Fall Quarterly Volunteer Newsletter

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Fall 2019  •  Quarterly Newsletter Celebrating Volunteers

The FWC’s volunteers continue to amaze! In this quarterly edition, we showcase volunteer work with scrub-jays, shorebirds, nonnative plants and animals, debris removal, oyster monitoring, scallop rodeos and much more. We are thankful for our volunteers and cannot succeed without their dedication and support. Along with volunteers, we are able to have a positive impact for Florida’s fish and wildlife. If projects in this newsletter interest you, we encourage you to get involved and become part of the FWC community. Continue to check us out, like and share our Facebook page by searching for FWC Volunteers! Enjoy!

— FWC's Volunteer Program Team

Jay Watch  

Jay Watch advanced training group photo.

Jay Watch advanced training participants. Photo courtesy of Jacqui Sulek.

Jay Watch Training

Audubon Florida and the FWC co-hosted an Advanced Training for seasoned Jay Watch participants. Volunteers learned how to fine tune their data collection and navigational skills in the Ocala National Forest. Many of these volunteers served as group leaders during this year’s Jay Watch surveys. Advanced trainings prepare experienced Jay Watchers to lead teams in the field and ensure accurate data is recorded.

Volunteers survey for scrub jays in a UTV

Volunteers Virginia Hall, Brinda Curran, Carey LaRosa, and Scott LaRosa tackle a day in the scrub!  Photo courtesy of Logan McDonald.

Jay Watch Surveys

That’s a wrap! Another year of Jay Watch surveys were successfully completed around the state. During June and July, dedicated volunteers collected invaluable data on the Florida scrub jay. We would like to thank all the dedicated volunteers that have helped to conserve Florida’s only endemic bird species!

Pet Amnesty Day

Thank you to the volunteers who helped June 1st at the Central Florida Zoo for Exotic Pet Amnesty Day! Volunteers took photos, greeted guests, and helped with setup and break down of the event. By the end of the day, 29 animals found new homes. The Exotic Pet Amnesty Program aims to prevent the release of nonnative pets into the wild. Thanks for supporting the mission, Don’t Let It Loose!

a bearded dragon

A bearded dragon ready for a new home. Photo by FWC staff.

Ridge Rangers

Ridge Rangers clean up roofing shingles

Ridge Rangers remove roofing shingles, some of which were embedded in the soil. Photo by FWC staff.

In August, the FWC's Ridge Rangers took action to remove debris, mostly roofing shingles, from the Carter Creek Scrub Preserve. The shingles had been dumped on site before the FWC property had been fenced. Ridge Rangers used shovels and rakes to load the shingles onto a trailer to be removed. Over three tons (6,000 lbs.) of shingles were hauled off the property over two workday events. Thank you to everyone who participated in this cleanup!

Showy Rattlebox Removal

Volunteers display removed showy rattlebox

Volunteers and staff brave the Florida summer temperatures removing the showy rattlebox plant from an eight-acre area of the Chinsegut Wildlife and Environmental Area. Photo by FWC staff.

On September 11, eight volunteers, contributing 36 hours, assisted FWC staff to hand pull an invasive plant called showy rattlebox from the Chinsegut Wildlife and Environmental Area in Brooksville, Hernando County. Showy rattlebox is a nonnative plant that can be poisonous to dogs and livestock. It displaces many of Florida’s native plant species. Staff and volunteers removed the plant from approximately 10 acres, preventing its continued spread.

Volunteers search for showy rattlebox in the field

Volunteers and FWC staff removed showy rattlebox at the Big Pine tract of the Chinsegut Wildlife and Environmental Area. Photo by FWC staff.

Pelican Nesting Materials Update

Pelicans nesting

Photo by Kim Middlebrooks, FWC staff.

In February, volunteers took sticks and other nesting material to a small spoil island in Bay County. Thanks to this effort brown pelicans were able to build over 140 nests on the island. The island looked so inviting that over 500 laughing gulls nested there as well!

Bay County Oyster Project

Oysters are measured by volunteers

Volunteers measure oysters. Photo by FWC staff.

Another successful monitoring season has wrapped up for the West Bay Oyster Reef Restoration project in Bay County! Eleven volunteers contributed over 170 hours assisting staff in measuring reef height, counting and measuring oyster spat, and conducting seagrass coverage surveys. We appreciate their hard work and effort to contribute to oyster and seagrass restoration in the bay!

Bay Scallop Rodeo Results 

Volunteers show off scallops collected and placed in predator exclusion cages.

Volunteers show off the collected scallops. Photo by Jen Granneman, FWC staff.

