Wednesday Update
June 16, 2021

Welcome to the bi-weekly Wednesday Update. We'll email the next issue on June 30.

We appreciate your interest in SCCF's mission to protect and care for Southwest Florida's coastal ecosystems.

Thanks to John Dorsett for this photo of a yellow-bellied slider (Trachemys s. scripta).


Please send your photos to to be featured in an upcoming issue.
World Sea Turtle Day Raises Funds for Sex Ratio Research
SCCF Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan presented details of a vital research initiative today at the Bailey Homestead Preserve Pavilion in honor of World Sea Turtle Day.

"It was our first in-person, public event since COVID and we quickly reached a capacity of 100 people that we set so we could still provide some social distancing," said SCCF Events Director Jeff Siwicke. "It was great to have at least some of our SCCF family back together again." 

To investigate why more females are being born than males due to climate change and warmer nesting conditions, SCCF is doing a scientific study to measure temperature, moisture, and groundwater influence on loggerhead hatchling sex ratios.

To advance the study’s progress, the Linsmayer Family of Sanibel is matching new contributions to this initiative dollar for dollar up to $10,000.
“We’re thrilled that so many people in our community want to make a difference not only for sea turtles along our own shores, but globally,” said Linda Linsmayer on behalf of her family. 

Refreshments included sea turtle-inspired fresh vanilla custard with caramel, fudge, and salted pecans donated by Chuck and Lisa Whitman, owners of The Shack of Sanibel. The Shack's Dan St. Gean is pictured here with Linda Linsmayer (L) and Kelly Sloan.

“We are delighted by The Shack’s generosity today and their commitment to donate 25% of net proceeds of their sea turtle flavor to our sea turtle program over the next year,” said Sloan. "Our community is so wonderful in supporting our sea turtles."

If you weren't able to attend, you can still support SCCF's vital role in understanding and positively impacting this worldwide crisis.

To have your tax-deductible donation to this research effort doubled in honor of World Sea Turtle Day, please click here to go to SCCF’s Donor Box page. After indicating the size of your matching gift, click on “Write Us a Comment” and type “sea turtle research” into the dropdown field. Continue from there with your online contribution.

You can also mail a contribution to SCCF Sea Turtle Research, PO Box 839, Sanibel, FL 33957-0839. Please contact SCCF Development Director Cheryl Giattini at 239-395-2768 or with questions.

Photos by SCCF Volunteer Gwenda Hiett-Clements
SCCF Targets Land Acquisition Efforts through Fund
SCCF recently acquired three off-island properties on McGregor Boulevard near the Sanibel Causeway that are of critical environmental importance. A total of more than 25 acres, all three of them contain mangrove forest with, or immediately adjacent to, tidally influenced waterways. 

“SCCF's land acquisition and preservation efforts off-island enhance and expand our impact on restoring coastal ecosystems in the region,” said SCCF CEO Ryan Orgera, Ph.D. “The more land we can preserve, the better off the whole system will be.”

This estuarine habitat, including mudflats and salt flats, is important to many shorebird species, diamondback terrapins (M. terrapin), critically endangered smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinate), and countless invertebrate species, including crustaceans and mollusks.

The purchase of the three parcels marks the first time that monies have been used for this purpose from SCCF’s Land Acquisition and Improvement Fund. Created in 2020 with a gift from a longstanding supporter who wishes to remain anonymous, the Land Acquisition and Improvement Fund affords SCCF the resources to opportunistically acquire environmentally sensitive wildlife habitat so that it can remain undeveloped in perpetuity. The fund may also be used to optimize the quality of that habitat through restoration, rewilding, and ongoing maintenance.

Along the major boulevard, where the ground is higher, there are several exotic plant species, such as Brazilian pepper, melaleuca, and Australian pine, that will be treated or removed so native vegetation can become the dominant species once again. This buffer along the road will continue to serve as a terrestrial wildlife corridor during high tides.

To donate to the SCCF Land Acquisition and Improvement Fund, please contact SCCF Development Director Cheryl Giattini at or 239-822-6121.
Sea Turtle Nesting Reaches Peak Activity with 388 Nests
With nesting season at its peak, SCCF staff and volunteers have been working hard to mark and monitor a total of 388 nests, with 85 nests on Captiva and 303 on Sanibel. 

