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Over 300 Rookery Bay 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. Rookery Bay could not accomplish all the research and resource management projects without the help of the many dedicated volunteers who assist us. Our program is very active and we are seeking qualified individuals to assist the Reserve staff with specific projects.

Volunteer orientations are hosted monthly. For questions about the volunteer program, or to RSVP for the next orientation event, email Donna Young at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 239-530-5974.

Have a group? We can accept groups of up to 25 individuals. Please call 239-530-5974 for scheduling.

The volunteer opportunities that are currently available are listed below in green. Please click the blue button to complete a volunteer application.

Submit a Volunteer Application

Enter your hours here

Volunteer Opportunities:


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.

Special Requirements:
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.

Description of Duties:

  • 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/Skills/Experience Desired:

  • 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

Welcome Desk/Nature Store

welcome-desk-volunteers-sLooking for volunteers for a weekly, 4-hour commitment on one or more days each week. The volunteer shift is either 8:30 am to 12:30 pm, or 12:30 pm to 4:30 pm. Saturday shifts available Nov. 1 - April 30.

*Learning is an ongoing process and training is provided.*

Some tasks include:

Provide guests with a high level of customer service and making them feel welcome, enhancing their visit to the Learning Center and Rookery Bay Reserve

Processing admissions, memberships, and gift store sales through a point-of-sale system

Answering queries both in person and on the telephone about the facility and area 

Touch Tank Volunteer


  • A weekly commitment of at least 1-2 hours a week for at least 3 months.
  • Training provided as needed, if interested contact the Volunteer Specialist.

 *Learning is an ongoing process and all volunteers are required to attend annual 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.
  • Willingness to learn and do personal research of the animals in the collection.
  • Have good observation skills with the ability to communicate both orally and written.
  • An integral part of this volunteer position is being trained to Fish Feed as a back-up.


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



Fish Feeder Volunteer


*A weekly commitment of at least 1-2 hours a week between the hours of 9 am & 3 pm

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.

Application of basics of marine science and water chemistry to maintain critical parameters of aquarium water quality within the optimum ranges for good health of the fish.

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

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
  • An integral part of this volunteer position is being trained to interpret the Touch Tank as a back-up

Naturalist Docent

Volunteer as Rookery Bay Reserve's InterpreterInterested volunteers needed as interpretive guides in our Environmental Learning Center.

Commit to 4 hours a week; either one 4 hour day or two 2 hour days.

  • 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 the interpretation of our Learning Center exhibits including: mangroves, oysters, fish, manatees, turtles, Calusa, estuaries, invertebrates, map interpretation, etc.

Butterfly Garden Attendant

Butterfly garden attendantProject Duration: flexible days & hours

Description of Duties: Volunteer is responsible for general upkeep of the butterfly garden. All tools are supplied, however feel free to bring your own.

Some duties include:

  • Weeding and trimming
  • Water weekly during winter
  • Monitoring health and watering needs of the garden
  • Proper disposal of all unwanted vegetation and debris

Special Events Assistant

vol-tableA 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

Estuary Explorers Assistant

Education Assistant VolunteerIf interested, apply in July and August for Training in late August. Volunteering will take place varied days throughout the school year, 3-4 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.

Facilities Assistant Volunteer

belangermartyA 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


Grounds Keeper Volunteer

Volunteer-GroundskeeperBiweekly, 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


Thank you for being a Rookery Bay Reserve volunteer!

Enter your hours here

ELC volunteers: check schedule here

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