FWC Volunteer Spotlight Spring 2019

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Spring 2019  •  Quarterly Newsletter Celebrating Volunteers

In this Spring 2019 edition, we share some of our amazing volunteer projects including wading bird surveys, Florida State Fair, and blue bird box building. We also feature two of our FWC interns and their role in native species conservation. We're also excited to reveal our new Facebook page where we will be sharing volunteer opportunities and recognizing all the efforts of FWC volunteers in action! 

- FWC Regional Volunteer Team

Wading bird breeding season

Wood stork

Top photo: Federally threatened wood stork. Photo by Andrea Pereyra, FWC. Bottom photo: State threatened tricolored heron. Photo by Natasha Warraich, FWC.

It’s that time of the year again! Wading bird nesting season is a time when we are lucky enough to observe wading birds displaying courtship behaviors and fluffy chicks frantically begging for food. Since December 2018, volunteers have assisted FWC staff with monthly wading bird surveys at active breeding sites, sites with courtship behavior, nest-building activities, eggs or young.

Armed with binoculars and data sheets, volunteers record the number of adults, nests, chicks and juvenile wading bird species they observe. These surveys primarily focus on species listed as State Threatened on Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species List. In addition, volunteers also collect data for wood storks, great egrets, great blue herons and any other herons they observe.

If you enjoy observing wading birds, please remember to keep your distance to avoid flushing birds from active nests and to never enter prohibited areas.

Arthur and Melissa Vercillo

FWC Volunteers, Arthur and Melissa Vercillo. Photo by Andrea Pereyra, FWC.

Like us on Facebook! 

The Volunteer Program is excited to introduce our new Facebook page! We are looking forward to using this page to celebrate our volunteers and interns, give updates on volunteer projects across the state and let people know about upcoming events and volunteer opportunities. Please feel free to check us out by searching for FWC Volunteers on Facebook!


FWC interns

Christopher Gallon and Britney Park are FWC interns who have been conducting research projects in south Florida since early January.

Chris is evaluating the effectiveness of different types of traps for the capture and removal of invasive green iguanas from an area where the State Threatened burrowing owl and gopher tortoise are present. The importance of this project lies in what these three species have in common: they all shelter in burrows. FWC staff have observed green iguanas utilizing burrowing owl burrows and gopher tortoise burrows, sometimes forcing these imperiled species to abandon their burrows in search for a new home. Determining how to control the iguana population could help reduce the disturbance exerted on the burrowing owls and gopher tortoises.

Britney is surveying amphibians and reptiles in J. W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area and Hungryland Wildlife Environmental Area. The goal of this project is to produce a list of species present in the different natural communities as per Florida Natural Areas Inventory classification. Eighteen sampling sites, consisting of four artificial cover objects (ACO) and one PVC pipe trap each, are visited weekly. ACOs and PVC pipes are regularly used in herpetological surveys because they attract amphibians and reptiles because they trap moisture and provide shelter. Species observed are recorded, photographed and released onsite. In addition to these visits, a frog call count will be conducted this month to complement the visual encounter surveys.

Britney and Chris have assisted the FWC collecting important data while learning about Florida habitats, wildlife species and fieldwork techniques. Thank you Interns for your time, effort and motivation!

andrea britney

Top photo: Britney Park, FWC intern, and Andrea Pereyra, FWC staff, installing artificial cover objects in Corbett WMA. Middle photo: Britney Park, FWC Intern, by a PVC pipe trap. Bottom photo: Christopher Gallon, FWC intern, carrying a trap to capture green iguanas. FWC photos.

Citizen Science Association Conference

Sharon Tatem (Volunteer Program Manager), Logan McDonald (Northeast Region Volunteer Coordinator) and Emily Hardin (Northwest Region Volunteer Coordinator) participated in the 2019 Citizen Science Association Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina. Logan and Emily were accepted as presenters to share best practices and projects that the FWC has implemented using volunteers and interns to enhance conservation programs within the agency. They had a wonderful time sharing and learning about other citizen science projects across the globe! The FWC Volunteer Program joined the newly formed CSA natural resources working group which includes partners such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, North Carolina Fish and Wildlife, the South Atlantic Fisheries Council and more.


