Wednesday Update
July 22, 2020
Welcome to the second bi-weekly edition of the Wednesday Update !
We'll be emailing it to you every two weeks, with the next edition on August 5.
By highlighting SCCF's work to conserve and restore coastal habitats and aquatic resources on Sanibel and Captiva and in the surrounding watershed, our updates will connect you with nature, which goes on in all its beautiful brilliance.

We encourage you to spend time outdoors while adhering to smart social distancing practices!

Thanks to Gene Blanc for this photo of a bobcat (Lynx rufus) taken about a half mile east of Bowman's Beach.

Please send your wildlife photos to
Captiva Breaks Record for Most Loggerhead Nests
Captiva has shattered its nest record with 240 loggerhead nests laid so far this season. The previous record was set in 2016 with 194 nests. 
Sanibel is having a strong season with 598 nests, but may not surpass the record of 650 set in 2017. 
“We are entering the final weeks of nesting and the daily nest counts are beginning to slowly taper off, so we will see how the next few weeks play out,” said Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan.
"Warmer than usual Gulf waters may have triggered earlier nesting this season. We are hopeful that the record-breaking number of nests on some beaches, such as Captiva, reflects the success of conservation efforts that went into place decades ago. It takes about 25 to 30 years for sea turtles to mature and begin nesting, which is why we may now be seeing results," said Sloan. "We are looking forward to seeing how the statewide nesting numbers look at the end of the season."
Over the past five years, the turtle team documented an average of 785 per year, up from previous annual counts as shown on the chart below, which may indicate recovery.
Conservation efforts include federal protection through the listing of sea turtles as threatened and endangered species, federal laws requiring turtle excluder devices on commercial fishing vessels as well as state laws in Florida protecting sea turtles from harvest and requiring permits to interact with them. Statewide nest protection efforts, local beach lighting ordinances, and the cumulative impact of more public education on keeping beaches sea turtle friendly have also improved habitat for nesting.
As of this week, 146 nests have hatched on our beaches and more than 8,000 hatchlings have reached the sea already this year. Hatching will continue through October. Last year set a new record for the number of hatchlings, with more than 48,400 making it to sea.
Ag Commissioner Shares Environmental Goals in Chamber's Virtual Power Hour
Nikki Fried, Florida’s 12th Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, told Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce members that Florida farmers are making strides to become more conservation-friendly and have many of the same goals as the state’s environmentalists. She spoke on July 16 at the chamber’s Virtual Power Hour, sponsored by SCCF.

“I don’t come from agriculture,” said the Miami native. “So I spend a lot of time listening and learning and hearing from [the farmers’] perspective. At the end of day, if they don’t have the quality of the land, they can’t be successful either…. The passion they have for their land is the same passion I see in the environmentalists. Keep the communication lines open. They need their land to be there for generations, and we want their land to be there for generations.”
Satellite Transmitters Now on Three Loggerhead Turtles
SCCF's turtle team is seeking to learn more about our nesting loggerheads.
“We are excited to share that we have placed a third satellite transmitter on a loggerhead sea turtle this season,” said SCCF Research Associate Andrew Glinsky. “This turtle is named Periwinkle and she had been previously encountered on Sanibel in 2016 and 2018.”  
Since Periwinkle was nesting during the 2018 red tide bloom, the data will also contribute to a research project investigating the long-term impacts of red tide events on the health and reproductive success of nesting sea turtles (Funded by the Florida RESTORE Act Centers of Excellence). Additionally, tracking Periwinkle will help us learn more about the post-nesting movements, migratory pathways, and foraging grounds of loggerhead sea turtles that nest on the Gulf coast of Florida.  
“So far, over the course of six days, Periwinkle has maintained a southern trajectory and traveled over 100 miles towards the Florida Keys,” said SCCF Biologist Jack Brzoza. “We are excited to see where she will go and look forward to tracking her.” 
Earlier in the season, SCCF’s sea turtle team placed satellite transmitters on two other loggerheads, named Junonia and Pepper. 
Thanks to the AWC Family Foundation for funding satellite tagging of loggerheads.
In collaboration with Florida Leatherbacks, Inc., we are also satellite tracking a rare leatherback named Juniper that nested on our beaches for the first time this season.

