are doctors, and as one of our dedicated plant propagators since 2013, Adele regularly “cheers” on our seedling plants. SPRING - 2022 | 5


MARINE LABORATORY

Modeling Water Management and Restoration Impacts

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CCF is utilizing high-tech hydrological modeling to inform water management policy and restoration planning— analyzing data critical to the longterm health of the Everglades and the Caloosahatchee watershed and estuary. Models are used to explore different scenarios by representing the physical world mathematically. In hydrologic modeling, we represent the flow (or not) of water digitally. The model popularly used in South Florida is the Regional Simulation Model (RSM). Developed by the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), it simulates changes to complex management strategies in light of ongoing restoration efforts, such as the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, and new water management strategies, such as the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM). The RSM simulates physical processes in canals, rivers, streams, lakes, and reservoirs. The RSM also allows the implementation of water management rules to dictate when and how to move water around the system. Therefore, it can be applied to a wide range of applications from natural systems to complex, manmade systems. Implementation of water management rules in the RSM includes parsing water between human and environmental needs. This segregation is based on the push-and-pull of demands for the environment, agriculture, and urban water supply. In the RSM model, water supply for environmental and human needs is balanced with flood control requirements at the basin level. Water management objectives expressed as water policy in real

life build the decision tree for the model, integrates with the simulation tool, and solves for how the water is moved throughout the system. The most recent application of the RSM model has been to evaluate changes to the water management of Lake Okeechobee. Over the past couple of years, the SCCF policy team has been evaluating scenarios developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and SFWMD as part of LOSOM. These scenarios change how the water is being managed within Lake Okeechobee and moved to other parts of the system. USACE, SFWMD, and other agencies and stakeholders have been providing input to ensure that the resulting management scheme will provide equitable benefits across the northern estuaries, Lake Okeechobee, and the Everglades. In addition to equitable balance across the natural environment, the preferred alternative provides better urban and agricultural water supply than the prior plan. The selected preferred plan will provide improved conditions to the Caloosahatchee, St. Lucie, and Lake Worth Lagoon estuaries while increasing the flow of water south to the Everglades. However, all these benefits are balanced on the back of Lake Okeechobee,

UPDATE ON RECON VER. 2.0

Tarpon Bay was chosen as the first location for deployment of the new sensors and loggers for SCCF’s River, Estuary and Coastal Observation Network (RECON). This site was chosen because it is relatively close to the lab on a route that our research vessels travel several times a week. The new system was deployed in a PVC well, making it easier to service and less prone to marine biofouling.

which is predicted to have higher water levels that could impact the lake’s long-term ecology. While we advocate for the health of the estuaries, we also advocate for a healthy Lake Okeechobee—the liquid heart of the Everglades and South Florida. Without a healthy heart, the system will not flourish. It is our hope that restoration efforts and management policies will improve Lake Okeechobee so that our estuaries and the Everglades will be resilient. —Paul Julian, Ph.D., Hydrologic Modeler

THE PFEIFER FELLOWSHIP Mary Ellen and Eric Pfeifer from Sanibel Island have generously provided a fellowship for visiting scholars to further the mission of SCCF. The fellowship will be offered to University of Florida (UF) faculty and graduate students who are conducting their research on and around the barrier islands of Sanibel and Captiva. SCCF and UF’s Center for Coastal Solutions are collaborating to understand, predict, and prevent coastal hazards such as harmful algal blooms, flooding, and habitat loss.

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WILDLIFE & HABITAT MANAGEMENT

