Registration is now open for the almost 40 field trips as well as the keynote presentation offered during the 9th annual Southwest Florida Nature Festival, hosted Jan. 18-20 by the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Naples, Florida.
Across the three days, experienced naturalists will lead guided birding walks, swamp buggy tours, canoe and kayak trips, sunset boat rides and other adventures on land and water to more than two dozen wildlife hot spots. Tours are offered with partnering organizations such as Big Cypress National Preserve, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Naples Botanical Garden and the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. Field trip fees range from $10 to $50.
From noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 19, four guest lecturers will make one-hour presentations. Rachel Frieze, a wildlife biologist with the Ecostudies Institute, will discuss “Research and Discovery in Southern Florida’s Mangroves: Unlocking the Secrets of the Mangrove Cuckoo.” Dennis Giardina, Everglades Region biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, will discuss “Managing Florida Panthers: A Tree Climber’s Perspective.” Mike Malloy, an author and artist affectionately known as “The Butterfly Man,” will discuss “Butterfly Gardening Made Easy for Southwest Florida.” And, Paul Andreadis, a scientist affiliated with Denison University, will discuss “Exotic, Gigantic, Problematic: Pythons in Southwest Florida.”
To accommodate anticipated interest, the keynote presentation will be offered twice, on both Jan. 18 and Jan. 19 at 6 p.m. Award-winning Filmmaker Elam Stoltzfus will show behind-the-scenes video and photos while discussing the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition, a 1,000-mile expedition over a 100-day period from January through April 2012 that increased public awareness of and generated support for the Florida Wildlife Corridor project. Bear biologist Joe Guthrie, conservationist Mallory Dimmitt, photojournalist Carlton Ward Jr. and Stoltzfus made the trek from Everglades National Park to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in southern Georgia. The group traversed the wildlife habitats, watersheds, public and private lands and working farms and ranches that comprise the Florida Wildlife Corridor opportunity area.
Admission to the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center on Jan. 19 is $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under and includes entrance to the four afternoon feature presentations. Admission on Jan. 18 remains the regular $5 for adults, $3 for children ages 6-12 and free for members. The center is closed on Sundays, though the off-site field trips will take place.
Field trip and keynote registration should be made online at rookerybay.org. For further information, call 239-417-6310 x401.