Wednesday Update
July 8, 2020
Welcome to the first bi-weekly edition of the Wednesday Update !
We'll be emailing it to you every two weeks, with the next edition on July 22.
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 Jorgen Asteberg for sending in this photo of a pair of least terns (Sternula antillarum) taken from a safe distance based on our shorebird photography guidelines.

Please send your nature photos to [email protected].

We welcome photos from anywhere in our watershed.
Tracking of Loggerheads Enhances Red Tide Research
Meet Pepper!
At 4’3” head to tail, she is the largest loggerhead our sea turtle team has encountered this season.
Pepper is also the second loggerhead sea turtle ever to be satellite-tagged after nesting on Sanibel. Our team tagged Pepper after she successfully laid a nest on Monday, July 6. They previously encountered her on Sanibel in 2018, which was a season of naming turtles after spices.
The first loggerhead to be tagged this summer was a loggerhead named Junonia.
Pepper and Junonia will be part of a study to learn more about the post-nesting movements, migratory pathways, and foraging grounds of loggerhead sea turtles that nest on the gulf coast of Florida. Since Pepper 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, which is funded by the Florida RESTORE Act Centers of Excellence. Thanks to the AWC Family Foundation for funding satellite tagging of loggerheads.
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 Pepper, Junonia, and Juniper!
More than 3,000 Hatchlings Emerge Safely; Nest Count at 749
Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan reports that hatching season is well underway, with 3,063 hatchlings emerging from our beaches already this year.
"It's encouraging to see high hatch rates from so many of our nests after such a large percentage of them were washed over or inundated during TS Cristobal," said Sloan.
On Sunday, June 28, the first hatching of one Juniper's nests was documented on Captiva, marking a very rare occurrence for the Gulf coast of Florida. SCCF Volunteer Permittee Kerry Salatino saw that the leatherback nest had hatched and was able to photograph two hatchlings still making their way the sea.
“The nest was being invaded by fire ants so Kerry inventoried it immediately instead of waiting the standard three days. A total of 56 hatchlings made it to the Gulf of Mexico,” said Sloan.
One of the small, black turtles, which are more than double the size of a loggerhead hatchling, fell into a hole that hadn’t been filled in by beachgoers.
“Fortunately, Kerry was able to rescue it from the hole and help it get safely to sea,” said Sloan. “These hatchlings also crawled towards the dunes before turning towards the sea because of artificial lighting. This is a great example of why it’s so important to fill in holes and turn off all lights visible from the beach.”
With about one month of nesting season left, nesting is still going strong and our nest counts on both Sanibel and Captiva remain higher than they were at this time last year. There are 531 loggerhead nests on Sanibel and 218 nests on Captiva, compared to 521 and 148 in 2019, respectively.
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.
Snowy Plovers May Nest One More Time
SCCF Shorebird Biologist Audrey Albrecht reports that as of right now we have only a single brood of two snowy plover ( Charadrius nivosus) chicks who turned 1-month-old last week.
“The photo here is of a snowy plover chick with mom taken while people were walking by who never even saw them. We are waiting to see if any of the snowy plovers will attempt to nest one more time this summer,” said Albrecht.
The snowy plover fledglings have left the area, we can't wait to see where they turn up. Last week, according to ebird, one of our fledglings was at Bowditch Point
Another of our snowy plover fledglings, pictured here, was reported to be all the way to Keewaydin Island south of Naples last Thursday. And, as of yesterday was back on Sanibel!
Our oldest known snowy plover turned up over at Carlos Pointe on Fort Myers Beach. The 12-year-old female is usually spotted over there at least once a year.
Please continue to safeguard our nesting shorebirds through August.

What can you do to help?
  • Respect signed nesting areas. Plover nests are really difficult to see. The posted areas prevent beachgoers from accidentally trampling the eggs in a nest.
  • Honor the leash law. Plovers view dogs as predators. An unleashed dog can destroy nests and kill hatchlings.
