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Seagrass Class for Adults at Sanibel Sea School

Seahorses are common inhabitants of Sanibel's seagrass beds. 

Seahorses are common inhabitants of Sanibel's seagrass beds. 

On March 1st from 9 AM – 12 PM, Sanibel Sea School will host a course about our local seagrass ecosystems for adult students, focusing specifically on the seagrass beds located under the Sanibel Causeway bridges.

“Often we don’t think about what’s under the bridge when we drive over it,” said Nicole Finnicum, the Sea School’s Director of Education, “but there are rich seagrass beds teeming with life right there, and they play an important role in Sanibel’s larger ecosystem. This class will offer a whole new perspective on our causeway islands.”

During the class, Sanibel Sea School’s marine educators will use a seine net to give students an opportunity to take a closer look at some of the creatures that call seagrass home. “We might catch crabs, fish, live shells, and possibly even a seahorse or two,” said Finnicum. She added that students are welcome to wade out to the seagrass beds or stay on shore.

Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. To learn more and register, visit sanibelseaschool.org/Sanibel-adult-classes or call (239) 472-8585. 

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Sanibel Sea School to Offer Fishing Course for Adults

Students in Sanibel Sea School's Fishing Fridays course will learn practical fishing skills. 

Students in Sanibel Sea School's Fishing Fridays course will learn practical fishing skills. 

Sanibel Sea School will offer a new learning opportunity for adults this spring called Fishing Fridays. The four-week course, led by lifelong fisherman and marine biologist Dr. Bruce Neill, is a chance to gain practical, hands-on fishing experience. Each week, students will visit a different location and focus on different target species. It is up to participants to decide whether to fish with a spinning or fly rod. 

“This course is designed as a place to share ideas and knowledge, and to look at how we can become better fishermen and women from both a practical and scientific perspective,” said Dr. Neill. “Things like weather, fish migration patterns, and water temperature and quality can all affect fishing success. We’ll go over these topics and also have a great time learning from one another in a more casual way.” Fishing Fridays will be held on four consecutive Fridays beginning March 3rd, from 1-4 PM, and is open to students of any level. Participants must bring their own gear. Weather permitting, the final session will be spent on a boat.   

Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. To learn more and register, visit sanibelseaschool.org/sanibel-adult-programs or call (239) 472-8585.

 

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Sanibel School Students Participate in Sand Dollar Research

Kenny Kouril holds one of the sand dollars Sanibel School students measured during their research day at Sanibel Sea School. 

Kenny Kouril holds one of the sand dollars Sanibel School students measured during their research day at Sanibel Sea School. 

Students from the Sanibel School visited Sanibel Sea School to participate in the nonprofit organization’s long-term study of our island’s sand dollar population. Dr. Terrie Kielborn and 24 of her students in grades 6-8 joined the Sea School’s marine educators to collect and measure sand dollars near the Colony Beach Access on Sanibel’s east end.

Aiden Bolado observes sand dollars in a bucket before releasing them into the Gulf. 

Aiden Bolado observes sand dollars in a bucket before releasing them into the Gulf. 

After a brief introduction to basic research techniques, participants conducted quadrat samples, which can help scientists determine the size and abundance of sand dollars in a population. After they completed the field-based portion of the research, they also practiced computer data entry and were introduced to some of the tools used to analyze the frequency and monthly growth of the sand dollars in the study. “I have dreamed of two things,” said Dr. Kielborn, “First, to have class at the beach, and second, for my students to have the opportunity to conduct real scientific research using scientific tools. This was clearly my best day ever as a teacher of 39 years!”

Students measured sand dollars during their research day. 

Students measured sand dollars during their research day. 

“Our sand dollar study is an ongoing project, and we designed it to provide plenty of opportunities for community participation,” said Carley Todd, an educator at Sanibel Sea School. “We have adult volunteers, local and visiting students, and a number of school groups that assist with this research regularly. There are even a few high school students carrying out their own mini-studies for next year’s science fair.” She also expressed her enthusiasm for this new partnership with the Sanibel School.

Camryn Peach and Preston Hall participated in sand dollar research. 

Camryn Peach and Preston Hall participated in sand dollar research. 

“It’s an incredible opportunity to work with kids who live and learn on our island. It was really cool to see their excitement grow after every sand dollar they found, and to expose them to the wonders that can be found right in their backyard. I’m looking forward to our next outing with this group,” she said. Todd hopes that this early exposure to real research will inspire some of the Sanibel School students she works with to develop a life-long love for marine science.

Carley Todd gives Sanibel School students an introduction to sand dollar research. 

Carley Todd gives Sanibel School students an introduction to sand dollar research. 

Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. To learn more, visit sanibelseaschool.org. 

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Make Ocean-Inspired Glass Art

Ocean-inspired glass art. 

Ocean-inspired glass art. 

On February 8th, Sanibel Sea School will host a glass art workshop with Guest Artist Sandra Gross. During this session, participants will visit the beach to gather inspiration, then head back to the classroom to make some sketches using cut paper before using various types of glass to create an abstract Sanibel scene. Both beginners and experienced artists are welcome. 

