Volunteer | Rookery Bay Research Reserve | Fish
A Helping Hand at Rookery Bay

Get Involved

Are you a people person? Or do you like to get your hands dirty? Or do you like to do administrative tasks? Well you have come to the right place. Hundreds of volunteers play a vital role in the preservation, restoration and management of our mangrove estuary in the donation of over 18,000 hours a year. View our 2020 Volunteer Recognition Recipients.
Future Volunteers: The Environmental Learning Center has reopened to the public! If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, please complete the APPLICATION FORM. We will reach out to you with more information. Please add volunteer@rookerybay.org to your email contact list to ensure you receive our messages.

We truly appreciate that you would like to dedicate your valuable time to support us in our mission! We thank you for your patience, and we look forward to having you as a member of our dynamic volunteer team!


Aquarium Assistant

*A weekly commitment of at least three hours a week between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., with a minimum three-month commitment.

Learning is an ongoing process, training will be provided.

Learn about fish and invertebrates from the estuary, by helping our staff with aquarium maintenance aimed at keeping our live teaching collection in the healthiest condition possible, in pristine-looking exhibit tanks. Includes cleaning and maintenance of tanks and life-support filtration systems.

Individuals must meet the following qualifications and interview with the Volunteer Specialist and the Aquarist before being considered for training:

  • Individual must be at least 16, with interest in environmental studies, biology or aquariums
  • Aquarium experience preferred but not required
  • Good observation skills
  • The ability to communicate verbally, with enthusiasm to help guests learn about the animals and their habitats
  • The ability to follow detailed instructions

Fish feeding includes understanding nutritional requirements of fish, preparing diets, and feeding of aquarium animals under the guidance of our Aquarist and Education Specialist.

Aquarium Assistant | Volunteer | Environmental Learning Center | Rookery Bay Research Reserve

Elementary Education Assistant

Volunteering will take place varied days throughout the school year, 4-5 hours a weekday.

Learning is an ongoing process and all volunteers are required to attend annual training.

After a training session, volunteers will have the opportunity to work directly with students doing scientific investigations of the estuary. Students will do a variety of activities. Here are just a few: take water quality samples, learn about plankton, identify organisms that live within Oyster beds and the role they play in the oyster reef and use microscopes to view plankton samples.
Activities are in the ELC, outside, and in the lab.

Volunteer | Education Assistant | Rookery Bay Research Reserve
Estuary Encounter at Rookery Bay | Volunteer | Rookery Bay Research Reserve

Estuary Encounter Interpreter


A weekly commitment of two hours in off-season, three hours in-season, for at least 3 months.

Training required and provided prior to commencement of assignment. Learning is an ongoing process and all volunteers are required to attend annual refresher orientation.

Volunteer will be responsible for assisting guests in understanding the animals within our Estuary Encounter Marine Life Exhibit.

Individuals must meet these qualifications and interview with the Volunteer Specialist and the Aquarist before being considered for shadowing/training.

  • Volunteer must have interest in aquatic life with focus on invertebrates.
  • Must be comfortable speaking to the public in a formal and non- formal environment.
  • Comfort handling a variety of sea animals including crabs, while speaking to Learning center guests.
  • Have good observation skills with the ability to communicate both orally and written.

Facilities Assistant Volunteer

Facilities volunteers are encouraged to provide weekly commitment of 4 hours; any weekday from 8 am to 12 pm or 12:30 pm to 4 pm

Some tasks include:

Handyman – interior and exterior
Maintenance of vehicles, boats and buildings
Gardening skills are helpful, but not necessary

Facilities Assistant Volunteer | Rookery Bay Research Reserve
Front Desk Greeter Volunteer | Environmental Learning Center | Rookery Bay Research Reserve


A weekly commitment of 4 hours on a specific day; from 10 am to 2 pm, Monday through Friday (Saturday during season).

Description of Duties: Volunteer greets visitors as they enter our Learning Center.

