Wednesday Update
August 5, 2020
Welcome to the third bi-weekly edition of the Wednesday Update!
We'll be emailing it to you every two weeks, with the next edition on August 19.
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 Matt Winkler for this photo of a white ibis taken on the beach off Sanibel's East Gulf Drive during his recent visit.

Please send your wildlife photos to
Illustration Courtesy of Good Wives and Warriors
Shark Conservation Campaign Launches for Shark Week
The productive coastal waters around Sanibel and Captiva are an important place for many species of sharks. They come to feed, to mate, and to raise their young pups — and we are very lucky to have them here. Sharks are apex predators that help keep our coastal ecosystem in balance. A decline in their populations can cause cascading effects down through the food web, and can greatly impact the stability of our other local fish populations.

To keep our shark populations healthy, we as a community need to better understand them, and then in turn protect them. Fear and misinformation need to be replaced with education and stewardship, just as our community has done for all of the other wildlife on our islands.

To coincide with Discovery’s Shark Week starting on Sunday, August 9, SCCF is excited to launch a Shark Advocacy Campaign to raise awareness and improve education on the importance of our local sharks. To kick things off, we just published new web pages devoted to sharks. Compiling the most up-to-date information on sharks to educate our local community with actual data related to shark encounters, we hope to encourage best practices for safe catch-and-release fishing, and offer guidance on how to help maintain healthy shark populations. By educating yourself about our local sharks, you are taking the first big step in helping to ensure their survival, and consequently, the betterment of our local ecosystems.

Please take some time to enjoy these new web pages and all of the photos, illustrations, educational information, and resources you’ll find within. We bet that you’ll learn some really cool things about our local sharks that you didn’t know before!

Also keep an eye out for new shark advocacy informational cards that we will be distributing across the islands. We encourage our local anglers, beachgoers, and the entire community to advocate for sharks! And, watch for our CEO Ryan Orgera’s Guest Opinion columns in this week’s Island Sun and in Saturday’s News-Press and Naples Daily News.
Powerful Team to Lead Water Quality Policy Work
We are thrilled to share the news that two well-known leaders in Southwest Florida water quality issues are joining our team to deepen and expand our work to restore and protect the region’s waterways.
Starting Sept. 8, James Evans, (picture here) Director of Natural Resource with the City of Sanibel, and Chad Gillis, Environmental Reporter with the Naples Daily News and News-Press, will lead policy and advocacy work for us.
Evans will take on a new title as Environmental Policy Director. He will direct water quality policy as it impacts the islands and region at the local, regional, state, and federal levels, as well as growth management and other topics affecting Sanibel and Captiva. He will take over the portfolio of SCCF’s first Natural Resource Policy Director Rae Ann Wessel, who retired in May after serving 14 years, and will carry forth her legacy by continuing to expand upon SCCF's rich tradition of environmental policy. 
Having focused his award-winning journalism on the Caloosahatchee River, Lake Okeechobee, and Everglades restoration, Gillis (pictured here) will take on a newly-created position at SCCF as Policy Advocate.
He will be primarily focused on water quality and will promote SCCF policy positions through various media as he continues to write. 
As a team, Evans will work with the City as part of SCCF’s long-standing partnership, as well as regional, state and national partners to create meaningful policy positions for SCCF, while Gillis will be instrumental in all policy communication efforts.

Join us in welcoming them aboard!
Hatching Season in Full Swing as Nesting Season Slows Down
SCCF Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan reports that sea turtle nesting is winding down, while hatching season is picking up.
“Although nests will continue to trickle in over the next few weeks, our main nesting season is ending and hatching season is in full swing,” said Sloan. “Over 260 nests have hatched on our beaches to date and 14,757 hatchlings have reached the sea. With 525 nests still incubating, that number will continue to rise!”
Loggerhead nest counts are up compared to this time last year. On the East End of Sanibel, we now have 142 nests compared to 141 in 2019; on the West End of Sanibel, we have 502 nests compared to 467 in 209 and on Captiva we have 264 nests, which is way up from 186 last year.
In other updates, two of our satellite-tagged loggerheads have shown some interesting behavior since laying their lasts nests on Sanibel. Pepper took quite a direct route, making her way south and then east, ending up in the Bahamas! Meanwhile Periwinkle has made her way into the waters just north of the Florida Keys! Continue to follow their movements and see where they head next by clicking here.
Linsmayer Challenge Exceeds Goal to Offset Drive-Over Damage to Nests
More than 25 individuals and families have met and exceeded the Linsmayer Family’s Challenge to raise funds to support our nest monitoring efforts after nests were damaged on Captiva in late July.
County and state law enforcement continue to seek tips as they investigate the incident. We will report any findings as they occur, as well as share updates after the nests are inventoried in the coming days and weeks. 
If you have any information, please call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922 to report it. Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward.