On the Trail of the Islands’ Lesser-Known Species Swale Fish and Macroinvertebrate Sampling Sanibel has an impressive diversity of fresh and brackish water fish that are often overlooked and referred to as “minnows.” SCCF monitors populations of these smaller freshwater species and macroinvertebrates in the swale systems—low-lying depressions that fill with summer rains and are quickly infiltrated with fish and macro-invertebrates. SCCF’s Wildlife & Habitat Management program has been sampling sites on the Erick Lindblad Preserve and other properties since 2003. Typically, live-bearing fish, such as sailfin mollies (Poecilia latipinna) and Eastern mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki), infiltrate the newly formed waterbodies and begin to reproduce. Egg-bearing species— flagfish (Jordanella floridae) and bluefin killifish (Lucania goodei)—lay their eggs these pools. Aquatic invertebrates are also drawn to these new water sources. SCCF samples snails, crayfish, glass shrimp, and aquatic insects for quantity and diversity. Successful habitat management paired with plentiful rainfall results in a high diversity and density of species that provide prey for wading birds, reptiles, and mammals. SCCF’s studies show that domination by large hardwood trees and shrubs in temporary wetlands reduces the richness and abundance of these species. The quantity and diversity increase in these pools if there is a controlled

burn that results in new growth of grasses such as cordgrass (Spartina patens), sawgrass (Cladium jamaicense), and water hyssop (Bacopa monnieri). Ephemeral Turtle Research In recent years, SCCF has had breakthrough discoveries with two rarely seen turtles that also inhabit ephemeral (temporary) waterbodies. These obscure species—the Florida mud turtle (Kinosternon steindachneri) and Florida chicken turtle (Deirochelys reticularia chrysea) —spend much of the year underground waiting for environmental cues, such as temperature and rainfall, to emerge. There is a lack of natural history information in South Florida, especially on barrier

islands, on these species that SCCF is overcoming. Chicken turtles, so named because they were thought to taste like chicken, are an obscure species that superficially resemble sliders and cooters but have an oblong carapace shape with a weblike pattern, unique black markings on the bridge, and a long neck. Their eggs take unusually long to hatch (six months) as they go through a diapause (or halt

in development) as they wait for an environmental cue to develop and hatch. SCCF has documented their average clutch size, nesting season and location preference, and cues that trigger hatching. SCCF biologists have radio-tagged several of them to gain insight into their seasonal movements and home ranges. Florida mud turtles are considered the rarest turtle found on Sanibel, perhaps because of a low natural population or their reclusive lifestyle. SCCF data points to both hypotheses. These turtles have very specific habitat types that can easily be missed if not sampled at the precise time of the year. The last documentable example of this species was in 1978. Then, three were identified between 2012 and 2020, when we found two researchable populations on the island. Florida mud turtles are also tracked with radio telemetry on Sanibel Island. After we were able to deploy two with radios in late 2020, their activity patterns began to emerge. Other than our research, there is no data on their populations on islands in south Florida. SCCF has documented new discoveries relating to size, phenotype, reproduction, and fossorial (digging) habits, and is coming close to documenting their annual cycle. —Chris Lechowicz, Herpetologist and Director, Wildlife & Habitat Management SPRING - 2022 | 7


COMMUNITY CONSERVATION

Sanibel’s Living Shorelines: A Path to Resilience

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ur paradisiacal islands are no strangers to the threat of erosion. Mangrove habitats and oyster reefs lining Southwest Florida’s coastlines are highly effective in diminishing wave action and damage from high winds. They also trap pollutants and provide crucial habitat for a host of sea life. To protect coastal land and properties, living shorelines are a green alternative to “gray” approaches—traditional hard armoring and infrastructure, such as seawalls. A living shoreline often uses both living and natural materials to stabilize the underlying ground, grow organic protective tidal breaks, and maintain valuable fish and wildlife habitat. In 2021, this concept was applied to a stretch of Sanibel’s bayside coast adjacent to Woodring Road. Over the past few decades, SCCF biologists and island residents have become concerned with the erosion of mangrove-

covered shorelines. Last year, a partnership between SCCF, the City of Sanibel, and Netherlandsbased BESE Products launched a pilot project to install a living shoreline on Woodring Road to protect mangroves threatened by erosion. The design used innovative, three-dimensional lattices—made from the production waste of potato chips and french fries—to help deposit sediment and protect mangrove seedlings from high-energy wave action. Coastal Watch reached out to the community for assistance and the response was overwhelming. Local volunteers contributed more than 100 hours preparing and installing the living shoreline components, making it possible to accomplish the project within a short timeframe. The Woodring Road project is not the only living shoreline that SCCF and volunteers have completed. In 2016, several tons of oyster shells were placed at the