In preparation for the upcoming Captiva Erosion Prevention District’s beach nourishment project, SCCF has been permitted to relocate new nests laid along the stretch of beach where construction will begin. This project is necessary for the eroding beach; however, many sea turtle nests will still be incubating at this time. To avoid impacts, we have relocated 14 nests so far.

SCCF has also started a new research project to characterize the physical properties of sand along Sanibel and Captiva and evaluate how these variables affect the groundwater flow, moisture content, and temperature inside the nest cavity. 
This project entails measuring sand size, color, and compaction, and monitoring temperature and moisture sensors in the egg chamber.

Groundwater wells placed near the nest will show how the groundwater level fluctuates and how it may influence hatchling success. 

“Evaluating these covariates together will hopefully reveal how they impact embryonic development, nest fate, and hatching and emergence success,” said Biologist Jack Brzoza.

SCCF reminds visitors and residents to follow our Coastal Wildlife Tips and to share them on social media.

Please help us protect and care for our sea turtles! Visit to learn how.

Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan and Biologist Jack Brzoza install a monitoring station.
Photo by Shane Antalick
Be Mindful! Shorebird
Chicks Are on the Move

In recent weeks, three snowy plover (Charadrius nivosus) nests and one Wilson's plover (Charadrius wilsonia) nest have hatched on Sanibel. Staff and volunteers are busy monitoring brood locations and educating beachgoers about our birds and how to safely and respectfully observe them. 

Photographers looking to get photos of snowy plover chicks should always keep a good distance from the birds, remove litter that attracts predators such as crows, and wrap up the photo session in 10 minutes. Click here for guidance on shorebird-friendly photography. 
Snowy plover chicks are precocial—they are feathered and up and running within hours of hatching. They do not stay inside the posted areas around the nests. When visiting the East End of Sanibel Island, remember that we are guests in the home of snowy plovers and sea turtles and always be respectful. 

Keep pets leashed at all times, pick up your trash, and never feed wildlife. Feeding gulls and crows attracts these predators to sensitive nesting areas. 

Watch your step, as snowy plover chicks are very tiny and tend to crouch down and hide in the wrack when they feel threatened. 

If you see a shorebird nest that has not yet been roped off, please contact the SCCF Shorebird staff right away via

Photos by Shorebird Intern Aaron White
Swallow-tailed Kite Monitoring Update

In recent weeks, several of the swallow-tailed kite (Elanoides forficatus) chicks that volunteers and staff have been monitoring have fledged and left their nests. Other nests still host younger chicks, and it will be several more weeks until they fledge.

SCCF is working with the Avian Research and Conservation Institute ( to learn more about swallow-tailed kites and how these beautiful birds use Australian pines as nesting trees on Sanibel. 
Jordan Marsh 'Turned Off' for Vegetation Harvest & Replanting

The City of Sanibel’s Jordan Marsh Water Quality Treatment Park on Casa Ybel Road has been in operation for more than two years. If you have ridden your bike there lately, you have noticed a big change. 

The discharge pipe in the ditch next to the bike path is dry; the birds are no longer sitting there waiting for a fish, the fish in the ditch are mostly gone, the plants growing over the water are drying up, and the marsh itself is much lower and dry in some places. 

Even the baby gators and snakes that inhabit that spot are missing now. It looks like an ecological disaster, and it is on some scale. But the city is in the process of harvesting vegetation there and the marsh has been “turned off.” Because the water flowing through the marsh is pumped in from the Sanibel Slough (Sanibel River) and flows back into the slough, it is easy to turn off the marsh at the flick of a pump switch. 
The treatment marsh relies on vegetation such as cattails to remove nutrients from the water as it slowly flows through the system. Over the past two years, the vegetation has matured and the exponential growth phase which occurs when the plants are young has passed. 

