Weekly Wednesday Update
May 13 , 2020
We're sending weekly updates to your inbox every Wednesday afternoon to brighten your week and to remind you that nature goes on in all its beautiful brilliance.
At SCCF, our work carries forth to ensure the conservation of coastal habitats and aquatic resources on Sanibel and Captiva and in the surrounding watershed.
We encourage you to spend time outdoors exploring your own backyard while staying safer at home!

Thanks to Jill McCormack for this week's photo of a snowy egret (Egretta thula) from her recent month-long stay on Sanibel.

"The island never disappoints with its beauty and abundant wildlife," she said.

Please send your wildlife photos to info@sccf.org.
Leatherback Encountered for First Time on Sanibel
For the first time in SCCF history, a nesting leatherback ( Dermochelys coriacea) was encountered during our nighttime surveys just after midnight on May 11.

Having first discovered her false crawl earlier in the night, our sea turtle team was incredibly excited to find her monstrous tracks once again, this time hopefully leading up the beach to a turtle in the process of successfully nesting. Luckily, they were able to do just that and couldn't have been more thrilled.
“Having a total of three rare leatherback nests this season has been so encouraging. To finally be able to see one while she nested was an amazing experience,” said Research Associate Jack Brzoza, 
“A new turtle to our beaches, we named her "Juniper." We are very hopeful this isn't the last time we will get to see her this season,” he added.
During our nighttime surveys that began on May 1, so far the team has encountered 39 turtles. Out of this sample size, 17 were previously tagged on Sanibel, and two are from other tagging beaches on Florida's Gulf coast. Tagging provides valuable data on nesting site selection, growth, and site fidelity. 

This season the turtles are off to a hot start and we have encountered more turtles than expected for mid-May. The average number of turtles encountered by the night teams for May 12 is about seven, so we have seen about five times as many as usual.
Overall, nesting is more than three times higher than usual for now, with a total of 67 loggerhead (Caretta caretta) nests on Sanibel and 21 loggerhead nests on Captiva. .

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.
Celebrating Rae Ann Wessel's 14 Years with SCCF!
Natural Resource Policy Director Retiring Friday, May 15
Over her 42-year career, Rae Ann Wessel has won many awards, including being named Conservationist of the Year for her commitment to the environmental integrity of SW Florida by Audubon of Southwest Florida. In 2013, she received Citizen of the Year Award for her work as a “Tireless Scientist for the Environment” from the Sanibel Committee of the Islands (COTI). The video above captures her backstory as part of an award she received in 2013 as one of WGCU Public Media's MAKERS: Women Who Make Southwest Florida. We share this video with you as a celebration of her legacy work with SCCF. Please stay tuned for a future date when we will hold an in-person celebration of her career once we are through the social distancing restrictions of today.

Crafting Policy: The Art of the Possible
Staff to Carry Out Natural Resources Policy Roles For Now
As SCCF awaits the appropriate time to post a job listing for a new Natural Resource Policy Director, several staff members will carry forth retiring Rae Ann Wessel’s work. By doing so, SCCF will continue to leverage research to provide sound scientific grounding in critical discussions on water quality issues, especially Everglades and Caloosahatchee restoration.
Listen to Rae Ann Wessel on Today's Gulf Coast Life
WGCU Public Media's Mike Kiniry interviewed Rae Ann Wessel today about her life as an advocate for clean water and explored the changes she’s witnessed throughout her career working to protect the Caloosahatchee River and its role in the overall Greater Everglades ecosystem.
The show re-airs on WGCU at 9pm tonight. Listen at 90.1 FM or online at wgcu.org. Or click below to listen now.
Captivating Yellow Water Lily for Sale in Online Store
The yellow water lily ( Nymphea Mexicana) has showy bright yellow flowers and is sometimes referred to as the banana water lily. The flowers have a soft sweet smell and the leaves float on the top of the water. This is a perfect plant for a water garden or freshwater pond although it may become aggressive in growth and require maintenance. The water lily was one of Claude Monet's favorite subjects and conveys a sense of quiet tranquility. These are available through our new online store that features more than 25 types of native plants, planting supplies, gifts, SCCF Sea Turtle T-shirts and more!

Order by Tuesday at midnight for contactless delivery to Sanibel and Captiva (not off island) on that Wednesday. Feel free to contact us with any questions or special requests. Only a portion of our inventory is listed online, so feel free to ask if you don't see what you are looking for!

Please email our Garden Center Assistant Sue Ramos at sramos@sccf.org with any questions or requests.

SCCF members will get their discount by entering this promo code: SCCFMBR10
Please Help Protect Our Nesting Shorebirds
Our Shorebird Biologist Audrey Albrecht asks that you please help spread the word on how to safely share the shore with our nesting shorebirds, such as this snowy plover ( Charadrius nivosus).
"It's the time of year when nests start hatching and we need people to follow proper shorebird etiquette," she said.
Photographers are asked to please read and follow these guidelines set forth by the FWC and the Florida Shorebird Alliance.
All beachgoers are asked to follow these very important reminders from the city of Sanibel's shorebird conservation video produced in partnership with SCCF:
  • Give wildlife space. Stay out of posted nesting areas.
  • Keep all dogs on a leash no longer than 8-feet in length.
  • Never chase wildlife. 
  • Do not feed wildlife.Food scraps attract predators such as crows and gulls to the area, which prey on shorebirds and their hatchlings.
  • Secure trash that may injure or entrap wildlife.
  • Remove all beach furniture and equipment from the beach BY 9PM.
  • Fill holes/level sandcastles. 
  • Leave the wrack line undisturbed to provide shorebirds food and critical habitat.
  • Keep off the dune vegetation. 
  • Teach visitors, neighbors, and children these conservation tips!

