Wednesday Update
Nov. 11, 2020
Welcome to our bi-weekly edition of the Wednesday Update!

We'll email it to you every two weeks, with the next edition on Nov. 25.

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 connect you with nature.

Thanks to Francine Tutt for this photo of American avocets (Recurvirostra americana), which are rarely seen on our beaches.


Please send your photos to to be featured in an upcoming issue.
EPA Grant Funds Research on HABs Related to Releases
Thanks to a recent award through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the SCCF Marine Lab is expanding its research into harmful algal blooms (HABs) and their connection to Lake Okeechobee releases.

In 2018, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded a grant to the SCCF Marine Lab and scientists from North Carolina State University and the University of Florida to study HABs and connections to discharges from Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee watershed.

“After 18 months of sampling the Caloosahatchee from Beautiful Island to the Gulf of Mexico, there were at least four harmful algal blooms,” said Eric Milbrandt, Marine Lab Director. “In freshwater, there was Anabaena and other cyanobacteria, in the middle estuary there was a dinoflagellate bloom and there were red tide blooms, also caused by a dinoflagellate.”

To extend these initial efforts, a proposal was written and submitted to the EPA in a competition open to all university and nonprofit researchers. In fiscal year 2020, South Florida Geographic Initiatives selected the SCCF Marine Lab’s application for a Harmful Algal Bloom Observing Network for the Caloosahatchee with federal funding of $320,668 with a match of $209,311 for a total of $529,979 in expense funding.

“The project leverages the River, Estuary and Coastal Observing Network and expands RECON’s capability by adding cyanobacterial sensors and an additional real-time location near S-77, a water control structure on Lake Okeechobee that allows flow into the river,” Milbrandt said “This observation network will also depend on monthly sampling to evaluate relationships between HABs and water from Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee watershed.”

The project is expected to start in the spring of 2021 and will run for two years.
Highlights of 2020 Coastal Wildlife Nesting Seasons
The 2020 nesting season was truly remarkable, with record sea turtle nest counts, three different species of both sea turtles and shorebirds nesting on our beaches, and several exciting research projects underway. It was certainly a productive and memorable year for SCCF’s Coastal Wildlife program.

Our shorebirds had mixed success in their nesting efforts this year. Our snowy plovers (Charadrius nivosus) fledged five chicks, including the one pictured here. The least terns (Sternula antillarum) and Wilson’s plovers (Charadrius wilsonia) were unable to produce any young due to storms, high tides, and predators.

All five snowy plover fledglings left Sanibel in late summer, and have been seen as far south as North Keewaydin and as far north as Anclote Key.
The 2020 sea turtle season officially ended on Oct. 31, with the last remaining green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) nest inventoried on Oct. 29. It was a banner nesting year, with many highlights and several broken records for loggerheads (Caretta caretta) and leatherbacks (Dermochelys coriacea):

  • Earliest sea turtle crawl (leatherback, April 1)
  • Earliest loggerhead nest (April 15)
  • Most loggerhead nests on Sanibel (660) and Captiva (266)
  • Most total nests combined (loggerhead, green, leatherback)
  • Tracked 3 loggerheads via satellite transmitter
  • Most leatherback nests on Sanibel (4) and Captiva (2)
  • Encountered Juniper the leatherback four times, tracked via satellite transmitter (in collaboration with Florida Leatherbacks, Inc.)
  • Emerged hatchlings: 33,825
  • First successful leatherback nest on Captiva: 56 hatchlings, one pictured above

For more information tune in to SCCF's Land. Water. Wildlife. podcast. On one episode, Shorebird Biologist Audrey Albrecht talks about the shorebird nesting season, and in a recently recorded episode, the Sea Turtle Program scientists discuss the sea turtle nesting season in depth.
More Than 600 Advocates Take Action for Wetlands
By James Evans
SCCF Environmental Policy Director

Thanks to all of you who joined us last week in opposing the State of Florida’s plan to takeover wetland permitting authority from the federal government!

Because of you, more than 600 emails were submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of our campaign. We were not alone; other environmental groups, civic organizations and citizens throughout the state concerned about water quality and the future of our wetlands also stood in opposition.