Because of the absence of the rapid growth phase of the younger plants, nutrient removal in the marsh has dropped significantly over the last six months as indicated by SCCF’s water quality monitoring.
The City of Sanibel’s Dana Dettmar explained: “The Jordan Marsh has been in operation since March 2019, and the wetland vegetation responsible for most of the nutrient removal processes has now matured and begun to senesce (deteriorate with age). As vegetation matures, it is not as effective at nutrient removal, and the senescent plants can add to unwanted nutrient additions to the marsh. Recognizing the need to manage vegetation to sustain effective nutrient removal, the city has allocated funds to perform routine maintenance on the marsh that includes the harvest of mature vegetation as well as the installation of additional plants.”

Constructed wetlands have been used for decades to treat domestic wastewater, stormwater, and industrial wastes. The experience of other treatment marsh operators has found that periodic harvesting of a portion of the marsh vegetation (cattails) will improve nutrient removal efficiency in the marsh. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends harvesting and removing mature plants from treatment wetlands every few years. This eliminates nutrients that are bound up in the biomass. It also encourages new plant growth, which uses nutrients at a much greater rate than mature, senescent plants. “After the harvest is complete, we hope to see an almost immediate improvement in water quality from the marsh,” said SCCF Research Associate Mark Thompson. 

Thompson noted that “it is difficult to watch the wildlife move away, and the floating vegetation die off during this harvest period, but soon the marsh will be turned back on, and the vegetation and the wildlife it supports will return.” 

The city plans to add floating vegetation, such as water lilies, to the pond area of the marsh. The floating vegetation will add another layer of nutrient removal capacity to the system. 

“Plants are our best mechanism for removing excess nutrients from the landscape and preventing algae blooms, red tide, and wildlife deaths downstream,” Thompson said. SCCF encourages residents to do their part by making their yard look as natural as possible with plenty of native vegetation. “If it looks like a golf course, your yard is part of the local water quality problems,” he cautioned. “If it looks like an SCCF preserve, you are doing a great job.”

Drone Photo by Leah Reidenbach
(Funding for Drone Provided by CHNEP)
Marine Lab Scientists Publish Study on Hypoxic Event During 2018 Red Tide

Marine Lab Director Eric Milbrandt, Ph.D., Marine Lab Manager A.J. Martignette, Research Associate Mark Thompson, and Research Scientist Rick Bartleson, Ph.D. all contributed to the study, "Geospatial distribution of hypoxia associated with a Karenia brevis bloom." The article is available online and will be published in the September issue of Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science.


In 2018, the presence of bottom water hypoxia along the Southwest Florida coast was investigated during a bloom of the toxic dinoflagellate Karenia brevis. The bloom was first detected in November 2017. Monitoring of oxygen levels and bloom densities was carried out in 2018 and 2019 using sampling grids.

The possible influences of red tides on hypoxic conditions along the coast of the eastern Gulf of Mexico are discussed within the context of the 2018 K. brevis bloom event.

Hypoxia occurring in parallel to a red tide bloom is more likely to occur with warmer ocean temperatures and increased fluxes of nutrients and fresh water to the Gulf of Mexico after hurricanes.
Red Tide Update:
Wildlife Still Being Impacted

As red tide (Karenia brevis) decreases along Southwest Florida’s coast, shorebirds and sea turtles are still showing ill effects of brevetoxins, though patient admissions to Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) are declining.

CROW reported admitting a brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) and a sooty tern (Onychoprion fuscatus) in the past week, which are still being treated at the animal wildlife hospital. Two others, a green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) and laughing gull (Leucophaeus atricilla) died. SCCF staff reported no suspicious findings or deaths in the past week.

In Southwest Florida over the past week, K. brevis was observed at low concentrations in Charlotte County, background to medium concentrations in Lee County, and background to medium concentrations in Collier County. One sample from Lee County and one sample from Collier County with bloom concentrations (>100,000 cells/liter) were observed. Marine neurotoxins known as brevetoxins are produced by the dinoflagellate K. brevis.

Click the button below to learn more about red tide and how to track it.
Support Water Quality by Asking Gov. DeSantis to Veto HB 735

Local governments can help clean up our waterways by providing training and education to landscapers that apply fertilizer to residential and commercial properties. 

