Every year, visitors flock to Southwest Florida to experience its beauty and serenity. Numerous ecosystems blend together naturally to allow for some of the most unique displays of plants and animals in the world. For the last nine years, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve has been celebrating the natural splendor of our corner of the world with the Southwest Florida Nature Festival.
The 9th Annual Southwest Florida Nature Festival will take place January 18th to the 20th. The event will feature numerous events, expeditions and speakers that will highlight the unique ecosystems of Southwest Florida.
Beginning on Friday and running through Sunday, the center will host field trips at 20 different locations. Some of these trips include birding walks, turtle walks, canoe and kayak excursions, swamp buggy tours and more. These field trips take place all over Collier County and a few are even in Lee County. Some of the places to explore include Big Cypress Preserve, the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Naples Botanical Garden, Tigertail Beach of Marco Island and many, many more.
Visit www.rookerybay.org to see a full list of field trips and to register for the one that interests you most. Trips are filling up fast so make sure to sign up as soon as possible.
While these field trips are taking place all over Southwest Florida, Rookery Bay will host a number of activities at their facility on Saturday the 14th. Visit the Rookery and have access to the Learning Center, experience trail walks on-site and attend up to five presentations hosted by local environmental experts.
The Keynote Presentation for the festival will take place on both Friday and Saturday at 5:30 PM. Elam Stoltzfus, a Film Producer with Live Oak Productions will discuss The Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition. The 100-day, 1,000-mile trek through Florida’s natural lands was led by Stoltzfus, Carlton Ward, Jr., a nature photographer and Joe Guthrie, a Bear Biologist and Mallory Lykes Dimmitt, a Conservationist, in attempts to bring attention to the need for a connected pathway of natural land from the Everglades to the Georgia border. The four hiked, kayaked and rode horseback for the entire journey that took place in 2012.
Stoltzfus is in the final phases of production for the PBS documentary about the expedition. Florida residents will see it premiere first in April of this year. Stotzfus has also produced videos for Rookery Bay’s Learning Center.
On Saturday only, four lectures will precede Stoltzfus’s Key Note Presentation.
Rachel Frieze, a Wildlife Biologist with Ecostudies Institute will speak at noon, discussing “Research and Discovery in Southern Florida’s Mangroves: Unlocking the Secrets of the Mangrove Cuckoo. The elusive Mangrove Cuckoo has a surprising story.
“Managing Florida Panthers: A Tree Climber’s Perspective” begins at 1:00 PM. Led by Everglades Region Biologist with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservatioin Commission, Dennis Giardina, the speak proves to be of interest as 2012 marked the highest mortality rate in history for the Florida Panther.
Mike Malloy, author, artist and columnist with Coastal Breeze News will discuss “Butterfly Gardening Made Easy for Southwest Florida at 2:00 PM. Locally known as “The Butterfly Man,” Malloy’s tips are based on a lifetime of gardening experience. His Naples home is the perfect example of Florida friendly gardening and hosts butterflies of all varieties thanks to his knowledge of local plants.
Paul Andreadis, a Scientist with Denison University will lead the 3:00 discussion. Another hot button issue, Andreadis will discuss “Exotic, Gigantic, Problematic: Pythons in Southwest Florida.”
These natural areas don’t protect themselves. By raising awareness, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve hopes to support habitat conservation efforts which is not only environmentally important, but economically important as well.
Visit www.rookerybay.org to learn more about their Nature Festival and to join in on the festivities.