In 2018, the Florida Legislature approved a plan for the state to assume Clean Water Act Section 404 wetland permitting responsibilities from the federal government. This action would transfer “dredge and fill” permitting responsibilities from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). The state argues that this action would “streamline” the permitting process by reducing review times and eliminating redundancies when reviewing projects.

Wetlands play a critical role in protecting water quality and are crucial to Florida’s economy. They are nature’s kidneys, helping to filter pollutants like nitrogen and phosphorus that would otherwise enter our waterways and feed harmful algal blooms. Wetlands are essential in recharging our aquifers and supplying the state with clean drinking water. They provide critical habitat for wildlife and provide important buffers for storm surge and help moderate coastal flooding. In southwest Florida, we know that wetlands are an important component of Florida’s economy. In Lee County, outdoor wildlife-related tourism employs one out of five people and accounts for $3 billion in annual revenue.
The state’s proposal would result in less protection for Florida’s wetlands, lakes, springs, rivers, lagoons, estuaries, and waterways. Less protection would also impact critical habitat for Florida’s threatened and endangered species. The federal 404 permit review process allows for a comprehensive review by the EPA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Marine Fisheries Service. These agencies have extensive experience and expertise in threatened and endangered species listed at the federal level.

Florida has already lost more than 50% of its historical wetlands and we cannot afford to lose more. Extensive budget cuts related to the COVID-19 pandemic are projected to result in revenue losses of $5.4 billion over the next two years. The FDEP is currently reporting 279 vacant positions, which have not been filled since budget cuts between 2010-2018. Despite the lack of resources available, the state proposes to assume these new permitting responsibilities without adding additional staff. We firmly believe that Florida is not equipped to takeover federal wetland permitting responsibilities and that those duties should be left to the federal government, which has the capabilities and oversight to protect Florida’s greatest asset.

Again, we thank all of you who contacted the EPA through our campaign to protect Florida’s wetlands. Through our grassroots efforts and by standing together, we are protecting the natural systems that provide habitat for our wildlife and make Florida a world-class tourism destination.

To sign up for our Action Alert mailing list so you can be counted as an advocate on SCCF’s environmental policy campaigns, click here.
Deadline Tonight for 50/50 +10 Wines in Wild Drawing
Wines in the Wild homeINstead party boxes are sold out. But you can still enter the “50/50+10” drawing until midnight tonight!

The Wines in the Wild party boxes are sold out (sorry!) but tickets are still available for the very special “50/50+10” drawing. This year, we’re including wine, including a magnum of Dom Perignon, in the drawing.

Tickets are $25 or five for $100. Please note that wine cannot be shipped to an out of state winner.

The drawing will be held on Nov. 12 so that your “+10” will be available for touchless pickup at the Bailey Homestead, 1300 Periwinkle Way, on Nov. 13.
Giving Thanks to SCCF Vets for Their Service on Veteran's Day
Environmental Policy Director James Evans served in the U.S. Army on Active Duty from 1992-1995 as a member of the 3rd Infantry Division, D Company 2nd Battalion 64th Armor, in Schweinfurt Germany, where he was a crewman on an M1A1 Abrams tank. And, then he served in the Ohio National Guard until 1997, followed by the Florida National Guard until 2001.
Land Conservation Steward Victor Young served in the U.S. Coast Guard from 2007 to 2013. As a machinery technician, he was stationed at Port Security Unit 307 in Clearwater, FL, where he served as a boat engineer and coxswain.
He was deployed to several countries in support of the U.S. Global War on Terrorism.
Research Scientist Rick Bartleson, was stationed aboard the fleet tug ATF-113, pictured here, as a Navy Quartermaster responsible for navigation and weather from 1974 to 1977. The vessel homeported in Pearl Harbor and, later, San Diego.
Rick then served in the Navy Reserve for four years in his home state of Florida, studying marine biology and ecosystems ecology for those years on the GI Bill.
Sea Turtle Technician Megan Reed was a member of the Ohio Air National Guard from 2013 to 2019. During her enlistment, she worked as a logistics planner, ensuring people and supplies were moved efficiently during deployments. Megan's time in the Air Force allowed her opportunities to travel to Germany and to gain tuition assistance
James, Victor, Rick, and Megan -- we thank you for your service!
Register for Tomorrow's Water Management Panel Discussion
Please join us tomorrow, Nov. 12, at 7pm for an engaging panel discussion about Sanibel’s approach to water management and the partnership between the City of Sanibel and SCCF in developing the current policy.