Click here to read more about the incident.
SCCF Staff Rescue Loggerhead Hooked by Fisherman
On Saturday, August 1, our Sea Turtle Hotline received a call about a turtle that had been accidentally hooked by a fisherman on Captiva.
Our thanks go out to the fisherman who immediately reported the incident.
SCCF Technician Megan Reed and Research Associate Andrew Glinsky arrived on the scene shortly after the call. The turtle was approximately 100 yards offshore, with the hook stuck in her mouth. 
Our team couldn't tell if the turtle had entangled herself in the fishing line, so they swam to her. They assisted the turtle to the shore, got her into a sling, and took her to CROW. CROW removed the hook, assessed her health, and released her Monday, August 3. 
She was a very energetic turtle -- a very healthy adult loggerhead who put up a fight during her rescue! We were very grateful for the call, and for the help of bystanders on the beach! 

To report any issues with nests, nesting turtles, or hatchlings, please call our Sea Turtle Hotline: 978-728-3663
Nighttime Survey Work Completed for 2020 Season
Friday, July 31, marked the last day of the 2020 nighttime surveys. COVID-19 restrictions prevented the hiring of our seasonal nighttime interns this year, but our smaller team, aided in part by Sea School and Marine Lab staff, successfully accomplished a full nighttime tagging season, starting on May 1 and surveying Sanibel every night from dusk to dawn in search of nesting females.
As always, we identified the individual turtles based on unique tag IDs and collected morphometric and behavioral data. This year we are also conducting a research project to investigate the long-term impacts of the catastrophic 2018 red tide event. Blood samples from encountered turtles will be sent to the University of Miami for a comprehensive health analysis and to Florida Wildlife Research Institute to quantify brevetoxin concentrations.
Ninety one days and approximately 1 million bug bites later, we wrapped up night patrols with 363 documented sea turtle encounters with 185 different individuals. Interestingly, 19 of these females were 2017 nesters and 16 last nested in 2018, suggesting that more of our turtles may be on a 3-year rather than 2-year re-migration interval. We are interested to see how health status and toxin concentrations compare between these two groups.
Dedicated Volunteers Help Expand Box Turtle Project
The SCCF Florida Box Turtle Project has expanded its efforts on Sanibel and Captiva by taking on a limited number of volunteers to help survey for box turtles.  
“These volunteers, mostly alternates from the SCCF Sea Turtle Program, are dedicated to sustaining populations of all turtles on Sanibel and Captiva,” said Wildlife & Habitat Management Director Chris Lechowicz. “With their help, we will be able to locate, take measurements and permanently mark more box turtles so we can better understand the population dynamics of these small, long-lived turtles that are in dire need of conservation efforts due to turtle trafficking.”
The mark features holes in the edges of the carapace (shell as pictured above) that represent a unique number. This "notching" of the shell is the most popular method of marking research turtles today. It was first described in 1939 by Fred Cagle.
SCCF is also contributing genetic samples from Sanibel box turtles to Tangled Bank Conservation in conjunction with the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) to help create a range-wide genetic map of all box turtles in the U.S. This will enable turtle biologists to release more turtles from trafficking confiscations back into the wild in their proper ranges instead of ending up permanently in captivity. 
Last fall, with the assistance of SCCF staff, state wildlife officials freed nearly 300 turtles on Sanibel Island as the result of the largest seizure of trafficked turtles in recent history. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) charged two suspects for poaching thousands of Florida’s native turtles from the wild and selling them illegally in Florida, with final destinations in international markets. 
Shorebird Fledglings Spotted at Beaches Around Region
SCCF Shorebird Biologist Audrey Albrecht reports that we have received news about some of our snowy plovers recently. 
After several failed nesting attempts on Siesta Key, our 2017 Sanibel Fledge Green /White (aka "Ms. Sanibel") was found by state park staff on Caladesi Island with two small chicks! In 2017, she fledged from Sanibel and her first resighting was in August 120 miles away on Caladesi Island. Since then she has spent most of her time on Siesta Key. 
Sanibel fledgling Blue/Green (pictured here), was banded on July 1 this year near the Sanibel Lighthouse. Blue/Green was seen on August 1 on Lido Key about 69 miles from where it hatched. (Photo from Kylie Wilson of Audubon Florida) 
Adult White/Blue was (pictured here) found on July 30 on Anclote Key about 130 miles north by state park staff. White/Blue is an adult male that was banded in 2019 on Sanibel. He fledged two chicks around Shell Island Beach Club near the Lighthouse in both 2019 and 2020. (Photo from Daniel Larremore with Honeymoon Island State Park)
Albrecht spent most of her time last week removing all of our shorebird enclosures in anticipation of the potential impacts from Tropical Storm Isaias. All of our shorebirds appear to be done nesting, and no chicks or fledglings were using them.
Fall shorebird migration is starting. Lots of sanderlings have returned to our beaches in the last week. Please remember not to let kids or dogs chase birds! These tiny birds have just flown thousands of miles after spending the summer in the arctic nesting and raising chicks. They are very tired and it is essential they can rest and feed to regain energy for the rest of their journey. Some will stay with us for the winter, while others will continue on to Central and South America. 

