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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (October 25, 2017) – Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve's Team OCEAN (Ocean Conservation Education Action Network) was presented the Guy Bradley Award during the 2017 Audubon Assembly in St. Augustine. The sold-out event is Florida’s signature conservation gathering and brought together more than 300 of Florida’s conservation leaders.
The Guy Bradley Award is given in honor of the late Audubon Warden Guy Bradley, who was murdered by poachers while on patrol in 1905. The award is reserved for those who have given of themselves and set an example for others in protecting Florida's birds and wildlife. Audubon selected the volunteer group because of their stewardship of Second Chance Critical Wildlife Area (CWA), as well as their environmental outreach and education efforts throughout Rookery Bay.
“Just like Guy Bradley, Team OCEAN volunteers spent the hot summer on the water near Second Chance, educating boaters about the island’s protections and the vulnerability of the threatened species nesting there,” said Julie Wraithmell, Audubon Florida’s deputy director. “Species like Least Terns and Black Skimmers are now fledging chicks at Second Chance, thanks to the CWA protections and the stewardship Team OCEAN provides.”
In addition to their extraordinary work engaging boaters at Second Chance, Team OCEAN volunteers also perform other services on the reserve. These include posting and maintaining crossover trails and nesting areas, assisting with shorebird and sea turtle monitoring, responding to reports of wildlife in distress, and educating the community about the protection of natural resources within the reserve.
"DEP's longstanding partnership with Audubon has resulted in the protection of many of Florida's beach-nesting birds," said Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Noah Valenstein. "Rookery Bay is a special habitat, and I'm proud of Team OCEAN's dedication to preservation and education regarding its natural resources."
"Rookery Bay is honored to receive this recognition from Audubon," said Keith Laakkonen, Rookery Bay Research Reserve director. "Team OCEAN works hard to get the word out about some of the reserve's unique coastal habitats such as Second Chance CWA and Keewaydin Island, and we've made great strides in reaching tourists, residents, and boaters about the importance of our natural resources and how to help protect our resident beach-nesting birds."
Rookery Bay, in cooperation with Audubon Florida and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, closes the Second Chance CWA annually from March 1 - Aug. 31, for nesting season. This closure increases the likelihood of successful breeding and preserves threatened Florida species such as the Least Tern.
"Team OCEAN is a group of volunteers who have taken the challenge to educate themselves to a very high level about the environment and proper stewardship of our natural resources," said Jayson Horadam, Team OCEAN volunteer coordinator. "With this knowledge, they have engaged in the ultimate outreach program: educating the public, stakeholders, and users in Rookery Bay NERR via boat on the water and beaches. Due to this unique ability and education, they were able to pivot their efforts to Second Chance with dedication and determination. It is an honor and privilege to work with this talented group of people who have donated so much of their own time to help protect the natural resources in Rookery Bay Research Reserve often under difficult conditions without complaint."
Team OCEAN is a boat-based volunteer program. During the first half of 2017, Team OCEAN's 58 volunteers donated more than 2,000 collective hours.
To learn more about volunteering with Audubon statewide or Team OCEAN in Collier County, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here for photo. Caption: From left to right: Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein; Team OCEAN Volunteer Coordinator Jayson Horadam; Tom Marquardt, Team OCEAN; Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper.
Click here for photo. Caption: From left to right: Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper; Team OCEAN Volunteer Coordinator Jayson Horadam; Audubon Florida Deputy Director Julie Wraithmell.
About Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve encompasses 110,000 acres of coastal lands and waters and is managed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Coastal Office in partnership with NOAA. Its mission is to provide a basis for informed stewardship of estuaries in Southwest Florida through research and education. For more information, visit www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal, www.nerrs.noaa.gov, or www.rookerybay.org.
About Audubon Florida
For more than a century Audubon has encouraged people to take care of the places that make Florida special. Using science to guide our priorities and birdlife to measure ecosystem health, Audubon advocates for the protection of land, water, and wildlife. Audubon is Florida’s most influential conservation organization and conducts extensive work to protect the Everglades and coastal bird habitats. We manage sanctuaries covering thousands of acres along with two popular nature centers. Audubon promotes stewardship and appreciation of public land and water so people experience and cherish Florida’s natural beauty and wildlife.