Click here to track Periwinkle, Pepper, Junonia, and Juniper!
Good News for Finley Joe!
In December, 2019, the SCCF Sea Turtle Program and Marine Lab staff rescued a large male turtle that was found floating and debilitated in the Pine Island Sound.
The turtle was originally taken to CROW and was then transported to Mote Marine Lab for further rehabilitation, where he was named Finley Joe. We are happy to report that Finley Joe was successfully rehabilitated and released, returning home to sea on Wednesday, July 15.
This was a great collaborative effort with a very happy ending! 
Click here to keep up with our nesting season on a daily basis!

To report any issues with nests, nesting turtles, or hatchlings, please call SCCF’s Sea Turtle Hotline: 978-728-3663.
Shorebird Nesting Season Winding Down
SCCF Shorebird Biologist Audrey Albrecht reports that It appears shorebird nesting season is nearly over on Sanibel, as indicated in this photo of adults that are molting out of breeding plumage. 
“On July 17 our last snowy plover (Charadrius nivosus) fledgling took flight,” said Albrecht. “In total, we have had six nest attempts from five nesting pairs, and five chicks that survived to fledging.” 
Last year, four chicks survived to fledgling from four nesting pairs.
“The success rate of one fledge per pair remains the same,” Albrecht added.
Plovers are now gathering in small groups and resting on the beaches, which typically indicates the end of nesting season.
“Breeding birds tend to be much more territorial,” she explained. Please watch your step when you are out walking, as they are very well camouflaged and like to rest in the wrackline, or in footprints in the sand.” Take a look at the plover in a footprint pictured below to understand how difficult they can be to spot.
Unfortunately, our Wilson's plovers ( Charadrius wilsonia) and least terns ( Sternula antillarum) were unable to successfully fledge any young on Sanibel this year. 
SCCF is working closely with partner agencies, including the City of Sanibel Natural Resources and FWC, to assess predation issues and plan ahead to improve success in 2021. 
“Last year our least tern colony failed due to predation as well, but the Wilson's plovers did manage to fledge four chicks,” said Albrecht. “Though we did not fledge any least terns on Sanibel, they can be seen frequently on our beaches right now as they begin staging for migration.” 

