Dec. 7, 2022

2022 Annual Meeting Focuses on Vigilance

About 250 SCCF Members Attend, Watch Online

The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation reinforced its core commitment to conservation and community at its 2022 Annual Meeting on Dec. 6. (Click to watch video of the meeting.)

“Aside from the 1960s and 70s, there has never been a time more important than now to remain vigilant against external development pressures,” said SCCF CEO James Evans. “I want to thank our community for standing strong in the face of what we expect to be tremendous challenges that threaten our wildlife, our way of life, and our local economy.”

Hosted by the Sanibel Harbour Marriott, the meeting was attended in person by about 100 members, with another 150 tuning into the business portion of the meeting through Facebook Live. SCCF members welcomed four new trustees to the board, appointed new officers, heard leadership reports, and watched a 17-minute episode of “The Rebuild” that featured SCCF’s boots-on-the-ground hurricane and community recovery efforts.


Red Tide Counts Down;

Lake O Too High

Over the past couple of weeks, water quality has improved with fewer fish kills, increased water clarity, and a reduction of red tide concentrations around Sanibel. Flows to the Caloosahatchee Estuary from S-79 have been in the optimal flow envelope for 41 days, and releases from Lake Okeechobee have begun to supplement flows from the watershed as the dry season progresses. The downside is that the lake is currently too high, which can stir up nutrient-rich sediment on the bottom of the lake, making phosphorous available to blue-green algae.


Shorebird Team Reports Counts Up in November

The SCCF shorebird team observed the second highest number of total birds on Sanibel and Captiva in November in the past 5 years! There was also a slight increase in species diversity compared to October. One notable species observed is the Franklin’s gull (pictured here), a small number of which are sighted each year in Florida. 


Oyster Reef Restoration Site Still Intact after Hurricane

In May, Coastal Watch and the SCCF Marine Lab received state and federal permits to restore an oyster reef in Charlotte Harbor that had experienced substantial erosion and mangrove losses. Volunteers loaded buckets of oyster substrate that were transported to the site, located near Pirate Harbor, on SCCF’s R/V Norma Campbell. 

Last week, the team re-visited the reef to measure progress by determining oyster density and shell height. They were delighted that the reef appeared to be unaffected by the strong winds and waves from Hurricane Ian and had several hundred oysters in each quadrat. Partners in this effort include the Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves and Friends for Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves. Monitoring of the reef will continue in May 2023. 


SCCF Educators Visit Sanibel School Students

Sanibel Sea School Director Shannon Rivard and SCCF Educator Richard Finkel recently visited Sanibel School eighth graders at San Carlos Elementary for the first time since Hurricane Ian to continue being involved in their curriculum. Prior to the hurricane, SCCF initiated a mangrove growth study project with the students. Although the scope of the study has changed, the students will still be conducting a community mangrove planting this spring. 

During their visit, Rivard and Finkel discussed hurricane impacts to wildlife, encouraging students to take part in SCCF’s citizen science effort to report wildlife observations. Students also tested their knowledge on the science and environmental impacts of hurricanes with a fast-paced, interactive hurricane Jeopardy contest. Stay tuned for announcements for SCCF’s and the Sanibel School’s Eighth Grade Community Mangrove Planting Day this spring!

Re-Sighting Supports Common Tern Conservation

Fall migration has brought thousands of shorebirds and seabirds through Southwest Florida. Many of these birds are banded with unique tags that allow scientists to identify and track individuals, and a large part of the SCCF shorebird team’s work is observing and reporting these tags. Shorebird Technician Aaron White recently helped ID an 11-year-old common tern from New York.