Top photo: Emily Hardin, and bottom photo, Logan McDonald, FWC staff, presenting at the CSA conference.

Purple martins and bats!

A big thank you to a hard-working group of Eagle Scouts who recently constructed and donated purple martin houses and bat houses for Hungryland Wildlife Environmental Area (WEA)! Eagle Scouts built and installed three purple martin houses and six bat boxes within the WEA. FWC biologists hope the houses attract these desired wildlife and plan to monitor the structures to determine if purple martins and bats are using their respective man-made houses.

purple martin

Eagle scouts preparing a purple martin house for installation. Photo by Jackie Gomar, FWC.

bat house

Eagle Scouts installing a bat house. Photo by Jackie Gomar, FWC.

Volunteer to careers

We are happy to welcome former volunteer, Zach Holmes, as an FWC biologist! We can’t thank Zach enough for his involvement in Jay Watch, southeastern American kestrel monitoring and red-cockaded woodpecker monitoring. Zach will continue working with Florida scrub-jays as he assists our FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute with translocation studies, nest searching and monitoring, and conducting post breeding surveys.


Zach Holmes, FWC staff, with a newly banded Florida Scrub-Jay. FWC photo.

Volunteer accomplishments

Volunteer of the Year

Congratulations to Robert Darling for a well-deserved award! Bob, as he likes to be called, was awarded “Volunteer of the Year” by the Division of Habitat and Species Conservation of the FWC. He has helped the FWC protect Florida’s fish and wildlife by investing countless hours, endless energy and valued expertise towards nonnative species management. Thank you, Bob, for all you do and for the great moments shared in the field!


Eric Suarez, Conservation Biologist, Robert Darling, FWC Volunteer, and Kipp Frohlich, HSC Division Director. FWC photo.

Another successful year at the 2019 Florida State Fair

The FWC has participated in the Florida State Fair for over 20 years. In 2019, we had a range of species on display, including an American alligator, turkeys, red drum, scallops, and snook. An estimated 198,272 visitors passed through the Red Barn where the FWC had its exhibitions. 13 volunteers participated, contributing 143 hours. FWC volunteers assisted staff with discussing the public’s areas of interest as well as answering their questions. A huge thank you to all the volunteers involved!

largemouth bass

Largemouth bass. Photo by Brendan O'Connor, FWC.

Happy pelicans

In February, volunteers joined staff from the FWC, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Audubon Florida to help place nesting materials on a small spoil island for pelicans. Five volunteers helped to spread out sticks onto Audubon Island in Bay County in preparation for the pelican nesting season. A survey in March found over 60 pelicans already nesting on the island utilizing the sticks!

Pelican nesting

Volunteers and FWC staff spread out nesting materials. Photo by Britt Brown, FWC.

Bluebird nest box building

A huge thank you to everyone that helped build bluebird nest boxes at Chinsegut Conservation Center in January!  The boxes have been deployed at Ross Prairie Wildlife Management Area to replace damaged and aged boxes.


Logan McDonald, FWC staff, with FWC volunteers who built blue bird nest boxes at Chinsegut Conservation Center.

Chick shelter building

A team of volunteers in the southwest region constructed chick shelters from pallets and old posting. These shelters provide beach nesting shorebirds with access to shade from the sun, and a place to hide from avian predators. They will be placed on beaches along the southwest Florida coastline where beach nesting occurs and will be monitored by various partner organizations involved in the Florida Shorebird Alliance.

chick shelter

Connie Sweet and Craig Sweet, FWC Volunteers, construct chick shelters. FWC photo.