Sandra Gross is a glass artist from Cincinnati, Ohio, who regularly spends time on Sanibel Island. Based on her graduate work in Sculpture at Miami University, she was awarded one of the International Sculpture Society's Outstanding Student Achievement Awards. She has also been in the Bullseye Emerge Show and was a Niche Award Finalist and Winner in both Sculptural and Functional Glass. 

This program will be held February 8th, 2017 from 9 AM to 12 PM at Sanibel Sea School (455 Periwinkle Way). The cost to participate in this workshop is $75/ student, and all materials are included. To learn more and register, visit http://www.sanibelseaschool.org/sanibel-adult-programs. Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the ocean's future, one person at a time. 

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Sanibel Sea School to Host Free Guided Beach Walks

Doc Bruce talks about the lightning whelk's life cycle during Sanibel Sea School's November Beach Walk. 

Doc Bruce talks about the lightning whelk's life cycle during Sanibel Sea School's November Beach Walk. 

Sanibel Sea School will host free guided beach walks on February 11th and March 11th, 2017. The February walk will be called "Plants in the Sand - Beach Botany", and an educator will discuss the plants that grow on Sanibel's beaches and why they are important to our local creatures and ecosystems. The theme for the March walk will be "Beach Mysteries", during which participants will be invited to collect strange objects from the beach for Sanibel Sea School's educators to identify. 

"Our free beach walks are our way of saying thank you to our community," said Johnny Rader, a Marine Science Educator at Sanibel Sea School. "It's always an excellent opportunity to meet some of our neighbors, and to talk about the interesting and exciting wildlife we've observed on the island lately. If you're available, we hope you will join us!"

Beach Walks meet at Sanibel Sea School (455 Periwinkle Way) at 9 AM, and last approximately 2 hours. No registration is required, and walk-ins are welcome. Coffee, tea, and water will be offered before departing for the beach. Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the ocean's future, one person at a time. To learn more, visit sanibelseaschool.org

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Sanibel Sea School Receives Grant to Bring Hendry County Students to Experience the Ocean

Hendry County students from Ms. Akin's class visit the Sanibel Causeway to learn about seagrass ecosystems. 

Hendry County students from Ms. Akin's class visit the Sanibel Causeway to learn about seagrass ecosystems. 

Sanibel Sea School received a Community Impact Grant from the Southwest Florida Community Foundation that will make it possible for more Hendry County students to experience the ocean in 2017. Participants will visit Sanibel each month to take part in field-based marine science lessons, which will be developed in close partnership with teachers to support their classroom curriculum.

“It is easy to take our proximity to the ocean for granted in Southwest Florida,” said Sanibel Sea School’s Director of Education, Nicole Finnicum, “but there are plenty of families that, for mostly economic reasons, are unable to visit the coast on a regular basis. Many of the students we work with from Hendry County have only been to the beach once or twice, and most have never had a formal ocean learning experience.” Both Finnicum and Executive Director Dr. Bruce Neill expressed gratitude for the Community Foundation’s support. “This grant makes it possible for us to spend less time fundraising and more time in the water with kids, focusing on our mission,” said Neill.

Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. The organization offers field-based educational experiences including day programs, camps, and expeditions for children and adults, and has a robust scholarship program to ensure that financial circumstances never prohibit an individual from attending. In 2016, Sanibel Sea School provided more than 1,100 scholarship days to students in need. To learn more, visit sanibelseaschool.org.

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. Last year, the Foundation partnered with individuals, families and corporations who have created over 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the foundation has invested $5 million this year in grants and programs to the community. With assets of $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. Based in Fort Myers, the Foundation has satellite offices located in Sanibel Island, LaBelle (Hendry County), and downtown Fort Myers. For more information, visit www.FloridaCommunity.com or call 239-274-5900.

 

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Sanibel Sea School to Partner with Fresh Produce for Beach Cleanup Event

Campers give their worries to the sea during an annual Sanibel Sea School tradition. 

Campers give their worries to the sea during an annual Sanibel Sea School tradition. 

On February 16th, Sanibel Sea School and clothing store Fresh Produce will team up to host an ocean ceremony and beach cleanup for the Sanibel community.  The morning will begin at 10 AM with Sanibel Sea School’s traditional “Give Your Worries to the Sea” ritual, which will be followed by a short beach cleanup and a reception. Fresh Produce Founder Mary Ellen Vernon will also give a short talk titled “Cliff Notes on Life While Building a Business.”

“Every year, participants in our Winter Camp sessions write their worries from the past year on slips of paper,” said Chrissy Basturk, Sanibel Sea School’s Development Coordinator, “then we burn them in a bonfire and sprinkle the ashes into the sea.” The tradition is cherished by campers as a way to start the new year with a clean slate, and those planning the event believe it is something adults will enjoy as well.

Basturk, who worked as a manager for Fresh Produce for 18 years before joining Sanibel Sea School, thinks this is an excellent way to bring a local business and a nonprofit organization together to do good for the community. “In addition to cleaning up the beach, Fresh Produce is designing a special edition t-shirt for us,” said Basturk. “Proceeds from the shirt will support scholarships for kids in need to attend our programs throughout the year. We are very excited about this new partnership.”

