Florida Sea Grant Extension in Collier County

Welcome to the Collier County Sea Grant Extension Blog

This blog is an opportunity for me to share with you my extension outreach efforts and useful information to make you a more informed coastal citizen. If you have any questions about what you see, feel free to contact me at fluech@ufl.edu.

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Exploring Keewaydin Island for FMNP

While I take my Florida Master Naturalist classes to Keewaydin Island every year, the experience never gets old, and is always unique. My most recent trip last Friday was certainly no different (I can say it was the wettest trip I ever led thanks to late afternoon rains!)Keewaydin or Key island is an unbridged 8-mile-long barrier island off the coast of Naples, Florida. Over ninety percent of the island is managed by Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. The island makes for an excellent outdoor classroom to teach about barrier island ecology as well as the importance of balancing resource protection with public access. My colleagues and I lead our students on a walking transect of the southern end of the island where they can see how quickly the island's different plant communities switch based on various environmental conditions such as elevation, soil types, wind exposure, and temperature to name a few. In a matter of a few hundred yards, we walked through a tidal mangrove creek, coastal strand community, primary and secondary dune system, and of course Keewaydin's beautiful beach.  Enjoy the pictures!
Arriving at the island
Examining the low energy shoreline of Key Island
Me pointing out the pneumataphores associated with black mangroves

Our ride to the island

Mangrove identification practice

Traversing through a mangrove creek

A quick lesson on how mangroves deal with salt in the estuarine environment

One of many fiddler crabs found

Got fiddler crab?
Moving into the coastal transition (aka strand) zone

Marco Island in the distance

The flower of the Prickly Pear Cactus

Examining the wrack line (looks like they found a Lightning Whelk egg case)

So many cool finds along the beach

A horse conch egg case on the left and a lightning whelk

Renee Wilson from Rookery Bay talks to the group about the "fish stunning" abilities of the Jamaican Dogwood tree

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Florida's Top Omega-3 Fatty Acids-Seafood

One of the most recognized health benefits associated with eating seafood are Omega-3 fatty acids. These important substances are essential fatty acids that are required for healthy human development, but can't be manufactured by the body. They need to be obtained through food, and
fish and shellfish are considered to be the main dietary source.
Omega-3 fatty acids are important because help promote healthy brain and eye development in children and reduce heart disease in adults. U.S. health experts recommend a daily intake of 250 mg of Omega-3 fatty acids for the general population and 1000 mg for people with heart disease, and pregnant or breastfeeding women. Oily fish such as salmon, herring, and sardines are high in Omega-3 fatty acids. While these fish can usually be found in most retail stores in Florida, they are not caught or raised locally.
So how do some of Florida's top seafood species rank in Omega-3 Fatty Acids? The following list was compiled by seafood specialists with the University of Florida. Enjoy!

Approximate value for 4 ounces of raw, edible portions
 Fatty Acids
Catfish (farm-raised)
Blue crab
Stone crab (cooked 3 oz)
Spiny lobster
King mackerel
Spanish mackerel
Yellowfin tuna

Source: Sullivan, A.L. and Otwell, W.S. 1991
A Nutrient Database for Southeastern Seafoods: A Comprehensive Nutrient and Nomenclature Handbook for Selected Southeastern Species. Composition of Foods: Finfish and Shellfish, USDA Handbook 8-15

To learn more about the health benefits of seafood visit:

Sunday, March 11, 2012

FMNP Field Trip with Fish-Tale Marina

On Friday we took the 2nd field trip of our Florida Master Naturalist-Coastal Module. Thanks to the generous support of FishTale Marina we went out on one of their boats to do a little bird watching in the Estero Bay area. It was a great opportunity  to see several wading and waterbirds as well as learn about a variety of human-use issues in the area (e.g. poll & troll zones, shorebird nesting areas,  renourishment projects etc.). Of course, I can't leave out that we also saw manatees and dolphins! We couldn't have asked for better weather! After exploring the bay Captain Jay took our group to the southern end of Ft. Myers Beach where we did a little beach and lagoon exploration. We found crown conchs, blue crabs, fiddler crabs, lightning whelks, and worm egg sacks to name a few. Below is a list of birds we saw and several pictures from our trip. Enjoy!

(March 9th, 2012 Bird List)
Osprey, bald eagle, brown pelican, kingfisher, grackle spp., wood stork, great egret, reddish egret, snowy egret, great blue heron, little blue heron, tri-colored heron, white ibis, red breasted merganser, double crested cormorant, anhinga, ring billed gull, laughing gull, royal turn, ruddy turnstone, black vulture,  turkey vulture, palm warbler, and mocking bird.

Studens looking for a manatee spotted by some of the boat slips.
Joy giving the group an overview of what we'll be doing for the day.

Our class checking out some red breasted mergansers in Estero Bay.

Scouting out the mud flat up ahead for shorebirds

Joy explains to the group about proposed "poll and troll" zones to protect the bay's seagrass communities.

Captain Jay talks to our students about the dolphins commonly seen in the Estero Bay area

Just a few of our feathery friends we saw while out on the water
(brown pelicans, cormorants, ruddy turnstones, and laughing gulls)

The group checking out some dolphins in the bay.

Several bald eagles were spotted on Lovers Key. Joy is pointing out their next.

Lagoon and beach habitat on Ft. Myers beach

Exploration time!
I show the group a polychaete (marine worm) egg sack

A patch of shoal grass in the lagoon

A nice sized crown conch

Some young black mangroves that have established themselves along the shoreline

Nice lightning whelk!

Exploring the flats

Pneumatophores associated with black mangroves

Its not a field trip unless you get to hold a blue crab!!!!!!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Tarpon Genetics Recapture Study Video

Hey tarpon anglers...Watch and learn how to participate in the Tarpon Genetic Recapture Study.
You'll get a step-by-step look at how to take a tarpon DNA sample and submit it to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Researchers from the FWC and Mote Marine Laboratory use these samples to identify and track individual tarpon and learn about where they live, how far they travel, and how often they are recaptured. Participating anglers are kept up to date on results through annual newsletters and recapture letter notifications. To find out more about the study, including how to get involved, visit http://myfwc.com/research/saltwater/tarpon/genetics/

Friday, March 2, 2012

Puffer or Burr??

Perhaps some of the most interesting and favorite organisms to catch while seining in seagrass beds are puffer and burrfish. Because both of these species can inflate themselves as a defense mechanism, they are often generally referred to as "puffers". There are, however, differences between the two, and in fact they come from different families.

Pufferfish are members of of tetraodontidae family. They do not have any visible spines on their skin. The "tetra" in the family name refers to the four large fused teeth (2 on the top 2 on the bottom) that are used help the fish feed on crustaceans and mollusks. While several species can be found in southwest Florida, one of the most common is the Southern pufferfish (Sphoeroides nephelus).  They have a brown body which is paler below, and are adorned with a variety of darker and lighter spots and blotches. They also have tan rings and semicircles on their body. For a full description of the Southern pufferfish's biology and life history visit: http://www.sms.si.edu/irlspec/Sphoeroides_nephelus.htm

Burrfish are members of the diodontidae family. Unlike pufferfish they do have a series of spines covering their body. The "di" in the family name refers to the two large fused teeth (1 on the top and 1 on the bottom) that are used to help feed on crustaceans and mollusks. The most common burrfish species we see in southwest Florida is the striped burrfish (Chilomycterus schoepfii). They are light tan to yellow-brown above and white to yellowish and sometimes blackish below. In addition to spines that cover their body, they have a series of wavy and roughly parallel lines on the side of their body. For a full description of the striped burrfish's biology and life history visit: