FIU and Rookery Bay Reserve form research, education partnership

An aerial view of the Rookery Bay field station dock in Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve

An aerial view of the Rookery Bay field station dock in Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve


Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and 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 development of science-driven monitoring and management approaches to these issues.

“Current watershed-level restoration projects, such as the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), 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 instruction in environmental studies to students;
  • Promoting shared use of facilities, vessels, vehicles and informational resources
  • Establishing internships and research projects in environmental studies 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;
  • Expanding FIU’s partnerships in southwest Florida ecosystems science, management and education fields with federal, local and state 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 it research collaboration with the local universities as well as the reserve.”

A joint research and educational support facility is being planned to house future education and research 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.