For event details or to RSVP, please call the Sanibel Fresh Produce store at (239) 395-1839 or email fpcommunity@fpcolor.com. To learn more about Sanibel Sea School, visit sanibelseaschool.org

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Ocean Quotes to Brighten Your Day

There's nothing like a good inspirational ocean quote to put a smile on our faces. Here are a few our staff members have selected to share with you during this first week of 2017! 

The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.
— Jacques Cousteau
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying looking at the surface of the ocean itself, except that when you finally see what goes on underwater, you realize that you’ve been missing the whole point of the ocean. Staying on the surface all the time is like going to the circus and staring at the outside of the tent.
— Dave Barry
The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination, and brings eternal joy to the soul.”
— Wyland
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With every drop of water you drink, every breath you take, you’re connected to the sea.
— Sylvia Earle
We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch, we are going back to whence we came.
— John F. Kennedy
At the beach, life is different. Time doesn’t move hour to hour but mood to moment. We live by the currents, plan by the tides, and follow the sun.
— Unknown
How inappropriate to call this planet Earth when it is quite clearly Ocean.
— Arthur C. Clarke
I felt the full breadth and depth of the ocean around the sphere of the Earth, back billions of years to the beginning of life, across all the passing lives and deaths, the endless waves of swimming joy and quiet losses of exquisite creatures with fins and fronds, tentacles and wings, colourful and transparent, tiny and huge, coming and going. There is nothing the ocean has not seen.
— Sally Andrew

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Dealing with Marine Debris

Plastic marine debris is commonly found among the shells on our beaches, but there is plenty we can do as citizens to reduce this problem. 

Plastic marine debris is commonly found among the shells on our beaches, but there is plenty we can do as citizens to reduce this problem. 

Marine debris and plastic pollution are challenging problems facing our ocean ecosystems and the planet as a whole. Marine debris is the unwanted and lost material produced by humans that ends up in our waterways and oceans. It can include anything from a straw to derelict fishing nets to an abandoned boat.

Items collected during a beach cleanup on Captiva. 

Items collected during a beach cleanup on Captiva. 

Plastic waste makes up a huge proportion of marine debris. Plastic is everywhere, and it's easy to use it and dispose of it without thinking. However, we should all consider where it goes when we're done with it, and we can all take steps to minimize its impacts on our health and the planet. 

When plastic is left in our environment, it doesn’t go away. It is actually made to last long periods of time, so it doesn’t biodegrade for many thousands of years. Because of its chemical structure, plastic just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, called nurdles, but never goes away. 

Seabirds often mistake small pieces of plastic for food, which takes a toll on the health of individuals and entire populations. 

Seabirds often mistake small pieces of plastic for food, which takes a toll on the health of individuals and entire populations. 

This is a problem because plastics can harm the environment and humans in many ways. Plastic is ingested by, entangles, and disrupts the habitats of local wildlife, taking a toll on animal populations. This is particularly common in seabirds, because small pieces of plastic closely resemble the food that they eat, but plastic affects many other animals in our ecosystems as well.  

Plastic also takes its toll on humans. Since it releases harmful chemicals, it can affect our groundwater, find its way into our bodies, and affect our internal processes. The chemicals that find their way in to our bodies have been linked to devastating health conditions. The financial costs of cleanup and medical treatment related to plastic pollution also impact our economy.

Plastic pollution can be found virtually everywhere. Whether it is left on the beach, lost out of a vehicle, or put into a large landfill, some plastic will always make its way to the ocean. 

Alaina Steinmetz organized a cleanup in her Wisconsin community. No matter where you live, you can help care for the ocean by cleaning up trash. 

Alaina Steinmetz organized a cleanup in her Wisconsin community. No matter where you live, you can help care for the ocean by cleaning up trash. 

There are so many ways that this issue can be avoided. One of the first steps you can take is to minimize the amount of plastic you use. This can include buying fresh vegetables without wrappers, switching to glass or stainless steel containers and drinkware, or can be as simple as saying “no straw please.”

Another way to help abate plastic pollution is to pick up litter when you see it - individually or with a group of friends, and even if you don't live near the beach. Anyone can make a difference, as Alaina Steinmetz, an Ocean Tribe member from Wisconsin, demonstrates. She has taken it upon herself to raise awareness about debris problems in her area. With organized clean ups under her belt, she is well on her way to becoming a great steward for our environment and an inspiration for anyone looking to make a difference.  

Additional items collected during Alaina's cleanup of a Wisconsin river (which, of course, leads to the sea). 

Additional items collected during Alaina's cleanup of a Wisconsin river (which, of course, leads to the sea). 

One other way to help is to learn and share your knowledge. Learning what you can about a problem will help you and others become more informed about how to make a difference. Once you know what to do, all you have to do is act on it.  The planet we live on and its inhabitants will thank you. 

For further information you can check out the Plastic Pollution CoalitionNOAA's Marine Debris Program, and many other organizations that focus on the plastic pollution problem. 