If you have any questions about our shorebirds please email shorebirds@sccf.org
Orgera Serving on SanCap Safe Committee for Reopening
SCCF CEO Ryan Orgera is serving on the Sanibel Captiva Chamber of Commerce's SanCap Safe Committee, a group that is comprised of members from COTI, accommodations, food and beverage, retail, real estate, non-profits, golf, activities, health and safety interests, and has city council representation. 
This committee has already met multiple times and had several hours of discussion around how we can best serve our community with both immediate and long-term needs. Currently, the committee is reviewing guidelines and best practices from multiple industry associations and condensing them into documents that best fit our island businesses. 
The chamber is asking all members to review documents and accept “we are SanCap Safe” as a virtual pledge that they will review and implement these guidelines. The chamber will deliver a SanCap Safe decal to establishments that make the pledge so they can proudly display at their entrance, along with a display card that explains to customers the importance of being SanCap Safe.  
Take Action NOW to Stop M-CORES Toll Roads
Across the state taxpayers are expressing their opposition to the expensive, unnecessary and damaging M-CORES mid state toll roads. Public input at the last Florida Dept. of Transportation online M-CORES Task Force meeting was 29 to 1 against the construction of the toll roads with 99 additional members of the public unable to speak at the online webinar for one technical reason or another. From the questionable nature of the legislation passed in the last days of the 2019 Legislative Session, to the lack of demonstrated need and rushed planning and evaluation process and the exorbitant costs it is clear that this process is not in the public's interest.  
The well informed active engagement of Floridians is having a real impact and we will continue to focus on the environmental degradation and fiscal infeasibility of the roads especially in light of the economic uncertainty we are all experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thank you to the hundreds of SCCF members who have expressed concerns about these toll roads. We still have time to oppose these toll roads through some of Florida’s most valuable remaining wetlands and wildlife corridors. Let your elected officials know we expect fiscal responsibility and the protection of our natural resources.
Check Out Our New Interactive Story Map
As SCCF has grown over the years, so has the organization’s number of departments, buildings, preserves, and public trails. And because all of these different facets of SCCF are spread out over the greater Sanibel-Captiva area, sometimes people wonder how and where to best connect with us.
Aiming to make those options more clear, we have created a Story Map that guides you through the ways and places you can connect with SCCF. Take a moment to scroll down through the Story Map, as it guides you on a quick tour through our locations and public trails, arranged from east to west to simulate an arrival to Sanibel via the Causeway. 
Since our buildings are still closed to the public due to COVID-19, we encourage you all to consider exploring some of our many beautiful trails right now, being sure to comply with social distancing guidelines. Nature is always a great place to escape the stresses of our day to day lives. Be safe, and enjoy!
Marine Lab Scientists Solve a Sea Slug Mystery
SCCF Marine Lab scientists have been out in the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge performing an annual survey of seagrass health this past week. Last year’s survey led to a mysterious abundance of a sea slug on a carpet of algae.
“We return to the same spots each year and count species and numbers of shoots, seagrass height and look at other measures to gauge trends in seagrass health. This year we will also be looking for the return of an unusual event discovered last year while doing these surveys,” said Research Associate Mark Thompson.
Last year, while surveying within the impoundments on Wildlife Drive, the first thing they noticed was a layer of carpet-like algae over much of the seagrass in our survey area.
“It is not good for the seagrass to be buried beneath a thick layer of algae and our survey found much of the seagrass was gone. The next thing we noticed was a swarm of small yellow and greenish slugs hanging on to the algae and sticking to our wet suits,” said Thompson. ( Watch video below to see the sea slugs)
Sanibel Sea School Offering Virtual Camp in June
The Phase 1 reopening of Sanibel Sea School will offer meaningful, remote engagement for children. Starting June 1, Sanibel Sea School will offer a series of virtual Island Skills camps that include both week-long options and à la carte sessions. 

As a science-based organization, Sanibel Sea School is following the CDC’s guidelines on gatherings and regional infection rates. Adhering to these recommendations and exercising an abundance of caution, they will not be holding our regular, in-person camps for the month of June.
Website Features Best Practices Informed by SCCF Research
Sanibel is doing more for water quality than most communities. There are several programs spearheaded by the City of Sanibel Natural Resources Department to improve the quality of water and therefore quality of living on Sanibel. 
The SCCF Marine Lab has worked closely with the staff to develop a nutrient management plan and collects samples routinely for city-led projects such as the Communities for Clean Water program. The role of SCCF in these projects is to collect water samples and provide summary statistics and ranking. The purpose is to make the conditions of lakes, ponds and canals on Sanibel known to all residents. 
The city has developed the Communities for Clean Water website and populates the conditions and best management practices for residents. It is a great way for neighbors to begin a conversation about native landscaping, the fertilizer ordinance, and other actions that can be done to improve water quality.
Read Our Summer 2020 Print Newsletter
To save on spending in these times, we will continue our Weekly Wednesday Update and will pause production of our printed newsletter following the current edition.

Please click here to download the summer issue that should be arriving soon in your (snail) mailboxes!
Stay Connected!