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shoreline adjacent to the Punta Rassa boat ramp to promote oyster growth and create a barrier from high wave action. This site has experienced an increase in mangrove cover and oyster settlement. With expected increases in wave action from severe storms and rising sea levels, a living shoreline approach to restoration may be an increasingly attractive solution. Living shorelines mimic nature, preserve coastal resiliency by reducing wave impacts, and decrease erosion and property loss. They are simultaneously improving water clarity and quality, providing recreational opportunities, and creating important fish and wildlife habitat. SCCF is optimistically monitoring both sites for signs of successful recovery and as new shorelineconservation projects arise, we are sure the community will be there to help support our efforts. —Kealy McNeal, Coordinator, Community Conservation


COASTAL RESILIENCE

Research Enhances, Guides Coastal Resilience Planning

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s a science-based organization that includes a focus on research, SCCF believes responding effectively to current and future coastal challenges, such as sea level rise, means using the best scientific research to understand how those risks are unfolding and to assess possible solutions. The results of iterative research form the foundation for predicting what our shorelines will be subject to as the climate warms—an important ingredient for managing future coastal risk. Projections of future sea level rise incorporate scientific understanding around how warming influences processes— the expansion of seawater and melting of land-based ice—that cause waters to rise, as well as how human behaviors and policies may increase or decrease the greenhouse gas emissions that heavily influence these drivers. These are a collection of possible futures that are being used for planning and decision making. However, projections improve with the science. In February 2022, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a technical report that updated the future sea level rise predicted globally and for different regions nationally. Because of increased understanding of the influence of Antarctic and Greenland ice sheet on sea level rise, the “extreme” scenario presented in 2017 has been deemed significantly less likely to occur and has been

removed from the 2022 graphs. Entities working on community coastal resilience plans are continually staying abreast of these dynamics. Local Surge Modeling Project Some tools and methods leverage science to examine multiple flooding risks concurrently, pairing gradual sea level rise with episodic events, like hurricanes, to highlight which parts of an area will be impacted and when. For example, one local tool called Adaptation of Coastal Urban and Natural Ecosystems (ACUNE) was developed by partners at multiple universities and agencies through a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grant to model sea level rise and storm surge predictions for Collier County for decision makers who want to understand local climate change vulnerability and plan for the future. This integrated modeling tool will soon be expanded to include Lee and Charlotte counties—a useful resource for the region. Researching Solutions Making natural systems and communities resilient requires many strategies used in concert. Scientific studies can help

illuminate which approaches might work for mitigating greenhouse gases while improving future outcomes and which could protect natural and built assets. Published lifecycle assessments that lay out the total environmental impact and carbon footprint of a product or process can support informed comparisons of carbon mitigation benefits between choices like keeping an old, well-maintained car for longer or swapping it for a newer, fuelefficient or hybrid vehicle. Science can also shed light on the benefits and drawbacks of options for protecting coastal resources. Hardened, manmade structures like seawalls provide protective benefits, but studies show they can also cause detrimental erosional and environmental impacts. This has contributed to a paradigm shift from relying solely on hardened manmade structures to incorporating natural habitats and materials. Modeling efforts have illustrated the potential of natural habitats, such as mangroves, to blunt the forces of wind and wave energy. Economic analyses have illustrated the co-benefits these green solutions provide, including water filtration and habitat provision, that are often absent from human-made hard infrastructure. —Carrie Schuman, Ph.D., Manager, Coastal Resilience

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SANIBEL SEA SCHOOL

Inspiring Young Citizen Scientists and Ocean Advocates

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anibel Sea School strives to create a deep connection to our ocean planet and transform the lives of the individuals that visit us. We want to create shared memories that have a lasting impact and lead our students to look back on their time on Sanibel with a sense of wonder and happiness. With our youngest explorers, this often entails being a little silly, playing games on the beach, using our senses to experience nature, and creating sea-inspired art. As students graduate through our programs, it’s clear to see that a profound love for the ocean, and a thirst for more, has been ignited.