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Polynesian Ocean Traditions Week

Campers paddled out to perform chants and songs for Sanibel's sharks. 

Campers paddled out to perform chants and songs for Sanibel's sharks. 

Our first week of Winter Camp 2016 was a celebration of Polynesian Ocean Traditions. Surrounded by vast seas, cultures living in Polynesia must sustain their lives using the ocean as their primary resource. As a result, they have become intimately connected with the sea, and understand its creatures, cycles, and power perhaps better than anyone else in the world.

Camp groups performed their hula dances for shoppers at Bailey's General Store. 

Camp groups performed their hula dances for shoppers at Bailey's General Store. 

Polynesian Ocean Traditions campers learned about these strong, wise water people and participated in activities to honor and learn about them. We wrote songs and chants like the Shark Callers of New Guinea, and paddled out in our canoes to perform them for our local cartilaginous predators. We went seining for fish to better understand what life would be like if we had to catch our own dinner, then we let the sun and stars guide us through a navigational scavenger hunt, since Polynesians are skilled sailors and navigators.

A Counselor-In-Training helps a camper create a handmade flower necklace, called a lei, to wear during her hula performance. 

A Counselor-In-Training helps a camper create a handmade flower necklace, called a lei, to wear during her hula performance. 

We also crafted our own leis and grass skirts, gave each other henna tattoos of traditional Polynesian symbols to represent our personal strengths and individuality, and wrote and performed hula dances during a holiday “flash mob” at Bailey’s General store.

Campers practiced their surfing skills during Polynesian Ocean Traditions Week. 

Campers practiced their surfing skills during Polynesian Ocean Traditions Week. 

Because this is Sanibel Sea School, of course we surfed, tied macramé, and enjoyed a (luau-themed) cookout and Milk and Cookies Slideshow at the end of the week. Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. To learn more, visit sanibelseaschool.org

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5 Ecosystems You Should Visit on Sanibel Island

One of the most unique things about Sanibel is that you can experience a variety of ecosystems in a very small area, each with its own plants and animals. Next time you're on Sanibel, try to visit all of the ecosystems on this list.

Cownose rays photographed on Sanibel Island.

Cownose rays photographed on Sanibel Island.

Ocean

Some dive head-first into the waves, while others look out at the horizon in hopes of spotting a pod of playful dolphins. Either way, the ocean is easy to fall in love with. It is full of beautiful, diverse creatures and offers plenty of opportunities for recreation. 

Look For: dolphins, sharks, manatees, fish, schools of migrating cownose rays, live shells, sand dollars 

A Snowy Plover nesting site on Sanibel's East End. 

A Snowy Plover nesting site on Sanibel's East End. 

Beach

Anyone who has visited Sanibel's beaches will agree that they are unique. The number of shells that wash up here make our island one of the best places in the world to find beach treasures. This happens because Sanibel is oriented from east to west, creating a "net" to catch what the waves wash ashore. In addition to many fabulous shells, our local shorebirds are worth watching. The willets and sanderlings will keep you entertained for hours, while swift snowy egrets pluck fish from the shallow waters. 

Look For: seashells, Snowy Plovers, Osprey, sea oats, ghost crabs, sand fleas

An American alligator mother with her hatchlings. 

An American alligator mother with her hatchlings. 

Wetlands

Some areas of Sanibel retain fresh water year-round, and are home to a very specific set of residents. The Sanibel River is the fresh water source in the interior of our islands, and these beautiful wetlands provide habitat for birds, freshwater turtles, and American alligators. 

Look For: American alligators, wading birds, freshwater turtles, snakes, river otters 

A Roseate Spoonbill photographed at Sanibel's J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. 

A Roseate Spoonbill photographed at Sanibel's J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. 

Mangroves

Mangrove forests, called mangals, are one of the most important ecosystems in warm subtropical and tropical areas. Mangroves are salt-tolerant plants called halophytes, which take root in the waters around Sanibel. The red mangrove tends to grow farthest away from shore, and black and white mangroves are found closer to shore. These trees provide habitat for roughly 90% of all juvenile commercially fished species in our area, and prevent the erosion of our estuaries and barrier islands.

Look For: Roseate Spoonbills, juvenile fish, oysters, mangrove crabs, sea stars

A rat snake hides among the seagrape leaves. 

A rat snake hides among the seagrape leaves. 

Hammock

This ecosystem has the tallest tree canopy and is mostly found in the interior of the island. Hammock habitat offers some of the highest elevation between our wetlands, so the Calusa Indians likely built their settlements there to minimize the risk of flooding. To add even more elevation, they created shell mounds, called middens, which were piles of shells, bones, and other discarded objects. Today, animals take refuge in the hammock for the same reasons.

Look For: woodland songbirds, rat snakes, bobcats, gopher tortoises, armadillos, palmetto palms, gumbo limbo trees

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The Christmas Bird Count

Sanibel Sea School team members counted birds throughout the Sanibel Canals during the 2015 Christmas Bird Count. 

Sanibel Sea School team members counted birds throughout the Sanibel Canals during the 2015 Christmas Bird Count. 

