Whether you're in Florida for a week or for the season, enrich your experience by getting involved with Florida's efforts to protect and preserve our beautiful beaches and wildlife. From helping nesting sea turtles and shorebirds to lending a hand with oyster restoration, volunteer activities await you. Consider these:
Sea Turtle Nesting
Florida's sandy beaches provide critical nesting areas for sea turtles. Numerous organizations protect and monitor sea turtle nests, and rescue and rehabilitate sick or injured sea turtles. They depend on volunteers to help get the job done.
- Make a reservation in May to participate in a “turtle walk,” which is a supervised, educational beach walk, or during June or July to observe turtles nesting at night on the beach. Brevard County is a hot spot for sea turtle nesting. For information and reservations in Brevard, call the Sea Turtle Preservation Society (321-676-1701), Canaveral National Seashore (386-428-3384) or the Barrier Island Sanctuary (321-723-3556). Many organizations and parks all over Florida offer turtle walks during the June/July nesting season.
- Look for hatchlings on the beach or juvenile turtles that have washed up on the beach. Call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-888-404-3922 to report injured, expired or juvenile turtles you encounter on the beach. Also report anyone you see bothering a sea turtle or a sea turtle nest.
- Visit a sea turtle rehabilitation center or attend a lecture by a research scientist and learn the latest about what's going on with Florida's sea turtles. Check out the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, the Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet, the Sea Turtle Preservation Society in Melbourne Beach or The Turtle Hospital in Marathon.
Many of Florida's shorebirds nest right on the beach. They use the same beach areas that humans do, so it’s important to monitor and protect critical nesting areas and educate the public.
- Volunteer to walk the beach during shorebird nesting season to hand out educational materials.
- Volunteer to observe, identify and count nesting birds in cooperation with local governments and nonprofit organizations. Contact a Florida chapter of the Audubon Society to find out about shorebird monitoring, education and protection activities available to volunteers in the area you'll be visiting.
- Participate in the Audubon Society's Christmas Bird Count or in Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Great Backyard Bird Count, held each February.
Oysters are coming back. In Mosquito Lagoon, The Nature Conservancy is working with Dr. Linda Walters of the University of Central Florida and hundreds of volunteers to restore lost oyster beds. Volunteers construct and place “oyster mats” in the lagoon, which provide a place for seed oysters to take hold and grow. On the Gulf Coast, Tampa Bay Watch has led efforts to restore oyster beds in Tampa Bay through its oyster dome and oyster bar program.
- Participate in an oyster mat-making day. Visit The Nature Conservancy website for more information.
- Visit TampaBayWatch.org to find out how to participate in oyster restoration activities in Tampa Bay or other upcoming restoration activities.
Sound like fun? Volunteers in the right whale monitoring program help spot whales from the beach November to April. Right whales migrate from the New England area to the Atlantic coast of Georgia and Florida to give birth to their calves. Since there are so few right whales left in the wild, the Marine Resources Council has a program to monitor their movements, count them and notify ships in the area to prevent collisions with these huge, slow-moving whales.
- Volunteer as a participant in the whale monitoring program. There are two different levels of involvement and commitment.
- Attend an educational presentation or seminar and learn about right whales so you can tell other people.
- Find out more about the right whale project and how to get involved by visiting the Marine Resources Council website and the Marineland Right Whale Project website.
Beach cleanups keep trash off our beaches – trash that is not only unsightly, but poses a danger to animal life. Beach cleanup days happen regularly all over Florida, and anyone can participate.
- Contact a chapter of the Surfrider Foundation in the Florida city you will be visiting. The foundation schedules regular beach cleanups composed entirely of volunteers.
- Sign up for the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup, which takes place in September (usually the third Saturday).