The virtual panel will include SCCF Environmental Policy Director James Evans, MS. He’ll be joined by City of Sanibel leaders Director of Community Services and City Engineer Keith Williams, MBA, PE, and Director of Natural Resources Holly Milbrandt, MS. The panel will be moderated by SCCF CEO Ryan Orgera, Ph.D..

The panel will explore the rich history and science used to develop the current water management policy, the status of the water quality within the Sanibel Slough, state water quality requirements, and opportunities for reducing stormwater runoff and improving water quality. There will be a Q & A following the Zoom presentation.
Evenings at Homestead Kicks off Next Week with Florida Leatherbacks
Join us virtually next week via Zoom as SCCF's Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan gives an update on our 2020 Sea Turtle Nesting season while introducing Kelly Martin and Chris Johnson of Florida Leatherbacks, Inc.

On Tuesday, Nov. 17 at 7pm, our first in our Evenings at the Homestead series will feature a presentation by Florida Leatherbacks on Florida’s Living Dinosaurs: Monitoring Florida’s Endangered Leatherback Sea Turtles.

Pictured above is Juniper, the huge leatherback that nested several times on Sanibel and Captiva this summer. For the first time on the Gulf coast, Florida Leatherbacks placed a satellite tag on Juniper and are tracking her. She also made history as the first leatherback to produce hatchlings on our beaches. Learn about leatherbacks, which typically nest on the east coast of Florida, and about our record-breaking nesting season during the live Zoom presentation. If you can't join us then, we'll be archiving all of our virtual presentations on our SCCF YouTube Channel so you can watch and learn anytime!

Save the date for these upcoming Evenings at the Homestead:

Thursday, Dec. 17 at 7pm
Where Have We Been and Where Are We Going?: The Plight of the Endangered Smalltooth Sawfish and What is Being Done to Promote Recovery in the U.S., presented by Gregg Poulakis, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Wednesday, Jan. 20 at 7pm
Sand Dunes: A Global & Local Perspective, presented by Patrick Hesp, Flinders University, Australia
Tuesday, Mar. 9 at 7pm
Florida Needs Fire!, presented by Reed Noss, Florida Institute for Conservation Science
Join the Next Discussion of Green Readers on Nov. 18

The next virtual discussion of The Green Readers will be on Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 7pm via Zoom. The discussion will focus on the group's second book selection, The Lizard King by Bryan Christy. Members may obtain the link for joining the discussion by either joining The Green Readers private Facebook group where it will be posted, or by emailing Jenny at

The Lizard King is “a fascinating account of a father and son family business suspected of smuggling reptiles, and the federal agent who tried to take them down.”

Green Readers’ members can participate in one of several ways: simply read the book, join our Facebook group for ongoing online discussion, or join our virtual Zoom meeting to discuss the book at the end of the reading period. 

The Lizard King is available on the Hoopla app through the Sanibel Public Library, or locally at MacIntosh Books, where a 20% discount is offered for The Green Readers members and delivery is available.

You are welcome to participate in one, two, or all three of these options depending on your preference. Joining the Facebook group is easy! Simply click here or go to SCCF's Facebook page and click on "Groups." Happy reading!  
Hercules Club Makes a Great Centerpiece in Butterfly Garden

Hercules club (Zanthoxylum clava-herculis) is a deciduous shrub or small tree that grows to around 30 feet tall and has a distinctive sprawling growth habit. The compound leaves contain oil producing gland-dots that appear almost translucent in the sunlight and create a pleasant aroma when crushed or bruised. The bark and leaves of Hercules club were commonly used by native Americans and early settlers to alleviate toothaches, which is why it's sometimes referred to as the toothache tree. 