Sanibel Sea School will participate in Sanibel’s Christmas Bird Count again this year and we couldn’t be more excited! An early winter bird census conducted by volunteers and administered by the National Audubon Society, the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is the longest running citizen science project. This year marks its 117th anniversary, and our team will be heading out on Saturday, December 17th on foot, by boat, and by car to see how many species and individuals we can observe, recording data along the way. 

The CBC was started on Christmas Day 1900 by Dr. Frank Chapman. He came up with the idea as a spinoff from the traditional Christmas hunt, during which people would go out to see how many animals they could kill and bring home. Dr. Chapman, being the pioneer conservationist that he was, thought that the tradition could be changed to help wildlife instead of harming it. The first CBC consisted of 27 birders in 25 areas across North America, and participants were able to observe 90 different species of birds. The CBC has grown over the years, with 2015’s CBC covering 2,505 circles, each of which are 15 miles in diameter. Last year's Count had 76,669 observers in the field across North America, Latin America, Bermuda and the Pacific Islands and tallied 58,878,071 birds, which were made up of 2,607 different species. 

All of the data from the Christmas Bird Count can give researchers and wildlife agencies a long-term look at distribution patterns and population trends. Birds are often looked at as bio-indicator species that can represent the vitality of a habitat. If there is a change in the bird population, we are able to respond and restore their habitat before the there is a significant loss of diversity. The CBC’s long-term perspective helps conservationists monitor and protect the birds and their habitats effectively.

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Sanibel Sea School and Canterbury School Partner to Offer New Summer Programs

A student practices throwing a cast net during a fishing lesson at Sanibel Sea School.

A student practices throwing a cast net during a fishing lesson at Sanibel Sea School.

Sanibel Sea School and Canterbury School are teaming up to provide exciting new ocean learning experiences for children in the summer of 2017. Through this partnership, participants will be able to utilize the excellent resources of both organizations.  

Opportunities will include Island Skills at Canterbury, an ocean-themed, field-based summer program for children in rising grades Pre-K4 through eighth. From snorkeling through the seagrass to hands-on experiences with marine creatures in Canterbury’s marine lab, this program will be an incredible adventure for any ocean-loving child.

For children who love to fish, Canterbury is teaming up with Sanibel Sea School’s marine science educators to provide a week-long program where children will learn to fish four different ways. Fishing will be available to children in rising grades five through nine.

Children can also explore marine habitats while learning the basics of paddleboarding with our Stand-up Paddleboarding program for rising grades seven through 12. Students interested in marine biology can take advantage of our two-week summer session of Independent Science Research, which will allow students in rising grades six through 12 to get a head start on their science fair projects before the school year. Finally, the Counselor-In-Training (CIT) program is designed to teach children 13 and older the skills of leadership for their future success.

Canterbury School (8141 College Parkway, Fort Myers) will be the home base for these new programs. Transportation will be provided by Canterbury to the various locations each day. All summer programs provided through this partnership and by each organization individually are open to the public.

Registration for these programs will open on Saturday, February 4, 2017, through Canterbury School’s website: www.canterburyfortmyers.org/summerprograms. More information about other summer programs available from Sanibel Sea School can be found at www.sanibelseaschool.org. Canterbury School will also be hosting a Summer Programs Open House on Wednesday, January 25, 2017, from 3:00 to 6:30 p.m. in our Hanno Dining Hall.

For additional information, please contact Katie Tanner at ktanner@canterburyfortmyers.org or Leah Biery at leah@sanibelseaschool.org.

 

About Canterbury School

Canterbury School is a Pre-K3-12 college preparatory school in Fort Myers, FL. Canterbury provides a rigorous college preparatory curriculum dedicated to academic excellence within an atmosphere emphasizing character, leadership, and service. We strive to prepare students for success in the most demanding postsecondary institutions and professions. To learn more, visit www.canterburyfortmyers.org.

About Sanibel Sea School

Sanibel Sea School, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit located on Sanibel Island, FL whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. To learn more, visit www.sanibelseaschool.org

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Sanibel Sea School Dedicates Flagship Building in Memory of Richard C. Kennedy

Richard C. "Dick" Kennedy

Richard C. "Dick" Kennedy

The Kennedy family poses for a photo with Sanibel Sea School's co-founders. From left: Dr. Bruce Neill, Blair Kennedy, Henry Kennedy, Nancy Kennedy, Sam Kennedy, BJ Kennedy, and Evelyn Neill. 

The Kennedy family poses for a photo with Sanibel Sea School's co-founders. From left: Dr. Bruce Neill, Blair Kennedy, Henry Kennedy, Nancy Kennedy, Sam Kennedy, BJ Kennedy, and Evelyn Neill. 

Sanibel Sea School marked the dedication of its original Flagship Campus building in memory of Richard C. “Dick” Kennedy with a celebration of his life on Saturday, December 10th, 2016. Friends and family gathered around the building, located at 414 Lagoon Drive on Sanibel, to share memories of Kennedy and pay tribute to him for his many contributions to our island community. 

Guests at the dedication event listen as Rev. Dr. Ellen Sloan of St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church shares memories of Dick Kennedy. 