  • Be a respectful photographer
  • WATCH a video on Shorebird Conservation Tips
If you have any questions about our shorebirds please email [email protected]
Saharan Dust Feeds Gulf Phytoplankton
The last weekend in June, a Saharan dust plume of historic proportions blanketed the southeastern United States and the Gulf of Mexico. A smaller plume followed close on its heels and continues to hover over parts of the Gulf Coast and the Caribbean.
"These plumes bring high temperatures and hazy skies to Florida, but they can also have a surprising and equally important effect on the Gulf of Mexico’s phytoplankton community," said SCCF Marine Lab Research Assistant Kevin Jones.
Saharan dust plumes are an annual summer occurrence, but the one that recently reached the U.S. was among the largest on record. These plumes begin as sandstorms in west and central Africa.
Fine particles are carried high into the atmosphere, where they are swept westward over the Atlantic by wind currents known as the African Easterly Jet. As they travel across the Atlantic, these dust clouds can actually suppress the formation of hurricanes and tropical storms. Upon reaching North America, some of the dust settles in the Gulf of Mexico, where it provides an important ingredient to the offshore waters; iron.
"This influx of iron is a vital nutrient source to a small cyanobacterium called Trichodesmium. Cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, are photosynthetic bacteria. They, along with other types of phytoplankton, form the basis of the marine food web," Jones said.
Trichodesmium, sometimes called “sea sawdust,” is found in open water throughout the world. It blooms each summer in the Gulf, and forms brown patches at the water’s surface that may look like floating oil or sawdust. Unlike red tide, these blooms are not believed to be hazardous to humans or marine life. Typically found offshore in nutrient-poor waters, this plankton has a special adaptation for the difficult environment where it thrives.
Trichodesmium is one of the relatively few organisms capable of nitrogen fixation, or converting atmospheric nitrogen into a usable form. This ability gives Trichodesmium an important advantage, since nitrogen is a vital nutrient for phytoplankton.
Most phytoplankton utilize various forms of dissolved nitrogen from the surrounding water, but these compounds are usually scarce in Trichodesmium’s environment. This is where the iron from the Saharan dust plumes comes in.
Iron ions are a critical component of the special enzymes that allow Trichodesmium to carry out nitrogen fixation. Blooms of Trichodesmium often occur after a dust plume as the influx of iron allows them to draw nitrogen from the atmosphere, and this nitrogen in turn can become a nutrient source for other phytoplankton.
"Marine Lab staff have observed dense patches of Trichodesmium west of Sanibel and Captiva recently. While these blooms are not harmful on their own, there is some evidence to suggest that they may play a role in the initiation of toxin-producing red tide blooms," said Marine Lab Director Eric Milbrandt, Ph.D.
Dust's Connection to Red Tide Not Yet Well Understood
Nitrogen is a necessary nutrient for Karenia brevis, the red tide algae, and small-scale experiments in the laboratory have shown that K. brevis will readily scavenge the nitrogen produced by Trichodesmium.
However, the extent to which this phenomenon occurs in the wild and its potential impact on red tide blooms is not yet well understood. The sources of nutrients, including iron to the Gulf of Mexico include coastal runoff, ground water (submarine springs), atmospheric deposition (dust) and upwelling from the deep ocean.
When determining the causes of red tide bloom formation, these sources can contribute differently in different bloom events. Today, there are multiple competing hypotheses for the causes of red tide blooms but most scientists agree that the extent and duration of a bloom event are made worse by runoff from large rivers in Southwest Florida.
"Much more research is needed to explore the relationship between these two algae, but reducing coastal nutrient pollution remains the most important consideration in mitigating red tide blooms," said Milbrandt.
From the Sahara Desert to an algal bloom in the Gulf of Mexico, the dust that blanketed Florida last week has made an incredible journey. This phenomenon is a unique reminder of how intricate and interconnected the natural world can be.
A Sure Sign of Summer in Southwest Florida
You know it's truly summer when limber caper ( Cynophalla flexuosa) is blooming! A relative of the more common Jamaica caper, limber caper is the free-spirited, wild child cousin of the family.
