We could use your help to educate others! Come volunteer with us as we set up education booths across the state at a variety of festivals and fairs. If you’re passionate about manatees and have some time to spare, fill out our Online Volunteer Application (see link on this page).
We Need Volunteers!
You can help Save the Manatee Club by becoming a Club volunteer. SMC volunteers staff tables at manatee-related events, engage in speaking presentations, help out in the SMC offices, write letters and send e-mails on issues of concern to manatees, and report information to manatee researchers. You can make a difference for manatees!
If you are interested in volunteering, please fill out our Online Volunteer Application.
For those wishing to inquire about earning community service hours at the Club’s office in Maitland, Florida, please do not fill out the Online Volunteer Application form. For eligibility and availability, contact Diana Ngai, the Club’s Volunteer Activities Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 407-539-0990.
In 1988, when Melissa Sunshine lived in Key West, she volunteered at the Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key and with Save a Turtle in Key West. There she learned about manatees and made regular SCUBA diving trips to photograph them.
“I always respected the manatees and never approached them. But that was great, as they always approached me. They would follow me as I photographed as they were so curious. Interacting with them was a ‘magickal’ experience. I’ve cared for them for many decades,” says Melissa.
Melissa has volunteered for Save the Manatee Club at various festivals in Central Florida and shares her love for manatees effortlessly. She has been a welcome face at events especially with the Crystal River and Blue Spring State Park festivals.
Though Melissa misses being able to swim and dive so closely with manatees, her experiences help guide others to responsible manatee interactions.
“It is important to educate society about the fragile environment the manatees live in as we continue to pollute their waters and diminish their healthy habitat. Everyone should be aware of things they can do to help prevent their demise. The “no interaction” and “no SCUBA diving” policies have been enforced as more and more people enter the waters. It’s sad, but it’s necessary,” she says.
Melissa Sunshine is originally from Bogalusa, Louisiana. She has lived in Key West, Ft. Lauderdale, Mount Dora in Central Florida (for the last 11 years), and earlier this year moved to the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. Whether near or far from sunny Florida, we know she is wholly dedicated to this beautiful place we call Earth. We appreciate her work in helping manatees stay safe in Florida waters.
Thank you, Melissa!
Melissa and Mike Fishman from Rockledge in Brevard County, Florida wear their volunteer T-shirts and caps whenever they table at events for Save the Manatee Club. Join our volunteer team and earn points through the Volunteer Rewards Program to get your free shirt and cap.
Earn It, Pin It, Show It!
Save the Manatee Club presents a variety of service pins to further recognize and honor the efforts and importance of our loyal volunteer/members. The special, customized pins are earned by registered volunteers who staff education tables for the Club at events, help out in our Maitland office, or give manatee presentations for the Club at local schools, libraries, etc. Wear the pins on the Club’s lanyard which holds the volunteer name tag, or on the Club’s volunteer cap or t-shirt.
See the Pins
The Blue Spring Manatee Observer Program
Now in its third season, the Blue Spring Manatee Observer Program is a collaboration between Blue Spring State Park, Save the Manatee Club, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Sea to Shore Alliance, and Volusia County Environmental Management. The program runs during the summer months from April to November when the park is open for swimming, tubing, snorkeling, kayaking, and scuba diving and sees large numbers of visitors.
While historically only a few manatees would visit the spring during the summer months, the past couple of years have seen an increase in manatee usage of the spring, resulting in the need to have volunteers assist the park to prevent harassment of manatees during that time.
“I feel like we’re making a difference,” says volunteer Shari Dworkin-Smith, who joined the program this season with her husband Rob. “Not only can we make this a safer place for manatees, but we also get to educate a lot of visitors about proper manatee behavior and answer a lot of questions.”
Elementary school teacher Melissa Landreville agrees. “I educate kids in the classroom on a daily basis, so coming out here was just a natural next step,” she says.
Volunteers attend a mandatory orientation session in early spring to become familiar with proper behavior around manatees, learn manatee basics, and participate in a kayak training session by Debbie Wingfield, who represents Volusia County in the program. Volunteers are then usually scheduled for either morning or afternoon shifts with one volunteer on the kayak and one on the boardwalk. “Park visitors are always thrilled to hear there are manatees in the spring run,” says Monica Ross, who represents Sea to Shore Alliance in the program, “and with the education and guidance from our volunteers on how to pass by the animals without disturbance, visitors have the chance of a lifetime with manatees in the safe haven of Blue Spring.”
What started as a loosely-organized handful of volunteers has now grown into a group of over 40 volunteers who come from all walks of life. Students, full-time working adults, and retirees are among them. “We are extremely grateful to have such a large number of volunteers,” says Cora Berchem, who represents Save the Manatee Club in the program and schedules the volunteers on a weekly basis. “Our volunteers have put in over 850 hours this summer, which is amazing.”
This summer not only saw the birth of manatee Annie’s fourth calf, but two recently-released manatees learning how to adjust to life in the wild also frequented the park almost daily. In addition, many mother manatees brought in their young to show them the spring, making a volunteer presence ever more important.
“Blue Spring State Park is a very popular place with visitors during the summer months,” says Park Manager Michael Watkins. “We have over 200,000 visitors that come and enjoy the water activities here in the summer time and to have strong support from this great volunteer group is a tremendous help. On behalf of all the park staff, we are very thankful for their dedication and love the Blue Spring Manatee Observer Program.”
If you are interested in joining the Blue Spring Manatee Observer Program, you can sign up with one of the participating agencies and attend an orientation session next spring. To join with Save the Manatee Club, please email Cora Berchem at email@example.com