Guests at the dedication event listen as Rev. Dr. Ellen Sloan of St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church shares memories of Dick Kennedy. 

Kennedy, a winter resident of Sanibel whose family founded the Kieve-Wavus Camp and Leadership School in Maine, had a passion for helping children develop the confidence necessary to succeed. “Dick came to us soon after Sanibel Sea School was founded and offered to help,” said Dr. Bruce Neill, Executive Director and co-founder of the organization. “He offered support and advice, and adamantly insisted that we succeed. We would not be where we are today if he had not shared his wisdom and experience with us.” Kennedy and his wife, Nancy, also lovingly provided housing, home-cooked meals, and emotional support to many young Sanibel Sea School staff members as they experienced living and working on their own for the first time.

Sanibel Sea School Trustee Chip Roach reads a limerick he composed in honor of Kennedy. 

Sanibel Sea School Trustee Chip Roach reads a limerick he composed in honor of Kennedy. 

Shortly before his death in June of 2016, the trustees of Sanibel Sea School voted unanimously to honor him with the naming of the nonprofit’s original building, where its educational programs and summer camps are held. It will be called The Richard C. Kennedy Building – The Heart of Sanibel Sea School. Two hand-painted signs were installed over the main entrances and an additional outdoor sign will be installed in the coming weeks.  

Attendees enjoy coffee and pastries in the Richard C. Kennedy Building. 

Attendees enjoy coffee and pastries in the Richard C. Kennedy Building. 

At the dedication, a number of close friends and family members spoke in his honor, including Neill, his wife and Sanibel Sea School co-founder, Evelyn, Dick’s son, Henry Kennedy, and Dick’s wife, Nancy Kennedy. They were joined by Chip Roach, a Sanibel Sea School Board member and close friend of Kennedy, and Rev. Dr. Ellen Sloan, the rector at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, where Dick and Nancy have attended services for many years. “This building, with its creaky floors and sandy buckets, perfectly captures Dick’s spirit and his desire to help kids discover their potential,” said Neill. 

Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. To learn more, visit www.sanibelseaschool.org.

 

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The Great Migration

White Pelicans, winter residents of Sanibel Island, exhibit different behaviors and habits than Brown Pelicans.

White Pelicans, winter residents of Sanibel Island, exhibit different behaviors and habits than Brown Pelicans.

Although it might not feel like it, the American White Pelican’s (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) arrival on Sanibel marks the changing of seasons. Unlike the Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis), a year-round resident of Sanibel, White Pelicans migrate in the fall, usually arriving on Sanibel in October and returning north in the spring. These birds spend the winter months in southern Mexico, southern California, and the Gulf Coast States (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida). During the summer, adults breed in colonies on lakes in western Canada and northwestern U.S.

The white pelican is one of the largest birds in North America. It has a 9-foot wingspan, significantly larger than its cousin, the brown pelican, which has an average wingspan of 7 feet.  The white pelicans are all white with black flight feathers only visible when flying. They are found near lakes, marshes and salt bays. During breeding season, they can be found mostly inland, nesting on isolated islands.  

White pelicans are very social birds. Pods, or groups of white pelicans, can be seen flying in a V formation. Pods also cooperatively hunt, forcing their prey into shallow waters where they dip their bills into the water and scoop up the fish. They are very buoyant compared to the brown pelicans, which dive for their food. Similar to the brown pelicans, they can hold three gallons of water in their bill but only one gallon in their stomachs, so they have to drain their bills before swallowing the fish. 

The population has made a strong comeback since the 1970s due to the EPA banning DDT, a common pesticide used for insect control. It did not cause any physical side effects to the white pelicans, but it caused their eggs to thin. Pelicans stand on their eggs to keep them warm, so when the adult pelicans would stand on the eggs, they would crack and the developing pelican could not survive. This caused a sharp decline in the population until scientists realized the effects DDT was having on the marine food web. Population size has since rebounded for both the brown and white pelican. 

Our pelican fact cheat sheet. Click here to download a printable PDF. 

Our pelican fact cheat sheet. Click here to download a printable PDF. 

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Sanibel Sea School Educators Judge Canterbury School Science Fair

Carley Todd takes a break to make notes on her score sheet. 

Carley Todd takes a break to make notes on her score sheet. 

Marine Science Educators employed by Sanibel Sea School volunteered their time to serve on the judging panel for The Canterbury School’s annual science fair. The event, held on December 1st, showcased scientific experiments and research carried out by middle and high school students on science topics ranging from physics to biology, and everything in between. 

Nicole Finnicum Interviews a student about his science fair research. 

Nicole Finnicum Interviews a student about his science fair research. 

All of Sanibel Sea School’s teaching staff members have earned science degrees, and they enjoyed the chance to interact and encourage young people who might also like to pursue future careers in science. “I was so impressed by how many of the projects could someday have real world applications,” said Nicole Finnicum, Sanibel Sea School’s Education Director. “The students were thinking about very relevant topics like ocean acidification, ways to improve the treatment of Alzheimer’s, and tools that could help supply developing countries with clean water. I have no doubt that these kids are going to achieve great things.” 

