Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and Florida International University (FIU) have established a new partnership that will serve FIU students as well as citizens of Collier County and surrounding areas.
This unique educational and research partnership will enhance the environmental understanding necessary to manage the reserve’s 110,000 acres. Nine joint reserve-FIU staff positions have been created for scientific research, education and resource management. This partnership will enable both FIU and the reserve to continue developing science-driven monitoring and management approaches to these issues.
“Current watershed-level restoration projects, such as the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, make this a critical time for long-term research, education and stewardship in the Greater Everglades Ecosystem,” said Rookery Bay Reserve Director Keith Laakkonen.
Partnership goals include enhancing both FIU’s and the reserve’s ability to provide field-based environmental studies instructions to students; promoting shared use of facilities, vessels, vehicles and informational resources; establishing environmental studies, internships and research projects that address regional scientific priorities; providing FIU staff direct access to the reserve’s long-term water-quality, fisheries and biological data for analysis and use for joint research and publications; and expanding FIU’s partnerships in Southwest Florida ecosystems science, management and education fields with federal, state and local agencies and non-profit organizations.
“Scientists from Florida International University have long been involved in generating information vital to managers of many of the marine protected areas and parks in the region,” said James Fourqurean, director of the Marine Educational and Research Initiative in FIU’s College of Arts, Sciences & Education. “FIU is looking forward to using this new partnership to increase its research collaboration with the local universities as well as the reserve.”
A joint research and educational support facility is being planned to house future programs from FIU adjacent to the reserve’s headquarters and Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center campus in Naples. The planned facility would facilitate ongoing research programs, attract new research focuses and spur new educational opportunities for students in the local area.