Summer 2021 Volunteer Newsletter

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Summer - Fall 2021  •  Newsletter Celebrating Volunteers

Volunteering with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) can look like many different things, from planting trees and constructing fences to shoreline clean-ups and species monitoring. In this quarterly edition, we share some projects that showcase this variety, ranging from the results of a scientific publication on citizen science data accuracy to the dedication and commitment of Ridge Ranger and Suncoast Youth Conservation Center volunteers. We hope our newsletter inspires you to volunteer and support the place you visit or call home.

— the FWC's Volunteer Program Team

Citizen Science

- Berlynna Heres


Florida Horseshoe Crab Watch Volunteer with a tagged horseshoe crab. FWC photo.

Are your volunteer efforts making a difference?

Yes, friends…they are.

The recent publication, “Using Citizen Science to Track Population Trends in the American Horseshoe Crab (Limulus polyphemus) in Florida” examines two large scale citizen science programs conducted by the FWC and other educational partners to monitor horseshoe crab presence and population. These two programs are the spawning horseshoe crab sighting public reports and the Florida Horseshoe Crab Watch program. The public report program asks members of the public to report any horseshoe crab spawning activity they see while out and about, at the beach, boating, or hiking. The publication found that over time the quality of the reports improved thanks to the introduction of innovative technology such as the Survey123 reporter app. The Florida Horseshoe Crab Watch program is a more intensive citizen science program requiring a four-hour training including hands on learning stations. The publication found that there was no significant difference between the quality of the data collected by volunteers and the data collected by professionals. Such results add confidence in data that can impact real world management decisions from well-designed projects like this one.


Volunteers of Florida Horseshoe Crab Watch measure a horseshoe crab. Photo by UF/IFAS.

The study highlights the incredible value of volunteering. Volunteers of the program have made over 5,000 educational contacts while surveying. Teaching others about the biology and ecological role of the horseshoe crabs while getting hands-on experience with an animal they otherwise would not see often is an invaluable opportunity. It would be impossible for scientific agencies to have collected this large amount of data alone or come close to the outreach achieved by the volunteers!

You can access the full publication here

To learn more about horseshoe crabs in Florida follow this link, FWC Horseshoe Crab Page.

Building Fences

- Tessie Offner


FWC's Ridge Ranger volunteers Gerald Fortner (white shirt) and Bill Smith (grey shirt) install fence posts. FWC photo.

It is said that good fences make good neighbors. Managed natural areas are frequently fenced to guide people to safe access points for wildlife viewing, protect wildlife and vegetation from vehicle damage, and create a visual boundary for the public. Fences are often an important tool for managing Florida’s natural resources.

This summer, the Ridge Rangers assisted FWC staff with installing fences around the Holmes Tract of the Lake Wales Ridge Wildlife and Environmental Area (WEA) located in Highlands County. Time and skills were required to build a fence that will last many years. Fence construction is a multi-step process and teamwork is essential!

Before hanging the barbed wire or field fence, volunteers dug holes along the boundary line using a tractor with an augur or by hand using post hole diggers. Special braces, known as H-braces, were constructed at corners and every quarter mile to add strength to the fence line and secure the wire fencing.


FWC's Ridge Ranger Connie Sweet nails fence staples to hold the barbed wire in place. FWC photo.

Fence posts were then lowered into the holes at a depth of two feet, and the holes were packed tightly with sand using a tamper.


FWC's Ridge Ranger volunteer Bill Smith installs fence posts. FWC photo.

Once posts were in place, barbed wire or field fence was stretched from corner to corner and secured with staples. Finally, WEA signs were placed on the posts to guide the public on where to go for more information regarding the WEA and its activities and regulations.

Ridge Rangers helped with the entire fencing process and are an invaluable asset to our FWC team. If you would like to join us for this type of project or other projects that protect central Florida’s Lake Wales Ridge, check out our Ridge Rangers calendar at and sign up. We’d love to have you!


Completed fence with area signs. This fence is protecting the habitat of Florida scrub-jays. Their territory includes the trees pictured beyond the fence in this photo. FWC photo.

Volunteer to Career 

Micheal Taylor 


Photo contributed by Micheal Taylor.

“Assisting with prescribed fires, working as a team, building focus and one’s social capital with awesome conservationists” are all in a day’s work for Micheal Taylor at FWC’s Box-R Wildlife Management Area (WMA). Mike’s journey to become part of the FWC’s family began with Conservation Corps of the Forgotten & Emerald Coasts, a partner of GulfCorps. GulfCorps is a program administered by The Nature Conservancy.