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
Policy Staff Update: Rule-Making That Impacts Water Quality
In addition to keeping close tabs on the Eden Oak zoning process and Conservation 20/20 nomination, SCCF Policy staff has been busy focusing on several rule-making processes that will ultimately have a direct impact on our local water quality:

1) Lake Okeechobee Water Releases: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) held a webinar on July 21 to present information related to the proposed planned deviation from the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS) 2008 in anticipation of and following freshwater Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs), to help reduce the risk of potential concerns associated with algal blooms in Lake Okeechobee, the St. Lucie, and Caloosahatchee estuaries while maintaining other project purposes. Per Col. Andrew Kelly, Jacksonville District Commander: "This planned deviation is an important tool which provides flexibility to hold back releases when HABs are most prevalent in favor of releasing more water from Lake Okeechobee when conditions are more favorable”

2) Blue Green Algae Task Force: The Governor-appointed Blue Green Algae Task Force met remotely on July 29 to discuss, among other issues, waterway signage and the adoption of EPA guidelines for Blue Green Algae cyanotoxins in Florida waters. The guidelines are intended to be adopted for new water quality standards and swim advisories. They pledged to meet in the near future with potential presentations by the USACE. SCCF has submitted comments on previous recommendations by the task force regarding Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs), Agriculture Best Management Practices (BMPs), and Wastewater and Stormwater Treatment Systems which influenced the outcome of the 2020 legislation of Senate Bill 712, the “Clean Waterways Act.” The outcome of future task force meetings is also expected to inform proposed water quality legislation for the 2021 legislative session. 

