Team OCEAN is the boat-based volunteer program supported through a partnership between the Rookery Bay Reserve, Florida Sea Grant, and other local community donors. Following a model at the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, volunteers with Rookery Bay Reserve's Team OCEAN (Ocean Conservation Education Action Network) make weekly visits to high-use areas in the Reserve providing information, helping to ensure that their fellow boaters are being responsible, and setting a good example. They share information on "Leave-No-Trace" practices, boating safety, fisheries conservation and marine recreation in effort to help keep Rookery Bay a pristine wilderness experience.
Team OCEAN also helps protect wildlife by posting and maintaining crossover trails as well as "Important Nesting Area" signs that alert visitors of the presence of beach-nesting birds.
Volunteers carry trash bags as a conversational gambit as well as to collect trash. According to volunteers, 90% of the people they talk to while collecting trash thank them for doing so, express their dislike for people who litter, and let them know they didn't litter themselves. Many boaters are now picking up trash that wasn't theirs.
Team OCEAN also reaches out to the community by participating in and having a presence at local boating shows and nature or environmental festivals.
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.
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 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