Upcoming events

2nd Annual Apalachicola National Forest Wetlands Clean-up

Tallahassee, FL. Wednesday, April 24, 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm EST

Join the FWC, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Coastal Plains Institute for the 2nd Annual Wetlands Clean-up in Apalachicola National Forest! See the FWC’s outreach calendar for more information.

City Nature Challenge Leon County, FL

April 26 – 29 (Friday – Monday)

Join us as we compete against 170 cities around the world in the 2019 City Nature Challenge. By making observations in iNaturalist anywhere in Leon County between April 26 and 29, you can help Leon County win the challenge while gathering valuable data about the species found within its borders. Document your finds at home, in your neighborhood with friends and family or at one of our planned events. Join our Leon County City Nature Challenge iNaturalist project and come out to our events in April to take part.

Jay Watch Trainings

Jay Watch volunteers conduct scientific surveys that measure annual nesting success and count the total number of Florida Scrub-Jays at more than 46 sites in 19 counties. Learn more about how you can get involved to conserve Florida’s only endemic bird, the Florida Scrub-Jay: http://fl.audubon.org/get-involved/jay-watch

Find a training date near you!

  • Tuesday, May 7: Hickey’s Creek Mitigation Park and Caloosahatchee Regional Park, Lee County

  • Thursday, May 9: Shamrock Park, Sarasota County

  • Saturday, May 11: Duette Preserve, Manatee County

  • Saturday, May 11: Lyonia Preserve, Volusia County

  • Saturday, May 11: Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek State Park and FFA Leadership Training Center, Polk County

  • Saturday, May 18: Cross Florida Greenway, Marion County

  • Saturday, June 1: Royce Ranch/FWC, Highlands County

  • Saturday, June 8: Savannas Preserve State Park, St. Lucie County

Advanced training will be held for experienced Jay Watchers only on June 13-14 in the Ocala National Forest.

For more details or to register for a training, please contact Jacqui Sulek jsulek@audubon.org.

scrub jay

Scrub-jay. Photo by Brendan O'Connor, FWC.

2019 Lionfish Removal & Awareness Day Destin, FL

May 18 – 19, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm CST (Festival) and May 16 – 19 (Tournament)

The 2019 Lionfish Removal & Awareness Day Festival and Tournament are coming up! Join us at HarborWalk Village for family-friendly activities, lionfish cooking demonstrations, live music and vendor booths. If you are a certified diver, you can enter the Emerald Coast Open tournament to remove lionfish and earn cash prizes. To volunteer at weigh-in stations and with other tasks associated with the tournament, please visit the Emerald Coast Open volunteer page. Please note these are not FWC volunteer positions.

Become a Scallop Sitter

The FWC is working to restore bay scallops in St. Andrews Bay (Bay County) and St. Joseph Bay (Gulf County) and we need your help! If you live on or near one of these bays and have access to the water (via dock, boat, kayak, etc.) then you could become a Scallop Sitter. Sitters are provided with a predator-exclusion cage of juvenile scallops that they monitor throughout the scallops’ life cycle. All you have to do is attend a pre-season workshop, and check and clean your scallops once a month from June to January. If you are interested in learning more, please visit our website

Regional connection

Our Regional Volunteer Coordinators are specialists who bring their biological and citizen science expertise to recruit, train and manage volunteers for research, habitat enhancement and stewardship projects throughout Florida. Click here to locate your region to identify your regional coordinator.

Brendan O'Connor - Southwest Region Volunteer Coordinator

Andrea Pereyra - South Region Volunteer Coordinator

Logan McDonald - Northeast Region Volunteer Coordinator

Emily Hardin - Northwest Region Volunteer Coordinator


In addition to your generously donated time and talent, we welcome tax-deductible monetary contributions. Visit the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida to make a donation. Indicate FWC Volunteer Programs under the subheading Donation on behalf of / In Memory of within the section Make a Tribute or Memorial Gift. Your support will help us expand volunteer opportunities as we work to foster a statewide network of conservation volunteers. Thank you for supporting Florida's fish and wildlife resources!