Headshot of a man smiling in the woods

Keith Laakkonen

Sanctuary Director

As Sanctuary Director, Keith Laakkonen oversees the management of the 13,450-acre sanctuary and its 25 full- and part-time staff responsible for land conservation, research, policy, and public engagement.

Laakkonen, with more than 20 years of environmental management experience as a public servant, most recently worked for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as Director at Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Naples and as regional administrator for the Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection. During this time, he managed 110,000 acres of coastal lands and waters and oversaw the design and construction of the Ten Thousand Islands Field Station and Dormitory in Goodland. He also held the position of President of the National Estuarine Research Reserve Association which represents 30+ National Estuarine Research Reserves around the nation.

Prior to becoming director at Rookery Bay Research Reserve, Laakkonen held positions at Charlotte Harbor State Buffer Preserve, St. Martin’s Marsh Aquatic and Buffer Preserve in north central Florida, and as Environmental Sciences Coordinator for the Town of Fort Myers Beach where, in 2011, he earned the Guy Bradley award from Audubon Florida for his work protecting beach-nesting birds. His conservation career began at Florida Fish & Wildlife Cooperative Research Unit in Gainesville conducting research on American alligators.

Laakkonen is a Southwest Florida native, an avid birder, and a longtime member of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. A graduate of the University of Florida with a BS in wildlife ecology, Laakkonen completed his master’s degree at Florida Gulf Coast University with a focus on sea-level rise policy. His interests include watershed management, environmental policy, wildlife ecology, prescribed fire management, hydrologic restoration, exotic plant and animal management, and environmental education and outreach.