Improper fertilizer application can result in runoff that sends nutrients meant to feed your lawn into our waterways, where they feed harmful aquatic algae. 

Local city and county fertilizer ordinances require training on best practices before fertilizer applicators can obtain their occupational licenses. 

House Bill 735 (and the identical Senate Bill 268) that passed this session prohibits local governments from imposing additional licensing requirements on specialty contractors. This bill also includes a provision to eliminate any previously existing local licensing requirement by 2023. This bill was strongly opposed by local cities and counties as it preempts the ability of local officials to use valuable tools such as training and education for consumer protection-related issues such as fertilizer application training.

Sanibel Mayor Holly Smith has joined the Florida Association of Counties in asking Gov. Ron DeSantis to VETO this harmful preemption bill in this letter.

In the past, Gov. DeSantis has supported local communities to address issues through their own political process, such as when he vetoed the plastic straw ban bill in 2019.  

Calling and sending hand-written letters to the Governor’s Office are also effective. You may call the Governor at (850) 717-9337 or write to him at the following address: 
Office of Governor Ron DeSantis
State of Florida
The Capitol
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

Click below to take immediate action by emailing the Governor.
Key Environmental Projects Earmarked in Florida Budget

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the record $101.5 billion Florida State budget on June 2. The $9.3 billion increase over last year’s $92.2 billion budget is attributed to pandemic-related impacts. Of the anticipated $10.2 billion Federal American Rescue Plan funds designated for Florida, $6.7 billion was utilized to support this budget.

Because state revenues were stronger than predicted, legislators opted to put the remainder of the stimulus funds into savings for a total of $6 billion in budget reserves.
For the environment, the budget includes $522 million for Everglades Restoration projects and $400 million for the Florida Forever Land Acquisition Program ($300 million of which is non-recurring funding from federal stimulus dollars). 

Funding for the newly created Resiliency Grant Trust Fund Program will receive $500 million to address flooding and sea level rise, and the Water Protection and Sustainability Program will receive $500 million to distribute grants to local communities for septic-to-sewer and wastewater infrastructure projects. 

Another $100 million in funding was approved to address the environmental disaster at Piney Point.

Some of the local water quality projects that received funding include:

  • $750,000 — Sanibel Sewer Phase IV Expansion Project
  • $1.36 million — Caloosahatchee Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Restoration
  • $1 million — Cape Coral Caloosahatchee Reclaimed Water Transmission Main

Please see the following link for the full: County by County Allocation List. One local project, Bonita Springs Home Elevation and Buyout Program, was vetoed by the governor. Click here for the complete: State 2021 Veto List

This budget and all other signed bills become effective on July 1, 2021, the beginning of the 2021-2022 state fiscal year.

There are still several issue-related bills that have yet to be presented to the Governor including the growth management and MCORES related bills. If you haven’t contacted the governor on these important bills but would like to, click on the links below:

Thank you for taking action!
Lots of Smiles as Sanibel Sea School Kicks off Summer Camp

In its first summer camp since 2019, Sanibel Sea School was thrilled to kick it off with “Bonnethead Week – Swimmin’ with the Sharks,” a week-long camp for kids ages 6-13. 

With COVID safety protocols in place, Sanibel Sea School counselors welcomed 24 campers to the East End flagship campus on June 7. “We’re holding a smaller camp this year in order to maintain smaller group sizes and to ease back into the swing of things in our new normal,” said Sanibel Sea School Director Nicole Finnicum. 

Throughout the week, campers got back to traditional camp activities like canoeing, seining in the seagrass, and snorkeling. They also played fun shark-themed games and made bonnethead-inspired crafts using shells collected from the beach. 

“I think campers are just excited to be back to doing what they love, exploring nature, and having fun with friends,” said Finnicum. 
Campers also spent time learning about bonnethead sharks, including more about their uniquely shaped cephalofoils (heads), their seven senses, and the shallow-water estuaries where they thrive. 

The highlight of the week was the surf paddle race on Friday morning. The campers spent the week honing their paddling skills and then put them to the test in a surf paddle competition among the two groups.