As we start to see migratory shorebirds return, keep an eye out for banded birds, and let our shorebird biologist know if you see one, or have any shorebird questions by emailing
County Makes Offer on Eden Oak Property for Conservation 2020
The Lee County Conservation Land Acquisition and Stewardship Advisory Committee (CLASAC) met July 17 where it was confirmed that the county has made an offer to the owner of the Eden Oak property for the County’s Conservation 20/20 program. The property was nominated in late 2019 for the program.
Its nomination process is running parallel to the County Zoning change requested by the owner. The final county staff/applicant hearing will take place on December 11.  
Eden Oak was not on the CLASAC agenda this month and there was no new information presented, but the status of the late June County offer to the property owner was confirmed and staff stated that the negotiations were ongoing. No further information is currently available on the offer.
If negotiations go smoothly, there may be an Eden Oak negotiation update at the next CLASAC meeting scheduled for Wednesday, August 19. SCCF is actively monitoring this program and will send out any updates. 
Students Studying Seagrass Decomposition at SCCF Marine Lab
The SCCF Marine Lab is hosting two students this summer who are gaining field and lab research experience as they study how seagrass responds to low oxygen conditions in an experiment that began on July 15. 
Jivan Khakee, pictured here, is a junior at University of California Santa Barbara. He is carrying out the research in the field and lab on Sanibel after a 14-day self-quarantine. Willow Vince is participating virtually from New York through weekly video conferences. Willow is helping remotely to design the project through the review and study of existing research. She has written an annotated bibliography and is keeping all files and notes together in a shared drive in the cloud.  
Led by the scientists at the lab to design and carry out a research project, these two students are working together on a project to study seagrass decomposition rates under low and high oxygen conditions. 
“Low oxygen conditions in estuaries and coastal areas can lead to fish kills and loss of habitat,” said SCCF Marine Lab Director Eric Milbrandt, Ph.D. “Low oxygen conditions can occur because of an algae bloom or stratification of the water column.”
The warm water temperatures typical in the summer further reduce the carrying capacity for oxygen in water. 
“Low dissolved oxygen events have been increasing in coastal areas and estuaries worldwide and the effects of this on ecosystems are not well understood,” said Milbrandt. “The goal of this project is to better understand the energy transfer from seagrass shoots to the food web by measuring the decomposition rates of seagrass in low and high oxygen conditions.” 
For the experiment, mesh bags were sewn together with fishing line and a shoot of seagrass (10-14 g) was placed in each bag. The three treatments are low oxygen conditions, high oxygen conditions, and a lab control. 
The experiment will run for eight weeks and each week, three decomposition bags will be randomly removed from each treatment and the seagrass weighed, dried and re-weighed. The hypothesis is that low oxygen conditions decrease the decomposition rate and therefore slow the transfer of energy from seagrass to the food web. 
The experiment began on July 15 when the mesh bags were deployed in the field. At the end of the summer, the research will be summarized into a short 15-minute talk that the students can share with their peers when they return to classes. The results will also be shared later this summer in the Wednesday Update.
Air Potato Infestations Easy to Spot This Time of Year
Summer is the ideal time to spot infestations of the exotic air potato vine ( Dioscorea bulbifera) on conservation lands, as well as your own properties. This highly invasive species is native to tropical Asia but was brought to Africa where it quickly established. 
From there, it was brought to North America in the early 1900s and has been spreading quickly in tropical and subtropical climates. This member of the yam family ( Dioscoraceae) quickly grows up to eight inches in a day and has heart-shape leaves measuring as much as six inches across. They grow up the stem and branches of trees as high as 70 feet in the air while completely covering the foliage of the host tree in some cases. This reduces or eliminates the available sunlight needed for photosynthesis causing the host tree to struggle and sometimes perish.
Herbicide is essential for large infestations, but they only kill the exposed vine most of the time and usually must be done multiple times. SCCF is currently treating air potato on several properties as they can easily be seen at a distance due to the large leaves.
After one treatment, the bulbil, or potato, will start to regrow and then they should be dug up. Home owners with a small amount of plants can just follow the vine to the ground and dig up the bulbil. The leaves die back over the winter and all that can be seen are the exposed bulbils. They should be picked up before spring brings about leaf growth, rapid growth and the production of more bulbils. As one of Florida’s most invasive exotic plants, treatment and control can be difficult and labor intensive. The bulbils fall to the ground and form new plants. They are eaten in some parts of the world, although they are considered toxic by authorities in the U.S. Consuming air potato is not recommended. The easiest way to start to control infestations is to pick up all the potatoes on the ground before they start new vines.
Bird Pepper Fruits Now Ripe & Ready to Spice Things Up
If you're looking to spice up your home garden or landscape with a fun, native edible bird pepper ( Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum ) might be the perfect addition.
This shrubby pepper has dark green leaves and grows to 3 feet tall. The solitary white flowers that emerge from the leaf axils are followed by small green fruit that turn bright red when ripe. Don't be fooled by their size! These tiny chiles pack a punch and measure between 50,000-100,000 units on the Scoville scale! 
As the name suggests, Bird peppers are heavily favored by birds who in turn, effectively aid in seed dispersal. Bird peppers are also beneficial to humans and have a long history of medicinal use by natives of Central America and Mexico as the peppers contain compounds used to alleviate ailments ranging from toothaches to rheumatism. They can be used fresh or dried when cooking to add heat to a meal. Just remember, a little goes a long way!
Bird pepper plants can be easily grown in a container or planted directly into your home garden where the red peppers will add year-round color to your landscape.
We continue to offer contact-less deliveries and curbside pickup. On-island deliveries are made on Wednesdays and curbside pickup is also on Wednesdays, from 2 to 3pm. Simply place your order online by midnight on Tuesday for pickup or delivery that Wednesday.

Please email our Garden Center Assistant Sue Ramos at with any questions or requests.

