"Doc Bruce" Neill used Google Maps to help students understand the geography of San Carlos Bay. 

"Doc Bruce" Neill used Google Maps to help students understand the geography of San Carlos Bay. 

Participants in Sanibel Sea School’s fall series of boat-based marine science classes for adults spent a morning exploring the northern areas of San Carlos Bay. After climbing aboard the nonprofit organization’s pontoon boat and departing from the Sanibel Causeway, the group cruised to Pine Island and visited the surrounding mangrove islands, learning some history and biology along the way. 

Sanibel Sea School's pontoon boat. 

Sanibel Sea School's pontoon boat. 

Sanibel Sea School’s executive director, marine biologist Dr. Bruce Neill, pointed out St. James City, and discussed its heyday as a fishing village. Once home to a thriving stone crab fishery, the town also manufactured hemp and sisal rope that was used to craft fishing nets. 

Participants observed a flock of American White Pelicans. 

Participants observed a flock of American White Pelicans. 

Neill also talked about the geographical features of San Carlos Bay, and its relationship to nearby bodies of water, including Charlotte Harbor, Pine Island Sound, Estero Bay, and the Gulf of Mexico. “While all of these places are being affected by the Lake Okeechobee releases, San Carlos Bay’s location at the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River makes it particularly susceptible to damage,” Neill said. He added that seagrass beds are being heavily impacted by the high concentration of nutrients in the water. “The nutrients coming out of the river help algae grow on seagrass blades, which blocks light and hinders the plant’s ability to thrive and support the larger ecosystem.” 

The trip ended with striking views of the Sanibel Causeway. 

The trip ended with striking views of the Sanibel Causeway. 

Wildlife sightings during the trip included bottlenose dolphins, a flock of American White Pelicans, a manatee, a Bald Eagle, and an American Oystercatcher. Sanibel Sea School will continue to offer weekly boat-based classes through the first week of December, including a cruise down the Caloosahatchee River from Alva to Sanibel on Wednesday, December 6th. To learn more and register, visit sanibelseaschool.org or call (239) 472-8585

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