3) Stormwater Rules: As a result of Senate Bill 712, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is undertaking a review to improve current water quality rules and regulations. One such effort by DEP took place by webinar on July 30 to provide an introductory rule-making presentation and outreach for the upcoming stormwater rule development by DEP and Water Management Districts. The presentation included background information and requested public input ahead of formally initiating rulemaking to update Florida’s stormwater design and operation regulations. SCCF will be submitting comments for proposed program improvements. 
Marine Lab Testing Filter to Improve Pond's Water Quality
The Marine Lab, in cooperation with the City of Sanibel Natural Resources Department, is investigating the use of a nutrient filter for removing pollution from an impaired pond downstream of a neighborhood wastewater plant that was closed in the early 2000s.  
As one of the island’s poorest water quality ponds, it has constant algae blooms and low to no dissolved oxygen. This pond has such poor water quality that our current efforts to reduce fertilizer runoff would not lead to improving conditions in the pond. 
The City has repurposed one of SCCF Marine Lab’s fish aquaculture tanks at the former Bayous wastewater treatment plant site. That site at the corner of Sanibel Bayous Road and San Cap Road previously had a wastewater treatment plant that served the Bayous development. 
The treatment plant had two large ponds that held treated wastewater. Even though the City has now purchased the property and properly closed the treatment facility and filled those ponds in an effort to solve the problems caused by wastewater there, residual nutrients remain in the groundwater and soil. 
The repurposed SCCF aquaculture tank has been filled with four types of filter media which can physically and biologically remove nitrogen and phosphorus from polluted water. The treatment tank supplements two small lakes that were dug on the site and planted with vegetation which acts as a natural filter to remove nutrients. In the tank, a small pump now keeps water flowing from one lake, then through the new nutrient filter and into the second lake. 
SCCF monitors the removal of nutrients through the filter. The filter was put online in May 2020 and initial sampling has shown the filter does remove nitrogen and phosphorus. It will take several more months for the filter media to grow bacteria. The effectiveness of the filter is expected to increase over time. These are bacteria naturally found in our environment and pose no danger to humans.
Podcast Features Jenny Evans on Planting Native for Pollinators
On our most recent episode, podcast host Barbara Linstrom, SCCF's Communications Director, talks with Jenny Evans, Manager of our Native Landscapes & Garden Center, about the value and intricacies of pollinators. Planting Native for Pollinators is the sixth episode of the podcast we launched on Earth Day 2020.
For the past 15 years, Evans has led the effort to encourage islanders to plant native to support pollinators as well as all forms of native wildlife. With a background in plant biology, Evans gives an overview of what pollinating is and delves into some fascinating details about native pollinators as well as the challenges posed by the commercialization of pollination to support agriculture on a global scale. She also talks about the demonstration pollinator garden at the historic Bailey Homestead Preserve and how it has grown into a lush and amazing display that attracts a wide array of native insects.
She Sells Sea Shells Donates $500 to SCCF
She Sells Sea Shells raised over $500 from the sales of their reusable shopping bags as part of an ongoing effort to offset plastic bag pollution and support conservation on the islands. 
“We started this initiative to support the environment and give back to our community which is a long-standing core value of our family-owned business,” said Tamara Joffe.
In support of the environment, She Sells Sea Shells is donating a $1 to SCCF for every bag sold and is continuing this campaign into the future.
As he accepted the $500 check from the iconic island retail shop, SCCF CEO Ryan Orgera praised the family’s efforts to minimize the use of plastic.
“We hope that other businesses will join in embracing the conservation ethic that defines our islands,” Orgera said. “We are very grateful that She Sells Sea Shells is showing concern for our oceans and our wildlife by eliminating plastic bags.”
Did You Know We Have Our Own Native Mistletoe?
The mistletoe cactus (Rhipsalis baccifera) is a true cactus but it grows in the shade and not in full sun. It is sometimes referred to as a jungle cactus because it grows in the shade under other plants. It is a native to south Florida and is endangered in the state. As an epiphytic cactus, it grows supported by another plant or object, and derives all needed nutrients and water from the rain and air and not from the supported plant. 
Mistletoe cactus has light green long cylinder-shaped smooth stems that can reach many feet long. The new growth can have small hairs but otherwise, it has very few spines. It flowers in spring or early summer and produces small white fruit that resembles the white berries of mistletoe.  
Mistletoe cactus grows well in a hanging basket and it is a good choice as a houseplant, too. Order from our online Native Landscapes & Garden Center, which features nearly 100 native plants, as well as gardening supplies, SCCF T-shirts and tumblers.
We continue to offer contactless 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 Announces Fall Line-Up
Sanibel Sea School is excited to offer a variety of limited, in-person offerings for kids, families, and small groups this fall. Offerings include after school sessions, family private programs, and customized homeschool sessions. 
To ensure safety of our participants, staff, and community, Sanibel Sea School staff will continue to conduct health screenings, wear masks, and ensure proper sanitation of all classroom spaces and gear. 
“Safety is our number one priority and we’re committed to keeping families safe while we explore the ocean,” said Sea School Director Nicole Finnicum. 
After school programs begin mid-September and continue through mid-December. Sessions will be held on Tuesdays from 3:30 to 5:30 and include surfing, seining and snorkeling, and ocean art. All after school sessions are $20 per student. Registration is open here.
Sanibel Sea School educators are also offering customized Homeschool at Sea programming. Homeschool at Sea is hands-on, supplemental science-based education targeted to small homeschool groups. Educators can arrange a series of sessions that are focused on marine biology or lessons that compliment student’s existing homeschool or virtual school curriculum. 
Finally, family shore-based and paddle-based private sessions are also offered throughout the fall by appointment. 
“We understand the importance of sticking close to family this year, so our private sessions are a perfect activity to get out of the house and spend time in nature together,” said Finnicum. 

If you’d like more information and pricing on private programs and Homeschool at Sea, please call (239) 472-8585 or email Scholarships are available. 
Captiva's Record Turtle Season Featured on ABC-7

Click here to watch a report featuring SCCF Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan and long-time Sea Turtle Volunteer Nancy Riley that aired last week.
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