Volunteer Opportunities

Sea Turtle Washback Program

Do you walk the beach every day in search of treasures or are a passionate walker that picks up trash? Then you are the perfect candidate to be a volunteer for the Sea Turtle Washback Program.

Volunteer Program Overview

This program calls for volunteers to survey the wrack line (line of seaweed) for sea turtles. These sea turtles are called 'washbacks', and are just a bit larger than a hatchling. Once the sea turtles hatch from their nests they swim in search of a large mass of seaweed where they find refuge and protection from larger predators. They forage here for an unknown amount of time while the seaweed floats with the currents and tides. Sometimes storms and high tide events from August through November cause this mass of seaweed to be pushed onto the beach. The washbacks are extremely tired, dehydrated and need medical attention.

This volunteer program is permitted through Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and coordinated through the efforts of a Volunteer Coordinator, Zone Captain and several volunteers that are responsible for a stretch of beach. It is necessary to have a flexible schedule to be a Zone Captain as they are responsible for coordinating volunteers through a phone tree system, completing data sheets, coordinating transport of washbacks, as well as supply the proper equipment at time of survey. Please understand this program will not have set volunteer times. Volunteers are contacted through an on-call system, as we cannot predict when the seaweed will wash ashore. Surveys are mostly conducted in the early morning or late evenings. Volunteers also dedicate the 2nd and 4th Saturday of every month from August to November to walk the beach with their team to familiarize themselves with co-volunteers and the beach they are designated to survey.

Volunteer Requirements

1. Possess a valid Florida Driver's License

2. Complete a volunteer application including passing a background screening

3. First time volunteers must attend Orientation (2014)

  • Tuesday, August 12                    Ponte Vedra Library              5:30pm-6:45pm
  • Wednesday, August 13              Main Branch Library             11:00am-12:00pm
  • Tuesday, August 26                    Anastasia Island Branch Library           5:30pm-6:30pm

4. Attend Scenario Training – Volunteers will complete a mock survey on the beach and learn how to process a Washback sea turtle.

  • Friday, August 29, 6:00pm-7:00pm
    Location: 2.25 miles south of the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve on Highway A1A, across the street from the South Ponte Vedra Fire Station.

  • Saturday, August 30              Frank Butler Park East               9:00am-10:00am
  • Saturday September 6th              Surfside Park Pavilion             9:00am-10:00am

Children under 18 are welcome to volunteer but they must be accompanied by an adult or guardian. Volunteer/community service hours can be completed with this program.

To find out more about the Washback Volunteer Program, you may contact Tara Dodson, Environmental Supervisor (904) 814-2172, tdodson@sjcfl.us.

Sea Turtle Patrol Program

From May 1 to October 31 dedicated marine turtle patrol volunteers survey the beaches at sunrise to post off the nest of sea turtles while collecting important data on nesting activities. While conducting nesting surveys volunteers must endure physically demanding conditions that are often hot, sandy, and buggy while collecting accurate scientific data.

This volunteer program is permitted through Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and coordinated through the efforts of a Marine Turtle Permit Holder. Available nesting survey positions are limited due to permitting restrictions and volunteers must complete extensive training provided by FWC, St. Johns County Habitat Conservation and the Marine Turtle Permit Holder responsible for specific stretches of beach.

If you are interested in volunteering find your Zone below and contact the responsible Marine Turtle Permit Holder.

Survey Zones

Northern Survey Zones Map    |    Southern Survey Zones Map