To provide opportunities for advancement and offer a means for continuing experiential education, Sanibel Sea School gets a little more technical sometimes and teaches young people introductory scientific research methods. We are a gateway for Southwest Florida youth and visitors who are passionate about pursuing a career in marine science, conservation biology, oceanography, and related fields. We are a window into the expansive worlds of science, research, conservation, and advocacy. Sanibel Sea School helps teens get their feet wet and gain a better understanding of their career opportunities.

We’ve offered weeklong camps that allow teens to use research tools and techniques to collect data, analyze results, and answer scientific questions. Campers have used quadrats and transects to study sand dollars, dawned masks and snorkels to survey seagrass beds, and collected water samples to look for microplastics. Specialized Courses for Teens This spring, Sanibel Sea School is launching Marine Masters courses for teenagers. Courses will focus on wave energy, fiddler crabs, crab courtship, mollusks, the ocean floor, and career pathways in biology.

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Photos by Shane Antalick

In the summer, Sanibel Sea School will offer another teen camp called “A Week in the Field.” This camp is designed to connect teenagers with SCCF’s departments and staff to gain hands-on experience in a variety of field techniques and research methods. Campers will survey the beach and learn about Sanibel’s shorebird populations, experience water sampling and oyster measuring with the marine lab, plant mangroves at restoration sites, and much more. This camp is an incredible opportunity for teens to feel a deeper connection to their community and learn about local research. Learning about impacts to oyster reefs or mangrove forests are real-world issues that impact their own backyard. Focusing on community-based problems and how research is key to solving these problems is incredibly powerful for teens.

They will be introduced to bathymetry and learn how scientists have created systems for studying and mapping the sea floor. They’ll dip beneath the surface to investigate benthic and sessile creatures. We will compare relative fiddler crab (Uca sp.) populations in local mangrove forests and ask questions based on the results. Why are there more fiddler crabs in one location? What variables are impacting their numbers and what could we determine with repeated observations? We’ll dive deep into evolution and comparative anatomy and explore how form fits function through squid dissections.

Stepping up for STEAM Decreased funding of STEAM programs (science, technology, arts, engineering, math) has led to a lack of field-based science experiences in public schools while science curriculum is increasingly focused on standardized testing, which makes Sanibel Sea School’s curriculum vital. Several children who have grown up attending Sanibel Sea Schools classes and camps have gone on to study marine biology and pursue careers in research. Our goal isn’t to turn every child into a budding marine biologist. We simply hope that no matter what our students grow up to be or do, they recall the fond memories they had in the ocean and will advocate for its protection and conservation. — Shannon Stainken, Youth Education Director, Sanibel Sea School

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A Stunning Success “Our community let us know how much protecting and caring for our water means to them now and for future generations,” said SCCF CEO James Evans. “It’s a cause that is near and dear to all of our hearts and absolutely integral for our tourism-based economy.”

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cean love was in the air on March 19 as 200 supporters of SCCF’s water-related work gathered for the first-ever Cause on the Causeway. Under a massive tent on Causeway Island A, the inaugural Cause on the Causeway netted more than $500,000 for SCCF and its Sanibel Sea School to continue to pursue vital science, education, and advocacy efforts focused on water. Beyond generous sponsorship donations and ticket sales, an animated auction raised funds specifically needed for Sea School scholarships, two student transport vans, two fieldwork trucks, and a dock and boat lift for the R/V Norma Campbell. A 10-minute video, “Our Water,” produced through funds donated by the Jenni & Kyle Foundation, captured the breadth of waterrelated work done by SCCF scientists and educators, and community advocates.

1. SCCF CEO James Evans 2. Gosses and Ryckmans 3. Eric and Holly Milbrandt; Mary Ellen Pfeifer and Jack Burden 4. Paddles Up!

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5. Brown Bag Brass Band 6. Jeff Blackman and SCCF Trustee Laura DeBruce 7. Kealy McNeal, SCCF Trustee Megan Doss, Shannon Stainken 8. Dock rendering with R/V Norma Campbell

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Photos by Shane Antalick

Inaugural Cause on the Causeway


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