Feb. 8, 2023

Team Documents 218 Nighttime Sea Turtle Encounters in 2022

Daily night patrols over 13 weeks led to 218 encounters with sea turtles on Sanibel and Captiva last nesting season, including 125 unique females. Of these, 80 were tagged for the first time for future identification, and over 40 sea turtles were return nesters. 

“The application of tags is important because they help us identify individual turtles,” said Sea Turtle Biologist Jack Brzoza. “When we find a tag, we can search a database that tells us who the turtle is, when she was seen nesting previously, where else she’s been encountered, and when she was first documented. Such information can be useful to identify inter-nesting intervals and nest site fidelity, among other trends.”


Freshwater Lake Habitats Will Take Time to Recover

Due to the rapid increase in salinity from Hurricane Ian's storm surge, the freshwater habitat in Sanibel's lakes changed drastically. SCCF Marine Lab Research Associate Mark Thompson estimates it will likely be until next summer that salinities are low enough for freshwater fish to survive again.

“Salinity is now one of the most important indicators of recovery of our freshwater plant and animal communities,” said Thompson, who explains what will happen as these lakes transition back from saltwater wetlands to freshwater or estuarine habitats.


Snowy Plover Nesting Area Marked on East Sanibel

After multiple snowy plover sightings in recent weeks, the SCCF shorebird team decided to mark off a popular nesting area on east Sanibel, which will help ensure protection of the birds’ nesting habitat while hurricane recovery efforts are ongoing. The new signs feature artwork from the winners of SCCF’s K-6 snowy plover art contest held last summer! 

Snowy plover nesting season officially begins in Florida on Feb. 15, and SCCF followed guidance from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in roping this area off early.



Red Tide Bloom Intensifies; Fish Kills Reported

The current red tide bloom has intensified over the past week, with reports of fish kills and respiratory irritation increasing on Sanibel. SCCF observed high concentrations of Karenia sp. at Lighthouse Beach, as well as medium and low counts at various locations as indicated on the map above.

The NOAA HAB forecast is predicting more intensification of the bloom within the next 10 days due to the high concentrations of Karenia brevis combined with the potential for onshore transport due to coastal upwelling. 


SCCF Hosts Jeff Corwin for McCarthy Lecture

On Feb. 6, popular wildlife biologist and TV host Jeff Corwin joined SCCF for a day of learning about our work, exploring our unique ecosystems, and presenting our 2023 Paul McCarthy Memorial Lecture, which brought over 200 attendees!  



Everglades Conference Celebrates Momentum

SCCF partnered with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida to sponsor the Friday night dinner at the 38th annual Everglades Coalition Conference held Jan. 27-29.

In welcoming remarks at the dinner, Environmental Policy Director Matt DePaolis highlighted SCCF’s commitment to the Everglades and the importance of continuing restoration efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. He emphasized how the resilience of Sanibel and Captiva connects to ongoing progress. 


Naples Botanical Garden Staff Assist With Cleanup

Over the last two weeks, a crew of staff from the Naples Botanical Garden lent their time, equipment, and labor to assist SCCF in its continued recovery of the Native Landscapes & Garden Center. 

“Having people in your field who already know what to do is an immense help and something that has helped us get through in those immediate tough times after a hurricane, so we wanted to go and do the same for SCCF,” said Elizabeth Beans, associate director of horticulture at Naples Botanical Gardens and a previous SCCF horticulture intern.


Cody Weber Joins SCCF as Wildlife Biologist Intern

The Wildlife & Habitat Management Department recently welcomed Cody Weber as a Wildlife Biologist Intern.

A native Floridian, Cody has always had a deep passion for wildlife. As a current biology student at Florida SouthWestern State College, he has gained experience tracking Florida box turtles (Terrapene bauri), surveying diamondback terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin), and publishing a geographic distribution note on variable helmeted turtles (Pelomedusa variabilis) in Florida. 

“I’m really excited to be a part of the SCCF team and look forward to learning everything I can here,” he said.


SCCF Supports Groundbreaking of Taylor Slough Project

On Jan. 26, SCCF Environmental Policy Director Matt DePaolis traveled to Everglades National Park for the groundbreaking ceremony of the Taylor Slough Flow Improvement Project.  

“This project helps support Everglades restoration goals by allowing additional clean freshwater through Everglades National Park and into Florida Bay,” said DePaolis.  


Meet the Natives: Ian Survivors

Muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) is a tough native grass that’s proven its resilience across the island after Hurricane Ian. This hardy grass can handle various growing conditions but performs best when planted in areas with full sun and dry to moist soils. It can be grown in a wide range of soil types, and tolerates drought, salt, and short periods of inundation. 

SCCF’s Native Landscapes & Garden Center is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday at 1300 Periwinkle Way. Learn about more survivor species in our Post-Hurricane Ian Replanting Guide.


Thanks to Volunteers for Amazing Cleanup Help!

Thanks to our hundreds of volunteers who have contributed to SCCF Coastal Watch’s post-Hurricane Ian beach cleanups and the Conservation Cleanup Crew! There have been 281 volunteer signups for the beach cleanups, and 196 signups for the Conservation Cleanup Crew. These teams have removed thousands of pounds of trash and debris.

Volunteer cleanups have not been scheduled past February, and all slots are currently filled. We will announce future volunteer opportunities soon!

Members of the SCCF Board of Trustees, past Board Presidents, and staff took a break from recovery work to enjoy each other's company on Feb. 7 at Cielo.


National Geographic Features Island's Resilience

SCCF CEO James Evans shares his insights on the resilience of our wildlife, our residents, and our vegetation in this nostalgic look at Sanibel's enduring charm.  

“As the community recovers,” Evan says, “the best thing for all of our mental health is to get outside and enjoy our good nature.”

Writer and repeat visitor Brooke Sabin captures how the hurricane’s full effects aren’t yet clear, but nature is rebounding. "New leaves are sprouting, and birds are flocking back," she writes. 



Thanks to Corinne Washik for reporting this southern black racer (Coluber constrictor priapus) on Wild Lime Drive.

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

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