Southwest Region Volunteer Program

Southwest Region Counties include: Charlotte, DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Manatee, and Sarasota.

The Southwest Region Volunteer Program involves a wide range of conservation projects aimed at conserving, monitoring, and protecting species and habitats. We advertise out volunteer opportunities on the FWC Calendar External Website. The following projects take place throughout the southwest region.  


TortoiseGopher Tortoise Surveys

Volunteers are needed to conduct gopher tortoise burrow surveys on development sites permitted for the incidental take of gopher tortoises. Gopher tortoise burrow surveys are necessary to determine the number of burrows that would potentially be impacted by a development project, and ensure that all tortoises living in those burrows are humanely relocated off site.

We also conduct gopher tortoise burrow surveys on our Wildlife Management Areas as needed.

Location: All counties

Timeframe: Year-round


Kestrel MonitoringSoutheast American Kestrel Monitoring Project

This statewide project is undertaken in the southwest region in Polk, Manatee and Hernando counties. Volunteers travel to inspect nest boxes in January /February to ensure they are suitable for the upcoming monitoring season. Between April and July volunteer visit all boxes to record species present, number of eggs and young present. This information is fed back into the FWC database.

Location: Polk, Hernando and, Manatee County.

Timeframe: Inspections are completed by February each year. Annual inspections take place first week of April, May, and June.


Students From BESTAcademy
Students from BEST Academy, Brooksville assisting with wiregrass planting on Big Pine Wildlife Management Area.

Invasive Plant Workdays

We undertake workdays to remove invasive plants on our Wildlife Management Areas, and to survey invasive species to assist with future management efforts. We also undertake native planting on Wildlife Management Areas.

Caption: Students from BEST Academy, Brooksville assisting with wiregrass planting on Big Pine Wildlife Management Area.

Location: All counties.

Timeframe: Year-round


Community Outreach

FWC attend community events throughout the southwest region and we are always looking for assistance with these events. As a volunteer you will be tasked with helping set up, talking with the public, providing information and assisting with disassembling. Events include Marine Quest (October each year), Florida State Fair (February), Charlotte Harbor Nature Festival (November), Florida Sportsman Expo (October).

Location: All counties.

Timeframe: Year-round


State Fair

In February of each year, FWC look for volunteers to engage with the public at the Florida State Fair. Volunteers educate the public on a range of topics including invasive species, responsible pet selection, fishing, habitat management, and research undertaken by Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.  

Location: Florida State Fairgrounds, Tampa,

Timeframe: February each year.


Don Corbin With TeguTegu monitoring project

Nonnative tegus pose a serious threat to native species in the Riverview area east of Tampa. Biologists from FWC are currently participating in removal efforts throughout several natural areas in Hillsborough County. Volunteers have an opportunity to be involved in baiting and monitoring traps, and surveying for animal tracks.

Location: Riverview area, Hillsborough County.

Timeframe: March – August each year



scrub-jayJay Watch

Each year FWC partner with Florida Audubon to undertake surveys for Florida Scrub-Jays across the state. In the southwest region this takes place on Moody Branch Wildlife Management Area. This event takes place in early July each year. The event dates are posted on the FWC Calendar External Website.


Marine Mammal Pathobiology Lab – Saint Petersburg, Pinellas County

Marine Mammal Pathbio lab (MMPL) is located on the campus of Eckerd College in Saint Petersburg, Florida. The MMPL is a dedicated member of the Manatee Salvage Program and responds to reports from Law Enforcement and the public concerning dead manatee in coastal waters. Volunteers should note that many of the volunteer opportunities involve dealing with animals in various states of decomposition.

MMPL Volunteer Duties (unpredictable dependent on time of day, time of year):

  • Routine cleaning (facilities, equipment, laundry, etc.)
  • Data entry (incident reports, checking data, logging information, inventories, etc.)
  • Observe marine mammal necropsies (assist with off-loading carcasses and, once comfortable, may be asked to describe some organs or participate in some cutting, under supervision)
  • Field response (checking on mating herds, recovering carcasses, live animal rescues, releases, health assessments, etc.)
  • Educational materials


Smalltooth SawfishSmalltooth sawfish

The Smalltooth sawfish project typically needs volunteers between March and September each year. FWC Charlotte Harbor field lab based in Port Charlotte is looking for volunteers to assist in Smalltooth sawfish research. Volunteers need to be comfortable working on small boats and be a team player. This volunteer opportunity is physically demanding and volunteers need to be able to lift 50 lbs. Volunteers will have the opportunity to deploy gill nets in directed and random sampling throughout the Charlotte Harbor Estuary.  The gill nets are inspected frequently to identify when a sawfish is captured. The sawfish are fitted with roto, PIT and acoustic tags, measured and inspected for overall health. Any bycatch is identified, measured and released. For additional information on the Smalltooth sawfish please visit Smalltooth Sawfish.

Location: Port Charlotte, Charlotte County.

Timeframe: March-September.


Red Tide Offshore Monitoring program

Red Tide Offshore Monitoring program logoFWRI are looking for volunteers to collect water samples from offshore (1-30 nautical miles) and within coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Water samples are collected from routine collection points and sites reported for suspect harmful algal blooms (HABs). Volunteers are provided with sampling equipment and instructions. Information on the volunteer monitoring program is available. A volunteer signup sheet External Website is available.


How to sign up?

For additional information on volunteer opportunities in the southwest region, email the volunteer coordinator or call our Lakeland Regional Office on (863) 648-3200. 

FWC Facts:
The FWC has many activities and events each year. Be sure to check out the FWC calendars.

Learn More at AskFWC