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Volunteer the natural way at region's environmental museums and attractions

Southwest Florida has a plethora of opportunities to volunteer with environmental attractions, whether it be for a retiree with lots of time and a bunch of skills to offer or a high schooler with little time and experience, but with enthusiasm to donate some time during summer break.

Connecting with nature is at the heart of these opportunities and volunteers can help children grow vegetables, skipper a boat for on-the-water guided tours of the area’s environmental treasures, greet guests or clean the beaches. There are many other ways to help out the numerous nature-based museums and galleries.

With school letting out for the summer many places are welcoming teens. Whether volunteering is a way to earn some summertime school credits or simply something fun to do, places like the Conservancy of Southwest Floridain Naples welcome kids 16 and older. TheBailey-Matthews National Shell Museum on Sanibel welcomes 13-year-old volunteers as long as there is a parent or guardian there to watch over the new teens as they help out.

Those needing volunteers will take what they can get in terms of a time commitment. Some people help out for a few hours a month while others commit to what amounts to a work week.

The benefits of volunteering can be as valuable to the individual as the donated time itself. Volunteering provides a sense of purpose and community, helps with finding new, like-minded friends, improves social skills and can boost esteem as well as teaching valuable skills. Plus, most often it's fun.

Volunteers are kept in contact with other folks that can help form a solid support system, which in turn helps stave off not just boredom, but stress and depression for those going through challenging times.

The famed Martin Luther King, Jr., once spoke about the value of volunteering and community service: “Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

Here is a list of a few of the many attractions teaching about the environment that can use volunteer help.

Conservancy of Southwest Florida
1495 Smith Preserve Way
Naples, FL 34102
(239) 262-0304

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida has a mission that involved a multitude of environmental pursuits, and many of them rely on volunteers to help the staff create the best educational experience for visitors as possible. Some of the volunteer opportunities are “public facing” such as guiding tours - some by boat; some on foot - of some of the area’s most fascinating places, while others are “in the back” like keeping the campus clean and caring for sick or injured wildlife.

Clam Pass Educators
Teach visitors about the special flora and fauna that dominate in the unusual environment.

Concierge Corps
Deliver, place, and monitor collateral and promotional materials in various Southwest Florida hotels, visitor centers, and other locations.

Conservancy Nature Center Guest Services
Welcome visitors, collect admission fees, sell memberships, answer phones, and provide information to visitors.

Good Fortune II Naturalist
Provide educational guided cruises aboard the Good Fortune II pontoon boat through Rookery Bay.

Dalton Discovery Center Tour Leaders
Provide guided tours through the Dalton Discovery Center and assist with environmental education programs throughout the Nature Center. Training is provided.

Dock Masters
Register visitors for boat rides, assist in docking boats, and answer general questions about the Conservancy and what’s happening on campus. Best candidates are friendly and outgoing, and able to maintain decorum during busy times on the dock.

Boat Captains
Provide educational guided cruises on the Gordon River aboard an electric boat. Our boat captains perform the dual role of piloting the boat and narrating. Best candidates not only love boating, but also care deeply about the Conservancy’s mission. Boating experience is preferred, but not required (training provided).

Work with the facilities staff to provide support in cleaning the campus, repair of equipment, woodworking, and other general maintenance work.

Fairs and festivals
Attend select community events to promote the work of the Conservancy, interact with attendees, distribute Conservancy publications, and promote the importance and benefits of Conservancy membership and volunteering.

Welcome members and visitors to the Conservancy Nature Center.

Mith Preserve Maintenance Team
Assist with the maintenance of the Smith Preserve by removing exotic plants and maintaining the natural habitat for the gopher tortoise preserve.

Outreach Team
Deliver “Conservancy Story” presentations to civic, homeowners associations, and other community organizations, promoting the work of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and the benefits and importance of Conservancy membership and volunteering.

Von Arx Wildlife Hospital – animal caregivers
Assist with the care of injured animals, prepare food, clean enclosures, and laundry.

Von Arx Animal Hospital – critter couriers
Conservancy Critter Couriers pick up injured wildlife and deliver them to the Von Arx Wildlife Hospital when the person who informed hospital staff about the animal is unable to do so.

J.N. 'Ding' Darling National Wildlife Refuge
1 Wildlife Drive
Sanibel, FL
(239) 472-1100

TheJ.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is supported by more than 300 volunteers, but more are needed. Volunteers at the refuge help conserve and protect wildlife and teach thousands of visitors that their actions today determine the conservation legacy of tomorrow.

Visitor & Education Center Front Desk
Front desk volunteers represent the refuge to the public, answer questions, and help visitors find things around the visitor center and nature store.

Environmental Education/Interpretation
Work with school groups and deliver interpretive programs.

Administration/Telephone Reception
Answer incoming telephone calls and do minor administrative work.

Roving Interpreter
Interact with visitors on the Wildlife Drive and trails. Provide information on other recreational activities available on the refuge and surrounding area.

Maintain refuge lands, trails, facilities, and equipment.

Monofilament Removal
Remove monofilament line, hooks, lures, and bobbers from the refuge vegetation by land and water.

Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum
3075 Sanibel Captiva Rd
Sanibel, FL 33957
(239) 395-2233

Volunteers at Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum get a unique opportunity to share their passion for shells and mollusks with others.

A shell lover is not necessary as it is a museum with tons of volunteer opportunities in a place dedicated to teaching the public about environmental issues. This year they are in particular need of helpers.

Here is a look at some of the volunteer chances at the shell museum.

Adopt-A-Class Docent
Lead a station in the Adopt-A-Class Fourth Grade Field Trip program

Aquarium Docent
Interact with guests in the "Beyond Shells: Living Gallery." Educate guests about animals and exhibits, facilitate guest engagement, and enhance guest experience.

Aquarium Husbandry Volunteer
Help our expert aquarium husbandry staff care for our unique animals.

Great Hall Docent
Assist guests with scavenger hunts, educate them about exhibits, facilitate guest engagement, and enhance their experience.

Group Tour Docent
Help lead groups of “road scholars” or other tours through the museum. Adult and children groups available.

Mollusks on the Move
Travel with a museum educator to a school, community center, learning center, or hospital to educate the community about live mollusks.

Museum Store
Assist store staff with costumer service, stocking shelves, dusting, labeling, and other tasks as needed.

Shell Ambassador
Teach Sanibel’s beachgoers about shells, mollusks, and other beach finds. A free, eight-hour training course is required.

Touch Pool Docent
Help guests, educate, and supervise guests touching mollusks at the Touch Pools. Create a unique and memorable experience for guests and help foster lifelong learning.

Environmental reporting for WGCU is funded in part by VoLo Foundation, a non-profit with a mission to accelerate change and global impact by supporting science-based climate solutions, enhancing education, and improving health. 

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