Sanibel Sea School's Executive Director, Doc Bruce, poses for a photo with Cara Summit, a teacher at The Canterbury School. 

Sanibel Sea School's Executive Director, Doc Bruce, poses for a photo with Cara Summit, a teacher at The Canterbury School. 

In summer 2017, Sanibel Sea School will offer its first-ever Science Fair Research Camp, also in partnership with The Canterbury School. The school year can be a busy time for students, and this program will allow them to finish a significant part of their science fair planning and research prior to the fall semester. Registration will be open to the public, and the camp will be held at The Canterbury School’s campus in Fort Myers, which features the Torpey Tank outdoor marine biology lab. 

Johnny Rader judges a science fair project. 

Johnny Rader judges a science fair project. 

During the program, science educators will be available to help participants develop and carry out marine biology-based studies. “Participating in the science fair as a kid helped me develop an appreciation for the scientific process, and definitely contributed to my desire to study science in college,” said educator Johnny Rader, who also served as a judge. “I can’t wait to share that with our campers next year.” 

Registration for Science Fair Research Camp will open in February 2017. Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. To learn more, visit www.sanibelseaschool.org.

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Island Intruders: Invasive Species on Sanibel

An invasive species is a non-native species that could outcompete native creatures for food and other resources. Invasive species can be introduced in a variety of ways - some are exotic pets released into the wild by well-meaning owners, some hitch a ride on ships, trains, and planes coming from distant lands, and some even arrive by mail. Sanibel is a haven for its native wildlife, but our island is certainly not immune to these invaders. Let's talk about a few of them:

Reptile: The Brown Anole

If you have ever been to Sanibel Island, chances are you have come across the brown anole. These lizards were introduced to Florida from Cuba and the Bahamas. The native species of anole, the green anole, has been negatively affected by this alien species to the point that it is now rare to find one of these beautiful green lizards in your yard.

A magnificent green anole, native to Sanibel Island.

A magnificent green anole, native to Sanibel Island.

The brown anole is an invasive competitor to the green anole. 

The brown anole is an invasive competitor to the green anole. 

Amphibian: The Cane Toad

Have you ever been asleep on Sanibel in the early spring, and all of a sudden it sounds like a space ship is landing outside your window? This sound continues throughout the entire night and you wake up the next morning feeling tired and frustrated. The loud sound is coming from a very large toad called the cane toad. This animal was introduced on purpose to rid agricultural operations of pests, but it ended up becoming one itself. The large poison glands located behind its eyes kills many things that ingest the bufo-toxins secreted from them. Both pets and wildlife have been affected by this newly introduced species.

Cane toads are now relatively common on our island.

Cane toads are now relatively common on our island.

Fish: The Lionfish

Lionfish are native to the Indo-Pacific and, because of their beauty, are popular in the aquarium trade. These fish are wreaking havoc on our shores. Releasing around 15,000 eggs every four days, they reproduce rapidly and reach maturity at a young age of less than a year. Their abundance is not the only thing that makes this alien species bad for the ecosystem - they are vacuum cleaners of the sea and suck up as many native fish as possible, depleting populations and competing with other predators for valuable prey.

Lionfish native to the Indo-Pacific outcompete local predators for food and prey on small fish species and juvenile fish. 

Lionfish native to the Indo-Pacific outcompete local predators for food and prey on small fish species and juvenile fish. 

Plants: The Australian Pine

The Australian pine was introduced from Australia to Florida in the 1890s. To many locals, the breezy silhouette and shade provided by these trees is a charming part of our island home. Although magnificent, not everything about them is good. These pines will take over coastal areas, displacing native plants that are important to our native ecosystems, which support many endangered and threatened animals. The shallow root system was originally thought to help prevent beach erosion, but it did just the opposite, when other, more effective beach protecting plants started disappearing. Additionally, Australian pine roots make it impossible for turtles and American alligators to build nests in coastal communities.

Although beautiful, the Australian pine poses threats to our local ecosystem. 

Although beautiful, the Australian pine poses threats to our local ecosystem. 

Birds: The House Sparrow and The European Starling

The House Sparrow and The European Starling were introduced around 200 years ago in an interesting manner. Shakespearean troops in the United States wanted to make their plays as authentic as possible, so they would would release these birds during the shows. Although it took some time for them to settle in, these birds started breeding and making homes in urbanized areas. Both species inhabit urban areas, where they compete with native species. Additionally, they will seek out and destroy small urban crop farms and residential potted plants. 

A European Starling. 

A European Starling. 

House Sparrows.

House Sparrows.

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Sanibel Sea School to Launch New Resort Partnership Program

A Sanibel Sea School program participant examines a live horse conch. 

A Sanibel Sea School program participant examines a live horse conch. 

In January 2017, Sanibel Sea School will introduce a new program designed to help area resorts offer outstanding marine-based educational opportunities to their guests. The 501c3 nonprofit’s marine educators will provide the unique ocean outings they are known for at remote locations throughout Sanibel, Captiva, and Fort Myers Beach on a regular schedule, and will work closely with resort management to develop offerings that are right for each location’s clientele. 