Sanibel Sea School will offer summer camp at the flagship campus through August this year long with a secondary camp at the Bailey Homestead beginning June 21. “By having camp at two locations, we’ll be able to accommodate more campers and still maintain small, safe groups,” said Finnicum. “We are so excited to launch our first camp at the Homestead. It will be a unique and fun experience for campers and still be right down the road from our flagship campus.”

Photos by Shane Antalick
Meet the Natives:
Sulphurs & Senna

Perhaps you’ve noticed orange-barred sulphur (P. philea) butterflies flitting through the sky lately. They are a member of the sulphur and white family of butterflies, which includes cloudless sulphurs (Phoebis sennae), large orange sulphurs (Colias eurytheme), and the great Southern white (Ascia monuste) butterfly.

The sulphurs are most often found around their larval host plants in the genus Senna, several of which are native to Florida. The adult butterflies lay their eggs on Senna plants, and when the eggs hatch, the caterpillars feed on the plant. Two of these native host plants are commonly found in cultivation and make great additions to a butterfly-friendly yard. Bahama cassia (Senna mexicana var. chapmanii) reaches heights and widths of 3 to 5 feet high and take full sun, while privet cassia (Senna ligustrina) grows to 6 to 8 feet tall (and is taller than wide) and prefers a little shade.

In the spring and fall, both species produce buttery yellow flowers, which sulphur caterpillars seem to prefer for a midday snack. If they are not eaten by caterpillars, the flowers are followed by seed pods that look similar to small pea pods (appropriate, as they are in the pea family).

Though both plants are relatively short-lived, at 3 to 5 years, each produces many seeds, and new plants can quickly replace older plants in the landscape. Both species are easy to grow, and provide the dual purpose of feeding young caterpillars as well as providing nectar to the adults. They also have the added benefit of being attractive in your yard!
SCCF's Native Landscapes & Garden Center at the Bailey Homestead is open Monday through Thursday, 10am to 3pm. We will also continue to offer contactless deliveries and curbside pickup. 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 School Students Take Final Pick Preserve Field Trip

The Sanibel School’s 4th graders joined SCCF Educator Richard Finkel on a sensory awareness exploration along SCCF’s Pick Preserve nature trail. SCCF’s Pick Preserve, located directly across the street from The Sanibel School, is an ideal setting to incorporate environmental science into teachers’ curriculum goals.

During this scavenger-hunt type activity, students were challenged to find things that don’t readily stand out to a casual observer, which led to a discussion of camouflage, observation skills, and why some things in nature are easily seen while others might remain obscure. This lesson inspired students to create poems from sights, sounds, and thoughts.
Sanibel School Lighthouse Team Plants Live Oak to Beautify Grounds

The Sanibel School’s Lighthouse Team Student Council recently participated in a service project to beautify the school grounds. The team voted to add a tree that was toppled by a summer storm.

Richard Finkel, SCCF Educator, and SCCF Native Plant Nursery staff assisted with the project and donated a live oak to the Lighthouse Team.

The students participated in a ceremony and tree-planting on June 11. “It was a pleasure to work with these motivated students who exhibited such sincere dedication and pride in pursuing and accomplishing this project,” Finkel said.

Lighthouse Team Student Council members included: Jenna Cook, president, 8th grade; Landon Williams, vice president, 8th grade; Casey Sackman, 7th grade; Kyler Kouril, 7th grade; Siena Young, 6th grade; Colton Schmidt, 6th grade; Lily Hall, 5th grade; Rod Bell, 5th grade; Landon Markosky, 4th grade; Harrison Jones, 4th grade; Max Cantor, 3rd grade; Turner Stewart, 3rd grade; and Michelle Heuck, Sanibel School teacher.
Members of the SCCF sea turtle team explain why it's important to keep lights out for sea turtles in this newly-released video.

Featuring interviews with Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan, Biologist Jack Brzoza, and Research Associate Andrew Glinsky, the short video is intended for distribution on social media to educate visitors and new residents. Please share it!

Thanks to LCEC for providing the funding for the production of this video by Tom James of Pelican Media through the Environmental Funding Award!
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