The Second Annual Scallop Rodeos were held on July 20th and August 3rd in St. Andrews and St. Joseph Bays, respectively. Between these two events, 144 volunteers collected over 8,000 scallops that will be used in restoration efforts. The collected scallops were returned to the bay in predator-exclusion cages in closed areas to discourage predation and promote successful spawning. Thank you to everyone who participated!

National Estuaries Week Facebook Photo Contest Winners

Congratulations to our Photo Contest winners! National Estuaries Week was September 14th to 21st and to celebrate the occasion we hosted a photo contest through Facebook. Thank you for the wonderful submissions; selecting a winner was very difficult! Be sure to follow our FWC Volunteers page for more fun ways to engage with Florida’s natural areas.

The front of a red kayak overlooks a river framed by trees and blue sky

First Place - Brooke Longval 

A young man stands knee deep in water casting for fish

Second Place - Erin Beamon

A close up of a swimming cottonmouth snake

Third Place - Dave W. Fox

Golden and blue sunrise over crashing surf at the beach

Honorable Mention - Madison Nelson

The front of a sailboat on the bay with the setting sun over a distant city

Honorable Mention - Brooke Longval

Upcoming Events

A scrub jay and the words "Jay Watch" make a logo

Jay Watch Appreciation Event - November 

Did you participate in Jay Watch surveys this year? Join Audubon Florida for an appreciation event at Archbold Biological Station on Saturday, November 23rd.  Contact Jacqui Sulek (jsulek@audubon.org) to RSVP!

a scrub jay and oak trees make up the Ridge Rangers logo

Ridge Ranger Roundup!

If you’re in Florida year-round or simply visiting for a few months, consider joining the Ridge Rangers! This volunteer task force focuses on conservation efforts on and around the Lake Wales Ridge. New events are added to our calendar every week. There are no dues and no commitment, simply sign up and join us for a lovely day protecting some of the most critical wildlife habitat in Florida!

Sign up here!

Volunteer Program Highlights

FSA Report Summary

Who's amazing? You are!

The Florida Shorebird Alliance (FSA) has just released the 2019 “Florida Shorebird Alliance Monitoring Data at Work” annual report. FSA is a partnership of agencies, organizations, volunteers, concerned citizens, businesses, non-profits and more that are committed to the advancement of shorebird and seabird conservation in Florida. This annual report, led by FWRI’s shorebird data team, presents monitoring data from 2011-2018. It summarizes how FSA monitoring data is used to measure progress toward conservation goals, identify information gaps, and adaptively manage for the long-term recovery of shorebird and seabird populations.

A huge THANK YOU to all the volunteers, shorebird monitors, stewards, and FSA partners. This report reflects your hard work and dedication!

FWC Internships

The FWC offers a wide range of internships throughout Florida. Internships offer college-level students or post-graduates an opportunity to spend a semester working with various programs and learning how our agency operates. If you are interested in applying or finding out more information, please follow this link: https://myfwc.com/get-involved/internships/

National Public Lands Day 

National Environmental Education Foundation logo

We hope you celebrated 2019’s National Public Lands Day (NPLD) by volunteering or just getting outside to enjoy our public lands! 

The FWC's Ridge Rangers assisted staff at Highlands Hammock State Park by improving historic trails and removing invasive species. THANK YOU to everyone who made it out!  

Check out the National Environmental Education Foundation’s website for the National Public Lands Day 2019 Impact. This foundation is the nation’s leading organization in lifelong environmental learning, working to make the environment more accessible, relatable, relevant, and connected to the daily lives of all Americans.

FWC Initiatives

Coral Crew Initiative 

Coral Crew volunteers display their tee-shirts

Photo credit FWC staff.

Are YOU in the CREW?

More than 10,000 of you have joined our Florida Coral Crew! Thank you! We know there are more sportsmen and women and others out there that want healthy, beautiful coral reefs. To receive more information about what we’re doing with our partners to address Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease, sign up today at FLCoralCrew.com!

Help Document Disorder Impacting Florida Panthers

The FWC is investigating a disorder detected in some Florida panthers and bobcats. Affected animals exhibit rear leg weaknesses and difficulty walking. Trail camera footage is extremely helpful in identifying animals that are possibly affected. If you have video or photos of affected panthers or bobcats, please contact  


Learn more here

Regional Connection

Our Volunteer Program Biologists 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 Volunteer Program Biologist.

Brendan O'Connor - Southwest Region Volunteer Program Biologist

Andrea Pereyra - South Region Volunteer Program Biologist

COMING SOON - NEW Northeast Region Volunteer Program Biologist 

Emily Hardin - Northwest Region Volunteer Program Biologist 


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. 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!