Mike was drawn to the Conservation Corps because they offered a program called ED Corps which helped him graduate high school as well as make an allowance that provided for his family. Through the Conservation Corps, Mike found diversity in duties and meaningful hands-on experiences working with endangered plants and animals. Although conservation always had his interest growing up in Franklin County, the Conservation Corps presented an opportunity that eventually landed him employment as a Fish and Wildlife Technician for the FWC.

“I’ve come a long way from where I started,” Mike said. He wanted to share his experience to motivate students and young professionals to join the Conservation Corps because it is his belief that you can greatly increase your knowledge of conservation while figuring out your skills and interests.

Check out Mike’s inspiring story:

Visit Box-R WMA:

Julian Von Kanel


Julian Von Kanel takes notes during a black rail survey. FWC photo.

Julian Von Kanel started volunteering in February 2021, shortly after getting his master’s degree at Lund University working with songbirds. His first volunteering experience was assisting with surveys for the federally threatened eastern black rail in J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area (WMA). Immediately after his first day in the field, he decided to volunteer as much as possible to learn about the many projects that FWC biologists conduct. Julian participated in wading bird surveys, shorebird monitoring, crested caracara surveys, vegetation clearing before a prescribed burn, drift fence building, the Python Challenge, and much more.

In early August, Julian was hired for a seasonal position as a hunter check station operator for Holey Land, Rotenberger and Everglades and Francis S. Taylor WMAs. Currently, he is working as a Biological Scientist II at STA 2 and STA 3/4 checking in and out hunters, recording the number of waterfowl that hunters harvest, interacting with FWC’s law enforcement officers, and being a resource to the hunters. Thank you, Julian, for your commitment to conserve Florida’s wildlife!


Julian Von Kanel works as a Hunter Check Station Operator. FWC photo.

SYCC Volunteer Accomplishments 

 - Kathy Guindon


Volunteers after paddling from the SYCC to Apollo Beach Preserve to remove trash. FWC photo.

The Suncoast Youth Conservation Center (SYCC) is a partnership between the FWC, Tampa Electric Company (TECO) and the Florida Aquarium working to reconnect kids with nature and outdoor activities. Located in Apollo Beach, the SYCC provides learning opportunities along the eastern shore of Tampa Bay.

This year, the SYCC hosted several clean-ups with TECO and have facilitated the participation of 137 volunteers who contributed a total of 300 hours. During one of the latest clean-ups, volunteers learned how to kayak while collecting trash at Apollo Beach Preserve, a local county park. The experience included a 1.5 mile paddle to reach the beach, where the group collected trash throughout the shoreline of the park. Feeling accomplished, the volunteers then hauled the trash back to the SYCC where it was counted and weighed. The totals were submitted as part of a citizen science program through the Ocean Conservancy!

In addition to the Apollo Beach Preserve clean-up, a group of 30 volunteers planted native trees around the SYCC, contributing a total of 69 hours. Volunteers planted red maples, cedars, live oak, and cypress trees.


Volunteers get ready to plant native trees at the SYCC. FWC photo.

Volunteer Opportunities

Florida Conservation and Technology Center

Are you or anyone you know interested in becoming a weekly educational volunteer at the Florida Conservation and Technology Center (FCTC)?

This partnership between the FWC, Tampa Electric Company and The Florida Aquarium includes the Manatee Viewing Center, Cownose Cove stingray touch tank, Clean Energy Center, and Center for Conservation in Apollo Beach.
If interested and you can commit to a weekly 4-hour shift, please fill out the application for the official docent program. Information about the trainings and expectations for our volunteers can be found here

Suncoast Youth Conservation Center

Is a weekly commitment too much for your schedule? Perhaps you would rather volunteer after school, once a month, or some weekends here and there to help at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center campus for a special need. If so, please use this link to submit a volunteer form indicating your areas of interest:

The Skyway Fishing Pier

The Skyway Fishing Pier is looking for enthusiastic Bird Ambassadors to join our ELRT Team. We are currently recruiting Educators, Lookouts, Responders, and Transporters. Check out the position details at

Regional Connection

Regional 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 regional program biologist.

Brendan O'Connor - Southwest Region Volunteer Program Biologist

Dani Lacy - Northwest Region Volunteer Program Biologist


In addition to your generously donated time and talent, we welcome tax-deductible monetary contributions to the FWC Volunteer Program. Visit the Volunteer with FWC - Fish and 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!