“Many people visit this region because they want to experience and learn about our nature,” said Dr. Bruce Neill, Executive Director of Sanibel Sea School, “but it can be challenging for hotels to employ a quality team of teachers to meet this demand. Our educators are experienced, passionate, and knowledgeable, and we can provide the perfect solution to offer their visitors an outstanding ocean learning amenity.”

As part of this transition, Sanibel Sea School will close the satellite campus it has operated for six years at South Seas Island Resort. The nonprofit will continue to offer ocean learning opportunities to South Seas guests as part of their new resort program, but will no longer operate a physical campus on the property.

“Our relationship with South Seas has been very productive, and we look forward to a robust future at the resort, but as we grow, we are continuously seeking better ways to offer quality education to promote marine conservation,” said Neill. “At Sanibel Sea School, we not only evaluate return on investment, we also pay very close attention to what we call return on mission.” Sanibel Sea School has been able to help over 10,000 people more thoroughly understand and appreciate the ocean at South Seas since 2006, and Neill believes there is potential to reach even more visitors after the new resort partnership program is launched.

Sanibel Sea School will continue to operate its satellite campus at the Sundial Resort and Spa as an exclusive resort partnership featuring an on-property classroom, and will continue all of the existing programming currently offered at its flagship campus on the east end of Sanibel Island, including day programs for kids, seasonal adult programs, and summer camps.

“The business of marine conservation is a tricky one, and we must continue to adapt and evolve in order to be a viable nonprofit, capable of delivering excellent educational opportunities that promote marine stewardship and enhance the community,” said Neill. “We are driven to improve what we do, and to try to reach as many people as possible. Right now, we see this as the most promising route forward.”

Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. To learn more, visit www.sanibelseaschool.org

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Sanibel Sea School and START to Host Sanibel Luminary Event

Many Sanibel residents enjoy the beautiful display of lights during the Sanibel Luminary Festival. 

Many Sanibel residents enjoy the beautiful display of lights during the Sanibel Luminary Festival. 

On Friday December 2nd, Sanibel Sea School and the San-Cap chapter of Solutions to Avoid Red Tide (START) will partner to host Sanibel Luminary Festival attendees at the Sea School’s Flagship Campus on the east end of the island. The Sanibel Luminary Festival is a free community event held each year to mark the official start of the holiday season. 

Sanibel Sea School’s parking lot will be converted into a festive patio space, and visitors will enjoy mulled wine and beer, delicious snacks (including Ralph Woodring’s famous grilled mullet), cookie decorating, and music. There will also be family-friendly games and activities, and a raffle with a variety of exciting prizes from both organizations. 

“One of our raffle prizes will be priority camp registration for summer 2017,” said Chrissy Basturk, Sanibel Sea School’s Development Director. “The winning family will be able to sign up for the programs of their choice before registration officially opens. We hope this opportunity will encourage some of our summer camp families to stop by for a visit, so we won’t have to wait a whole year to see them again!”

Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. START is a 501c3 nonprofit working to improve the quality of our marine waters through research, public education, and programs that restore marine habitats, preserve marine species, and promote healthy beaches and coastal waterways. For more information, call (239) 472-8585.

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Mystery Fish

Have you ever seen a fish that you had no idea existed?  Many people have been experiencing that on Sanibel and Captiva's beaches lately.  Recently, some interesting fish have washed up on our shores, including peculiar batfish species.

Two batfish found on the beach near Sundial Resort on Sanibel. 

Two batfish found on the beach near Sundial Resort on Sanibel. 

Batfish are subtropical fish that have a wide, relatively flat body covered in little bumps with pectoral fins that look like limbs. Their flattened shape allows them to successfully live a demersal lifestyle; meaning they live close to or on the seafloor. They can often be observed by snorkelers slowly moving around the bottom or flattened down into the sand to hide from predators.

The batfish has a unique way of acquiring its food. It has a modified rostrum, or nose, that is coupled with a spine. This modified structure on its face can be used to detect and lure in slow moving prey on the seafloor. Once the desired food is in range, the batfish swallows it whole in one large gulp. They typically eat crustaceans, shelled mollusks, bristly polychaete worms, and even the occasional fish.  

The head of a large, live polka-dot batfish. Photo source. 

The head of a large, live polka-dot batfish. Photo source

In Southwest Florida, there are a few species of batfish one might see.  Some of the local batfish species include the longnose batfish (Ogcocephalus corniger), the polka-dot batfish (Ogcocephalus cubifrons), and the spotted batfish (Ogcocephalus pantostictus). The longnose batfish has a long protrusion from its rostrum, which differentiates it from other species. The polka-dot and spotted batfish can often look similar, but the differences in body shape and mouth width can help one distinguish between the two species. 

Although these unusual creatures may look threatening, there is nothing to be alarmed about.  They cause no harm to humans and live peacefully on the seafloor. The IUCN Red List has listed many species of batfish as species of least concern, which means they have widespread populations and very few threats. So the next time you see one of these interesting vertebrates, you can tell everyone that batfish are docile creatures that slowly roam the seafloor on their limb-like pectoral fins. 

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