*Learning is an ongoing process and all volunteers are required to attend annual training.*

Tasks include:

  • Making guests feel welcome
  • Inquiring how they heard about the Center
  • Letting the visitor know what programs are going on that day or week
  • Orienting guests to the Learning Center and Rookery Bay Reserve
  • Interpreting the map of Rookery Bay Reserve for guests

Grounds Keeper Volunteer

Biweekly, flexible days & hours. 2 – 3 hours shift any day Monday – Friday, between 8:00 and 4:00 pm

Description of Duties:
Volunteer is responsible for minor maintenance of the grounds around the Environmental Learning Center and parking area. Specific duties include:

  • Leaf blow walkways, bridges and around buildings
  • Trim and prune shrubs along walks
  • Pick-up downed fronds and tree branches, dispose of properly
  • Exotic removal

Grounds Keeper Volunteer | Rookery Bay Research Reserve
Events | Rookery Bay Research Reserve

Special Events Assistant

A commitment of 2 to 4 hours before, during, and/or after our Special Events


  • Set-up/break-down event venue, including tables, tents, etc.
  • Assist with special event activities including registration, customer service, crafts, etc.
  • Attendance at pre-event briefing meeting, if applicable


Volunteers should be prepared to spend several hours outside in varying weather conditions, including hot sun, often working independently of Rookery Bay staff. They should, therefore, be reasonably fit and highly reliable and responsible.

To become a Team Ocean volunteer, individuals must complete the following steps:

  • Attend training course at the Environmental Learning center
  • Accompany the program coordinator, other staff, and experienced volunteers to receive on-the-job training.
  • Spend additional time familiarizing themselves with Rookery Bay Reserve, coastal environments, and Keewaydin Island.
  • For volunteers wishing to operate boats, additional training and demonstration of skills to Rookery Bay staff is required.
  • Minimum age to volunteer for Team Ocean is 18
  • Represent Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve to the public
  • Understand the purpose, general history, and core activities of Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
  • Access areas within Rookery Bay Reserve via boat and on foot
  • Greet visitors and inform them that they are in Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
  • Provide friendly information about best practices while boating and beach going (fishing, pets, wildlife disturbance, litter and other Leave No Trace principles), including answering questions and informing visitors of rules that apply
  • Serve as a steward of the Reserve:
  • Pick up litter ranging from mostly small items to larger marine debris and dispose of in proper receptacles (trash and recycling)
  • Repair nesting bird postings (April-August) and maintain crossover walks on Keewaydin Island
  • Record and report information to assist staff in proper management of Rookery Bay Reserve (i.e. activity data sheets, anecdotal observations). Specific information to be collected will be provided by Program Coordinator.
  • Follow proper procedures for safe operation and use of Rookery Bay’s boats, facilities, and equipment.
  • Knowledge of Rookery Bay Reserve natural history and local issues
  • Friendly attitude and strong oral communication skills for engaging visitors in conversation, answering questions, and offering information
  • Experience operating boats (for those wishing to be boat operators)
  • Completion of training requirements as outlined
Team OCEAN Volunteers | Rookery Bay Research Reserve
Trawling Volunteer | Rookery Bay Research Reserve

Trawl Assessment Volunteer

Help our fisheries biologist collect samples with a trawl net each month in Naples Bay, Rookery Bay or the Ten Thousand Islands. Volunteers will help sort, identify, count and measure relevant fish and shellfish before returning them to the estuary.
Interested persons are expected to complete a volunteer application and attend a new volunteer orientation. Entering volunteer hours is required as per instructions from the Volunteer Coordinator. Once this is completed you will be placed on the fisheries research volunteer list and will receive emails with available dates that are set months in advance. Volunteers must respond to requests for assistance quickly in order to secure a seat on the boat.
  • Volunteers will receive training on safe handling of the net, proper handling of fish and crabs and identification.
  • Volunteers must be prepared to spend up to eight hours on the boat: come dressed for field work with non-slip, closed-toed shoes to protect feet from heavy gear and supply their own food and water.
  • Volunteers will work hard while surrounded by natural beauty and sometimes mosquitoes.Volunteers will learn about fish and invertebrates, including many that are important to the local economy, and how they are affected by altered freshwater flows across the landscape. Learn more about this assessment program.

Volunteer Interpreter

Interested volunteers needed as interpretive guides in our Environmental Learning Center.


Must commit to two hours per week in off-season (10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.) or three hours per week in-season (9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or 12:30 – 3:30 p.m.).

  • Must be interested in nature
  • A friendly personality to assist and interpret for visiting guests
  • Will be trained as a greeter to welcome guests to the facility

Will be trained on informal interpretation with focus on daily themes utilizing the exhibits including sharks, manatees, turtles and birds, and providing trail walks.

Interpreter Volunteer | Rookery Bay Research Reserve

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