Manatee Season is right around the corner, and we could use your help to educate others about manatees! 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 Janice Nearing, the Club’s Volunteer Activities Coordinator, at email@example.com or call 407-539-0990.
It was back around 1997 when Laura Osteen from Huntington Beach, California signed up to be a volunteer for Save the Manatee Club. She is the Club’s sole volunteer outside of Florida to table for us at local festivals for almost 20 years before retiring and heading out on the open road in her RV to explore America.
“I was already volunteering as a naturalist and working with whale organizations back then,” said Laura. “But I felt there was a need to get the word out about what was happening with the manatees. Living in California, I would set up events for the Club, and some people thought that was a bit strange since we don’t have manatees here. There were many who had never even heard of a manatee.”
Laura enjoyed speaking with event attendees at Earth Day, the Whale Fiesta, and Autumn Sea Fair at Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro; Seal Day at the Marine Mammal Care Center in San Pedro, Whale of a Day at Point Vicente Interpretive Center in Rancho Palos Verdes, and even at a couple of Jimmy Buffett concerts. She felt it was important and rewarding to hand out educational information to all those interested in learning more about the adorable manatees who may live in another part of the country but are an imperiled species who need attention and protection. Although often volunteering alone at events, there were a number of southern California volunteers who assisted Laura from time to time.
“With the people we talked to, there was a change in attitude from the early 90s to the present,” explained Laura. “We went from “What is a manatee?” and “Why should we care?” to “Hey, those are manatees, we saw them in Florida,” or “Look, here is the manatee our classroom adopted.” However, the greatest satisfaction came from the kids who would stop by the table and tell ME all the about the manatees and share their experiences. That is why volunteering for something you have a real passion for is so important.”
Laura, who is an outdoor photographer, has donated many of her amazing manatee images to Save the Manatee Club for use on our website, newsletters, promotion and education materials, and in the annual manatee calendar.
Although full-time RVing around the country now, Laura still enjoys visiting Florida each year. “Of course, seeing the manatees almost every year since 1986 is also very high on my traveling list,” said Laura.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org