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Rookery Bay Reserve - Welcome
About the Rookery Bay Reserve
Located at the northern end of the Ten Thousand Islands on the gulf coast of Florida, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve represents one of the few remaining undisturbed mangrove estuaries in North America.
The Rookery Bay and Ten Thousand Islands ecosystem is a prime example of a nearly pristine subtropical mangrove forested estuary. Rookery Bay Reserve is located in the West Florida subregion of the West Indian Biogeographic Region.
The mission of the reserve is to provide a basis for informed coastal decisions through land management, restoration, research and education. The reserve works in partnership with local communities to promote coastal stewardship.
Rookery Bay Reserve - Overview
Rookery Bay Reserve is located in Collier County, one of the fastest growing counties in the United States. Collier County is also home to a portion of the original Everglades water flowway and many other environmentally sensitive lands, such as mangroves. Over half of the county is in public ownership, managed by either state or federal agencies. Opposing land uses—rampant development and large conservation areas—create unique problems and opportunities for the reserve. Rookery Bay Reserve staff work closely with private developers, regional planners and the water management district to encourage plans that protect freshwater flows to the estuary and maintain important wildlife corridors, while meeting the needs of a growing population.
Agriculture, tourism, fishing, boating and commercial crabbing are other important revenue sources in Collier County, and the undeveloped areas of the reserve and the Aquatic Preserve are heavily used year-round. Acquisition and restoration of watershed and barrier island land surrounding the reserve is a high priority as a means of buffering the estuary from developmental pressure. However, once the land is in public ownership, conflicts over public access and recreational use arise. Balancing the need for estuary research, preserving rare habitats and educating the public through strategic access are never ending management tasks.
Rookery Bay Reserve - Research
The reserve's research program provides the scientific information necessary to support an adaptive management strategy for conservation of natural biodiversity for the area managed by the reserve. This strategy entails:Identifying areas of scientific uncertainty, planning and conducting field experiments to test hypotheses related to real-world management strategies, exporting this information to environmental managers and decision makers, and recommending improved management strategies based on the results of these experiments.
A primary function of the research program is to develop and monitor indicators of natural biodiversity at the levels of watershed, community, population and organism. This science-based hierarchical approach is necessary to more effectively manage the reserve's natural resources and assess, prioritize and improve the effectiveness of future habitat restoration projects. To be successful, these activities are closely coordinated with the reserve's resource management, public access and education programs.
Rookery Bay Reserve - Education
The primary focus of the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve’s education program is on-the-water trips that emphasize estuarine and coastal ecology. These typically involve local high school and college marine science or environmental studies classes, with occasional visits by local middle schools. The objective of these programs is to help students gain first-hand knowledge about the coastal environment.
Community outreach is another priority for the education department. Reserve staff provides environmental education programs to libraries, schools, service clubs and a variety of civic organizations. Public training events include classes that offer certification through the Florida Master Naturalist Program. Informational brochures are distributed to the public, and a quarterly newsletter is published. Other collateral materials include fact sheets titled Finding Solutions and printed summaries of Coastal Zone Management Workshops.
Rookery Bay Reserve - Facilities
The original site of Rookery Bay Reserve headquarters, the Shell Island Road field station and lab facility is located off State Road 951, about halfway between U.S. 41 and Marco Island. A dock with slips for 15 boats extends into Henderson Creek a short distance from the opening into Rookery Bay and Hall Bay.
Rookery Bay Reserve headquarters is located on Tower Road adjacent to Henderson Creek, upstream from the Shell Island Road facilities. Large and small conference rooms, as well as offices housing a majority of the 25 personnel employed at the reserve, are located in the headquarters building.
The Environmental Learning Center is located on Tower Road adjacent to the headquarters building. In addition to new staff lab facilities, visitor center and training wing, the new facility provides space for administrative and research offices. Rookery Bay Reserve has two dormitory facilities for visiting researchers, educators, and resource managers - four beds in a restored gatekeeper's house on Goodland Bay and 12 beds at the lodge on Cannon Island.
Rookery Bay Reserve - Enviornmental Learning Center
The Environmental Learning Center is now complete at the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. After five years of careful planning to ensure minimal impact to the environment, the learning center has been constructed with many resource-friendly features. Seating in the courtyard provides quiet enjoyment of birds and butterflies that are attracted by native landscaping.
The visitor center will emphasize the value of estuaries and the reserve’s role in coastal research, restoration and stewardship. A two-story interpretive area features state-of-the-art interactive displays and live exhibits. Hands-on learning stations and aquaria will illustrate the importance of using science as a tool in managing the coast. The visitor’s center will open in 2004.
Within the facility, training efforts take on a new dimension as the Coastal Training Program takes wing. The CTP utilizes two classrooms and a 140-seat auditorium to provide specialized training for environmental professionals and a host of other coastal decision-makers.
Using cutting-edge technology, the research wing provides three research labs and a live-specimen holding area. A map room and a library will assist and support staff researchers, faculty and students from Florida Gulf Coast University and other universities, and visiting scientists from around the world.
The new facility will encourage visitors to explore important coastal habitats and enjoy Florida’s natural beauty via a planned 1.5-mile trail system with boardwalk. A pedestrian bridge connected to the center will lead visitors across Henderson Creek to the boardwalk in 2005. To learn more about Rookery Bay Reserve please visit their website.
Information courtesy of National Estuarine Research Reserve System