SCCF members will get their discount by entering this promo code: SCCFMBR10
Sanibel Sea School Partners with City's Rec Program
Sanibel Sea School partnered again with the Sanibel Recreation Center to offer children’s programming this summer. 
“We've been excited to work with the local kids in the community, providing much-needed engagement after a long couple of months,” said Director Nicole Finnicum. 
Marine Science Educators have offered activities twice weekly during the City of Sanibel’s Recreation Center’s annual summer camp, free of charge. 
On Mondays and Tuesdays for six weeks, educators have dropped in to the recreation center’s summer camps to offer a morning or afternoon of activities. 
In previous years, Sanibel Sea School has taught summertime snorkeling at the Rec summer camps but this year activities were modified due to the pandemic. 
During the two-hour sessions, educators offered nature-inspired arts and crafts as well as fun ocean-themed outdoor games. 
Some of the crafts that have been offered include mobiles and mosaics using sticks, shells, and leaves. Participants also got creative and created alligators using the base of dried palm fronds.  
“It's been fun to engage with a new group of kids as they use their imaginations to make crafts out of natural materials,” said Marine Science Educator Sam Lucas. “They are all so creative!”
Programming with the Sanibel Recreation Center wraps up this week.

If you are interested in registering for half-day programs or scheduling a private session at the Sanibel Sea School, please email or call (239) 472-8585. Course schedules are available at under the programs tab.
Voice Your Opinion of M-CORES in Task Force Meeting Tomorrow
If you’d like to voice your opinion of the Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES), there will be a Southwest-Central Virtual/In-person Task Force Meeting, Thursday, July 23, from 9am to 4pm, with public input scheduled to begin at 3pm.  Click here for agenda and embedded meeting registration link
SCCF opposes this project and contends that the proposed toll roads will facilitate sprawl; threaten state-wide water quality by eliminating hundreds of acres of wetlands; will cut off currently designated wildlife corridors and expose endangered species such as the Florida panther and the black bear to additional peril while saddling the public with massive debt associated with roads that will primarily benefit the underlying land owners. 
If you attend the meeting or participate remotely, the following talking points have been offered by the statewide No Roads To Ruin Coalition:

  • DOT has not been transparent about its bloated M-CORES budget which has grown to $117 million this year, despite more than $1 billion in vetoes to important community projects, including water quality, transportation infrastructure upgrades, and public safety. 
  • DOT has not shared the thousands of public comments they've received, because they are overwhelmingly against these roads.
  • DOT has continued to keep its foot on the gas, insisting on holding virtual meetings that limit meaningful public participation.

SCCF supports the “NO BUILD” option for this damaging, expensive and unwanted series of mid-state toll roads. The M-CORES Task Force recommendations are scheduled to be presented to the Governor and the Legislature by November 15.
FGCU Students Partner with SCCF on Beach Clean Up
Captiva native John Riegert, a marine science major at FGCU, has helped organize a Beach Clean Up this Saturday on Captiva. 
“This is a special year for the sea turtle population on Captiva and it's our duty as a community to ensure the hatchlings have the best chances of survival we can possibly provide,” said Riegert, who organized the project with fellow students though his Foundations of Civic Engagement course. “If you have a few hours to spare on Saturday morning, please join us!”
As a long-time Captivan, Riegert has fond memories of a time when community beach clean-ups occurred more regularly and he hopes they will again become an island tradition.
“Thanks to our course, myself and a group of other students were tasked with finding an organization to volunteer with for service learning hours and I saw this as a perfect opportunity to partner with SCCF to help our sea turtles and to keep our beaches clean,” said Riegert.
For those who are unable to attend, the students are requesting donations be made to SCCF to support our mission and sea turtle program.

To participate, please be at Alison Hagerup Beach Park, 14790 Captiva Dr., at 8am on Saturday, July 25. You must wear a mask and practice social distancing. Call Riegert with questions at 239-691-6941. Bring a refillable water container to re-hydrate at water stations provided on the beach. 
LCEC-Funded Videos on Sea Turtle Program in Production

SCCF received an environmental funding award from LCEC to produce two short public education videos about our Sea Turtle Monitoring Program during our 2020 nesting season. Emmy-award-winning John Scoular of Manta Films, producer of the videos, was on Sanibel to shoot the turtle team on one of their morning patrols yesterday. 
This short video clip was taken from the back seat of an ATV that has a plexiglass partition to maintain social distancing. Staff biologist Jack Brzoza and Volunteer Permittee Cheri Hollis scan the western end of Sanibel to look for evidence of nesting and hatching. The west end of Sanibel, from Tarpon Bay Road Beach to Blind Pass, has 471 loggerhead nests so far this nesting season. More than 3,000 hatchlings have made it safely to sea from that end of the island to date.
The LCEC videos will educate the public on how to safely share the shore with sea turtles and will highlight the research and monitoring efforts of SCCF's sea turtle program.
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