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Southwest Region Program

About

The Southwest Region Volunteer Program involves a wide range of conservation projects aimed at conserving, monitoring, and protecting species and habitats. We advertise our volunteer opportunities on the FWC's Calendar.

Volunteer Opportunities

The following projects take place throughout the southwest region. Southwest Region counties include Charlotte, DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Manatee, and Sarasota.

FWC volunteers from the American Daughters of Conservation conduct a gopher tortoise survey on Bullfrog Creek Wildlife Environmental Area.
FWC student volunteers from BEST Academy, Brooksville, assist with wiregrass planting on Big Pine Wildlife Management Area.
Florida Scrub-Jay.

Gopher Tortoise Surveys

Volunteers 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.

Locations:  All counties
Timeframe:  Year-round

Invasive/Native Plant Workdays

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

Locations:  All counties
Timeframe:  Year-round

Jay Watch

FWC partners with Audubon Florida to conduct Jay Watch surveys. Volunteers conduct scientific surveys that monitor populations of the endemic Florida Scrub-Jay. 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's Calendar.

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 and dependent on the 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 (check on mating herds, recover carcasses, live animal rescues, releases, health assessments, etc.)
  • Educational materials
FWC volunteers, with the Marine Mammal Pathology Lab, after the successful release of a rehabilitated mom and calf manatee pair.

Outreach

FWC staff attend community events throughout the southwest region and are always looking for assistance with these events. Volunteers are tasked with helping to set-up and disassemble these events as well as talking with the public to provide information about fish and wildlife. Southwest events may include Marine Quest (October), Florida State Fair (February), Charlotte Harbor Nature Festival (November) and the Florida Sportsman Expo (October).

Locations:  All counties
Timeframe:  Year-round

Red Tide Offshore Monitoring

The Fish and Wildlife Research Institute is 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. A volunteer sign-up form is available as well as more information on the volunteer monitoring program.

Smalltooth Sawfish

The FWC's Charlotte Harbor field lab based in Port Charlotte needs volunteers to assist in Smalltooth sawfish research between March and September of each year. Volunteers need to be comfortable working on small boats and be a team player. This volunteer opportunity is physically demanding and volunteers must 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. Visit Smalltooth sawfish for additional information.

Locations:  Port Charlotte and Charlotte counties
Timeframe:  March-September

Southeastern American Kestrel Monitoring

FWC utilizes nest boxes to increase populations of the threatened Southeastern American Kestrel. Volunteers travel to inspect nest boxes in January/February to ensure they are suitable for the upcoming monitoring season. Between April and July, volunteers visit nest boxes to record species present, number of eggs and young present. Volunteers assist with maintaining and monitoring nest boxes in Polk, Hernando and Manatee counties.

Locations:  Polk, Hernando, and Manatee counties
Timeframe:  Inspections are completed by February of each year. Annual inspections take place the first week of April, May, and June

Smalltooth sawfish.
Students from Odessa Christian School volunteer to build nest boxes for the Southeastern American Kestrel at the Chinsegut Conservation Center.
FWC volunteers help staff scope a gopher tortoise burrow looking for the exotic Argentine black and white tegu.

State Fair

In February of each year, the FWC needs 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 the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.  

Locations:  Florida State Fairgrounds, Tampa
Timeframe:  February

Tegu Monitoring

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

Locations:  Riverview area, Hillsborough County
Timeframe:  March–August

More Information

E-mail the Southwest Region Volunteer Coordinator or call the Lakeland Regional Office at 863-648-3200 to sign-up as a volunteer or for more information on volunteer opportunities.