GTM Research Reserve Volunteers Receive Award

DEP Press Release header


CONTACT: Patrician Price, 904-823-4506,

GTM Research Reserve Volunteers Honored
with Daily Point of Light Award


Ruben Allen (left) and Jeff Finnan (right) are recipients of the Daily Point of Light Award.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. - The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTM Research Reserve) announces that two of its volunteers, Ruben Allen and Jeff Finnan, are recipients of the Daily Point of Light Award for their outstanding community service.

"We are thrilled that two of our volunteers are being acknowledged for their commitment to helping with our research, education and stewardship programs," said Dr. Michael Shirley, director of the GTM Research Reserve. "GTM Research Reserve would not be able to achieve all its projects without the dedication of its volunteers."

The Daily Point of Light Award was established by the late President George H. W. Bush recognizing extraordinary volunteers who donate their time and talent to better their communities. This award has inspired and recognized thousands for their voluntary service and celebrated the impact volunteers have on communities around the world. More than 6,500 honorees have been named to date.

For the past five years, Ruben Allen has been volunteering in all aspects of research, education and community outreach efforts at GTM. He has been instrumental in educating more than 4,000 students a year, along with teaching "GTM for All," which promotes greater accessibility to the GTM Research Reserve for visitors with unique abilities such as vision and hearing challenges. Ruben has helped these students learn about the reserve by pulling a seine net through the Guana Lake and inspiring them to become involved in environmental issues. He has also assisted with education's virtual reality (VR) long-distance learning program, which brings the estuary to the teachers and students with the aid of headsets. In addition, Ruben patrols over seven miles of GTM's beach, once a week from April to October, as a member of the marine turtle patrol. He also serves as the lead on fisheries, oyster monitoring and nekton surveys. In 2019, Ruben received GTM's 2019 Volunteer of the Year Award.

As a volunteer for two years, Jeff Finnan has contributed to GTM's research programs -- spending hours on a boat in the ever-changing Florida weather -- collecting nekton data. He also leads the monthly hikes for GTM's education program, teaching the public about the Reserve's natural and cultural history. Additionally, Jeff conducts community outreach at local festivals where he educates the public about DEP and the work being done at GTM Research Reserve. He volunteers with the oyster monitoring project, water quality data sampling and marsh vegetation monitoring. Jeff has volunteered more than 400 hours at the Reserve in less than two years!

For more information about volunteering at the GTM Research Reserve, email Volunteer Coordinator Shannon Rininger or call 904-823-4500.