With an irregular growth habit that is somewhere between a vine and a shrub, its flowers are truly stunning, though only if you venture out late in the evening or early morning.
Lasting for merely one night, the white, fragrant flowers are similar to Jamaica caper, though larger, and are made up of a multitude of long stamens that look like bursting fireworks.
Later this summer, the fruit will develop and break open when ripe, which will reveal bright white seeds surrounded by scarlet red pulp.
This striking and odd pod also gives the plants another one of its common names....false teeth plant. For the wildlife lovers, limber caper is the larval host plant for Florida white and great Southern white butterflies. The fruit is eaten by mockingbirds, blue jays, and other fruit-eating birds.
Our Native Landscapes & Garden Center at the Bailey Homestead Preserve is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 10am to 3pm.
We are asking all customers to bring a face covering or mask to use when physical distancing cannot be achieved and when interacting with staff.

We also 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 [email protected] with any questions or requests.

SCCF members will get their discount by entering this promo code: SCCFMBR10
Freshwater Fish & Macro-Invertebrate Monitoring Begins in Swales
After the summer rains begin, ephemeral wetlands begin to fill with water at the same time that the Sanibel River level starts to rise. Eventually, a point is reached where connections between the river and the previously dry swales connect and fish are able to venture out from the river into the previously dry lands.
These shallow (~12” or less) swales quickly become occupied by small live-bearing fish species, as well as some egg-laying killifish. Mosquitofish ( Gambusia affinis) and sailfin mollies ( Poecilia latipinna) are usually the first species to penetrate these wetlands and are usually the most dominant species. However, other native species such as flagfish ( Jordanella floridae), least killifish ( Heterandria formosa), and bluefin killifish ( Lucania goodei) arrive soon after and can be locally abundant at certain locations.
Macro-invertebrates also infiltrate these swales during the wet season. Many insects in the Order Hemiptera (true bugs) and Odonota (dragonflies and damselflies) use this habitat to lay eggs that hatch into nymphs (aquatic larval stages of these insects) until they go through metamorphosis into adults.
SCCF monitors these species at several locations on preserve lands. The fish are caught with Breder traps, small Plexiglas rectangular traps that are placed in shallow water and checked after an hour. Swale water depth and species abundance are recorded.
During the hour-long wait, macro-invertebrate sampling occurs using a protocol with a dip net and a sorting tray. Random dips in the vegetated sections of the swales are performed and the contents are sorted and counted.
Dip netting stops when no new species are captured after three consecutive swipes of the dip net. The species richness and abundances can be compared from previous years to signify changes in the habitat or the lack or abundance of rainfall. By monitoring annually, we can also record the presence of any exotic species that have invaded our freshwater systems, such as the Mayan cichlid ( Cichlasoma urophthalmus) that was first documented in 2008 from our efforts.
The SCCF Wildlife & Habitat Management staff strives to provide the necessary habitat for these important animal species to occupy each year. Keeping these swales and wetlands with open canopy is essential for many of the lower vertebrate and invertebrate species. These swales are very important feeding grounds for many native wildlife species on the island, especially wading birds. As the wetlands dry down, the fish, macro-invertebrates and tadpoles become crammed in the remaining shallow pools and otters, wading birds, and reptiles take advantage of the easy prey.
Sanibel Sea School Cancels In-Person Camps; Still Offers Small Classes
Sanibel Sea School opened on June 29 for limited, in-person programs. Marine science educators are offering half-day classes, family private programs, and private stand-up paddleboarding programs.
With the rise in COVID-19 cases in the State of Florida, Sanibel Sea School cancelled their week-long summer camps, but will still be offering limited programs for the rest of the summer.
Half-day classes will be offered at Sanibel Sea School’s Flagship campus on Periwinkle, as well as at the Sundial Resort through their satellite campus. Classes will be limited to 9 participants to keep group sizes small.
Classes will be available throughout the week for children ages 6-13, and for children ages 4-6, once weekly at each campus location.