At first glance the Hercules club might appear slightly intimidating due to its spiny nature but it's a great example of the saying, "don't judge a book by its cover" It's the larval host plant for the giant swallowtail butterfly and its spines often come in handy to birds and other wildlife seeking shelter and protection. While special consideration should be given to plant placement, Hercules club would be a deserving and unique addition to your home landscape. Its interesting bark, growth habit, and wildlife value makes Hercules club a great centerpiece in a native butterfly garden.
The Native Landscapes & Garden Center at the Bailey Homestead Preserve is open Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 10am to 3pm. 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 with any questions or requests.

SCCF members will get their discount by entering this promo code: SCCFMBR10
Check Your Mailbox for SCCF Annual Report

Watch the mail this week for the arrival of SCCF’s FY2019-2020 Annual Report. We are proud of all the stories of accomplishment profiled in the report, and encourage everyone to give it a good read.

It’s a great summary of the results that flow from your ongoing investment in our mission-driven work.

The Annual Report’s arrival also marks the official start of our Annual Fund Drive. Please consider renewing your support of SCCF’s ongoing operations by using the enclosed envelope to make your most generous and tax-deductible Annual Fund Drive gift.

If you report does not arrive by Nov. 16, please contact Development Director Cheryl Giattini at or 239-822-6121 to request a replacement copy.
Invasive vs. Exotic Species: Know the Difference?

These days, the terms invasive species, exotic species, and invasive exotic species are used commonly when referring to flora and fauna invading natural and disturbed habitats.

Many people think that the words “invasive” and “exotic” are synonymous when in fact they are very different. Exotic simply means nonindigenous to an area, which is the opposite of native which means indigenous to an area. Invasive means tending to spread prolifically and undesirably/harmfully. 

 “A common misconception is that only exotic species can be invasive. Native species can also be invasive in natural habitats if environmental factors are changed,” said Wildlife & Habitat Management Director Chris Lechowicz. 

For example, the addition of excess nitrogen and phosphorus into a wetland from nearby herbicide/pesticide use or runoff from cattle farms results in cattails (Typha sp.) dominating the habitat. On Sanibel, cabbage palms (Sabal palmetto), a native species pictured above, are considered invasive in several habitats due their tendency to form monocultures if the natural fire regimes are not followed. 

“There are many areas where cabbage palms are so dense, it is difficult to walk through the infestation. This is both unnatural and a substantial wildfire risk as fire could easily and quickly travel through the canopy of overlapping fronds where it would be difficult to stop, if needed,” said Lechowicz.

Historically, palms trees and many other plant species were kept in check by periodic fires. The land management team at SCCF strives to preserve various habitat types for the wildlife that needs those habitats to survive. That involves various methods to mimic the natural cycle such as burning, mowing, thinning, and chemical treatments of both native and non-native plants.

“Both native and exotic invasive plant infestations take up the bulk of our time,” he added
The most obvious invasive exotic plants on Sanibel are the Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius), Australian pine (Casuarina equisetifolia), and air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera). These are both nonindigenous to our area and highly aggressive at infiltrating landscapes. Intensive efforts are taken to keep densities of these plants low. Annual treatments of the same areas are required to rid the area of new sprouts from seeds in the ground.

Highly invasive and exotic animals such as the Cuban treefrog (Osteopilus septentrionalis) and the Cuban brown anole (Anolis sagrei), pictured above, are very common on the island and appear like they have always been a part of the native ecosystems.

“Both species arrived here decades ago on vessels, cargo and plants that were brought to the island,” said Lechowicz. “With a low diversity of native species on the island and ample habitats and space, these animals flourished and spread throughout the island becoming some of the most abundant species.”

The larger size, more aggressive nature, or the absence of a similar native species in the habitat resulted in these invasive exotic species to become the dominant species in many areas. Some invasive exotic species such as the greenhouse frog (Eleutherodactylus planirostris) and tropical house gecko (Hemidactylus mabouia) have minimal, if any, impact on native species.
Sanibel Sea School Offers Winter Programs for All

Sanibel Sea School is excited to announce a full lineup of winter programming for children and families to learn more about the ocean.

From Dec. 28 to Dec. 31, Sanibel Sea School will offer a 4-day, full-day winter camp themed “New Year, New Ocean.” This year’s theme will allow campers to get back in touch with the ocean through discovery, exploration, and will focus on conservation.