Conservancy of SWFL Wins Rivergrass Legal Appeal

SCCF congratulates and supports the Conservancy of Southwest Florida on its recent win to protect the public’s ability to present evidence in challenging the sprawling, 1,000-acre Rivergrass development plan in Collier County’s Rural Land Stewardship Area. This development borders the greater Everglades and contains critical Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi) habitat. Managing growth sustainably and preserving Southwest Florida’s remaining healthy wetlands is critical to protecting water quality, the habitats where unique endangered species live, and for strengthening our nature-based economy. This month, the Second District Court of Appeal ruling confirmed the Conservancy's legal right to present evidence at the Circuit Court level against the development with regard to traffic impacts and fiscal neutrality.  



Sanibel Sea School Offers Programs on Mainland

Around the holidays, Sanibel Sea School is usually bustling with laughter, cheer, and new discoveries. This year, with the Sea School’s vehicles and facilities non-usable from the hurricane, the campus is perhaps the quietest it’s ever been. Fortunately, staff have been able to devise creative off-island programming for campers, including hiking around Fort Myers as part of the “Homeschool at Sea” program and visiting classrooms to teach marine science. Sanibel Sea School staff are also running Winter Day Camps this year in alternative forms around Fort Myers. Click here to learn more and register

“It is unknown at this time when we will re-open for normal operations, but our focus is on rebuilding,” said Sanibel Sea School Director Shannon Rivard. “We will reopen better than before, and visions for a new and improved campus are coming to life while, of course, holding onto the charm that makes Sanibel Sea School special.” 


Wildlife & Habitat Management Team Continues Clean-Up & Research

Wildlife & Habitat Management staff have been heavily involved in cleaning up SCCF facilities, especially Land Conservation Steward Victor Young and Field Technician Dustin Lucas, who’ve been operating heavy equipment to cut and move fallen debris. 

“We’re now assessing the fire lines and public trails on our properties to evaluate what it will take to clean them up,” said Wildlife & Habitat Management Program Director Chris Lechowicz. 

The team has also kept its eye on wildlife research, already resuming radio telemetry programs for several turtle species. The department is also continuing to mark and collect data on Florida box turtles (Terrapene bauri), among other species.


Native Landscapes & Garden Center Adapts its Offerings

SCCF staff have been working diligently to clear the Native Landscapes & Garden Center and Bailey Homestead Preserve of debris, trash, and downed trees. 

“Lots of work remains to bring the preserve back to its verdant condition, but it has been amazing to see how many plant species survived such an impactful storm surge,” said Adult Education Director Jenny Evans. “Though the demonstration gardens took a serious blow, we hope to open the Garden Center and the Shipley Trail in a limited capacity in January.” 

Staff are also working on publishing a replanting guide this month to aid residents in using resilient native species to revegetate their yards.



WINK Interviews Coastal Resilience Manager

On Dec. 6, SCCF Coastal Resilience Manager Carrie Schuman spoke with WINK News about the role of dune-stabilizing vegetation to protect beaches from erosion.

“The dunes themselves also can serve as wind and wave energy breaks. The vegetation that’s on them also can help do some of that as well," Schuman said.


WGCU Reports on Seabird Survival & Resiliency

“Initially, we noticed some of the numbers were down for our seabirds,” said SCCF Shorebird Biologist Audrey Albrecht in a story posted by WGCU News on Dec. 5. “But what we've discovered is that they're just actually in different places.”

The survival capabilities of shorebirds are extraordinary. Whether due to the changes in barometric pressure, storm clouds causing darkness during daylight hours, or other reasons ornithologists don’t understand, research shows many birds species jump into literal flight or fight mode when a hurricane is coming. 


SCCF Scientist Explains How Cold Fronts Can Diminish Red Tide for WINK News

SCCF Research Scientist Rick Bartleson, PhD, explains how one cold front can get rid of red tide in a story that aired on Dec. 5.

“After Ian, there were immediately low numbers around Sanibel, but then they started coming up," Bartleson said. "We had as high as 6 million cells per liter in Tarpon Bay one day last week. But then they started going down by the end of the week."



Thanks to Gary Biltgen for sending this shot of an American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) taken at the Sanibel Island Golf Club.

Please click here to report your post-Ian wildlife sightings.

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