Themed classes offered in their first week of opening, included dolphins, pelicans, fish, crabs, and more. Sanibel Sea School’s marine science educators are utilizing the beach and outdoor space as much as possible and are limiting time indoors. Students are still able to use seine and dip nets, birdwatch, and search the intertidal zones for invertebrates.
The organization’s marine science educators will also be offering family private programs. These are 2-hour sessions that can be tailored to the group’s interests, age, and existing level of knowledge. These sessions are scheduled by appointment.
“Family private sessions are a great way for multi-generational families to explore the ocean together,” said Education Programs Manager Shannon Stainken. “Especially in light of the pandemic, we are seeing more requests for family private sessions so that families can stay together and engage in outdoor activities.”
Private paddleboarding programs are also being offered in small groups. Paddling sessions offer introductory paddling skills, as well as marine science education, on the water.
If you are interested in registering for half-day programs or scheduling a private session, please email [email protected] or call (239) 472-8585. Course schedules are available at under the programs tab.
Burn Boss Victor Young Shares Update on Lindblad Preserve Prescribed Burn
SCCF Burn Bosses Victor Young and Chris Lechowicz joined our podcast this morning for a conversation about the planned upcoming burn at the Erick Lindblad Preserve.
On June 21, SCCF and the City of Sanibel announced plans for a prescribed burn in the preserve in the upcoming weeks.
As designated Burn Boss for the burn of interior wetlands connected to the Sanibel Slough behind the SCCF Nature Center, Victor explains why they are waiting for winds from the south and other factors that need to fall into place before they'll request a permit from the Florida Forest Service.
Governor's $92 Billion Budget Includes Wins & Losses for Environment
Gov. Ron DeSantis delivered a $92.2 billion budget and a $1 billion veto list last week one day before the beginning of the fiscal year which started on July 1. The veto list was a reaction, in part, due to the financial uncertainty the state will navigate as COVID-19 impacts state revenues.
The $100 million Florida Forever land acquisition line item remained intact. SCCF members and land acquisition advocates across the state can be pleased with their role in preserving this funding as the Governor’s office received thousands of phone calls and emails in support of Florida Forever. The effort to fund Florida Forever this session was a prime example of what can be accomplished when advocates work together.
Another example of our collective voices being heard in Tallahassee was the surprise veto of the anti-growth management legislation Senate Bill 410. SCCF joined forces with the lead taken by 1000 Friends of Florida and several other advocacy groups to call for the veto of this bad bill. We thank the Governor for this significant veto as it was only one of three vetoed bills out of a total of 191 bills passed by the Legislature this session.
Of course, they weren’t all wins for the environment. The controversial M-CORES toll roads were supported both through legislative bills that encourage development through rural areas ( SB 7018, State Infrastructure) and through approval of the FL Dept. of Transportation (FDOT) 5-year plan. The FDOT budget opaquely included $117 million this year for M-CORES planning and consultants for a total of $738 million over the next five years.
That amount does not include the actual cost of building the roads which will be tens of billions or more. The fight to defeat these unnecessary toll roads will continue.
There are 26 bills that have yet to be presented to the Governor, including the Shark Fin bill, SB 680. These bills were not tied to funding required at the start of the fiscal year and will be effective upon becoming law. The Governor is expected to sign the remaining bills in the coming weeks.
For a legislative summary on the bills followed by SCCF this year and for an update on any proposed special session related to COVID-19, check in with the updated SCCF Legislative Tracker.
Loggerhead Nest Boil Video Goes Viral

SCCF Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan was on beach patrol on Captiva Island when she had the rare opportunity to see and film a loggerhead sea turtle nest just beginning to boil, or erupt on June 24, 2020! Since the 5-min. video premiered on our SCCF YouTube Channel on July 1, it has been viewed more than 186,000 times!
YouTube analytics show that about 80 percent of the viewers have been female, with about 60 percent over the age of 55. Click here to share the link and keep the positive vibe going!
To view past issues of the Weekly Wednesday Update, please click here .
Stay Connected!