One of the activities planned for the week is a camp-wide bioblitz where campers will catalogue all the plant and animal species they can find on the beach. Then, they’ll learn about the importance of what they find and discuss how conservation efforts can be used to protect these species. Winter camp will also offer plenty of traditional camp activities, such as surfing, ocean-inspired art projects, and the annual Give Your Worries to the Sea ceremony.

Winter camp is designed for campers ages 6-13 and Counselors in Training ages 13-17.
Registration will open on Saturday, Nov. 14 at 10am.
Sanibel Sea School will also offer private sessions as a great way to learn more about the ocean with friends and family that may be in town for the holiday season. Family private sessions are two hours and can be customized to your interests and existing level of knowledge. These sessions are scheduled by appointment and reservations in advance are highly recommended.

Email or call (239) 472-8585 to begin the process of setting up a family private session. 

With COVID-19 still prevalent in Florida, Sanibel Sea School staff will take the necessary steps to maximize safety of their participants, staff, and the community. Programs will be limited to a smaller number of participants, they will conduct health screenings daily, staff will wear masks, and they will ensure proper sanitation of all field gear and classroom spaces.
Chamber Featuring SCCF for November Virtual Event
CEO Ryan Orgera and Environmental Policy Director James Evans will present an update on SCCF at the Sanibel Captiva Chamber of Commerce monthly virtual event next week.

On Wednesday, Nov. 18, join the lunch and learn at noon via Zoom. Learn about the record-breaking loggerhead nesting season, policy and advocacy initiatives, program adaptation at the Sanibel Sea School, and water quality issues.
Captiva Community Panel Hosts Public Forum on Sea Level Rise

The Captiva Community Panel invites you to the first public forum of the Captiva Sea Level Rise Committee. This community gathering will be held via Zoom on Thursday, Nov. 19, at 7 p.m.

Members of the Sea Level Rise (SLR) Committee will share information, address questions and invite interactive discussion. The goal is to keep you informed of what is being done to address this timely issue and its impact, both short-and long-term, on our beloved island.

The committee has evaluated the various sea level rise estimates for Captiva for the next 30 years; agreed upon the best planning assumption; and completed the initial phases of identifying the risks to Captiva over the 30-year planning horizon. A key focus of this public forum is to present the risk analysis to the community and obtain feedback about the committee's future work. 

Captiva faces existential threats from sea level rise, inundation, erosion, and increased intensity of storms. As homeowners and island dwellers, we understand that you have a vested interest in preserving this island. Your participation at this meeting is key to moving our work forward! We are eager to hear your thoughts and ideas. Public engagement will continue to be an active, vital component of our work.

Committee members include: 
• Linda Laird, Chair
• Ann Brady, Executive Director, Rauschenberg Residency+ Panel member
• Jay Brown, Captiva Resident+ Panel member
• Joel Caouette, Environmental Specialist, City of Sanibel
• David Mintz, Chair, Captiva Community Panel
• Mike Mullins, Chair, Captiva Erosion Prevention District+ Panel member
• Ryan Orgera, CEO, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation
• Bill Riley, Captiva Resident
• Suri Sehgal, Captiva Resident
• Kate Gooderham, Consultant, Administration
• Cheryl Hapke, Ph.D., Consultant, Integral Consulting
Red Tide Study Seeks Volunteers with Neurological Complaints

A clinical study by the Roskamp Institute in Sarasota that is investigating whether red tide can have neurological impacts on humans has expanded its search of volunteers to Lee County. 

The study calls for the recruitment of 400 volunteers and requires three assessments where blood and urine samples are taken to measure brevetoxin and antibody levels. Volunteers will be seen during periods when no Florida red tide blooms are being observed and also during periods when they are.
Comparing the levels of brevetoxin and antibodies with the levels of neurological complaints will shed light on whether Florida red tide brevetoxin exposure can trigger neurological conditions and whether immune responses are likely protective or make symptoms worse. 

If you want to learn more, please call Megan Parks at (941) 256-8018 ext. 3008.
LISTEN: Podcast Features 2020 Sea Turtle Season
Click here to listen to scientists from our Sea Turtle Program, including Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan, Research Associate Andrew Glinsky, and Biologist Jack Brzoza share highlights of the 2020 nesting season.
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