SCCF Celebrates More Than 350 Volunteers
With an impressive 17 volunteers earning awards for more than 20 years of service, SCCF honored more than 350 individuals for their dedication at a Volunteer Appreciation Party at the Bailey Homestead Preserve on April 1.
“You are the boots on the ground helping us carry out our missions and we could not do it without you,” said SCCF CEO James Evans, referring to more than 11,900 hours logged at Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, Sanibel Sea School, and Coastal Watch.
“This is a day to celebrate you and your hard work, blood, sweat, and tears that you have contributed to protecting this special place, our ecosystems, and our wildlife,” Evans added. Volunteers were honored for their work through fiscal year July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021, including last summer’s sea turtle season. Representing ages 6 to 90, a significant number of the volunteers donated time to more than one department at SCCF.
Red Anders, pictured at left, earned top billing with an amazing 32 years of service, while Marilyn Niehoff, pictured below, earned 30 years; Dean Skaugstad, 28 years; Tory and Bill Burch, 25 years; Fay Carney, 25 years; Gwenda Hiett-Clements, 25 Years; and Tom and Linda Uhler, 25 years. (See list below for others with 20+ years of service.)
With its mission “to create and implement local conservation initiatives that promote and improve the future of marine resources and our coastal heritage,” Coastal Watch had over 200 volunteers donate time last year. They assisted on several projects including habitat and shoreline restoration, beach cleanups, and the popular Adopt-a-Mangrove program.
The Coastal Watch project with the most volunteer engagement is the ongoing restoration of Benedict Key and Hemp Key in Pine Island Sound. On 38 restoration trips, more than 130 volunteers ventured out to the islands and planted 1,400 mangrove seedlings and 18,000 propagules. They also moved 90,000 pounds of shell to help promote oyster growth.
In addition, 500 red mangroves were adopted out to loving homes, where they were nourished for restoration planting. “Many SCCF volunteers stepped up to be ‘mangrove mamas and propagule papas,’” said Evans. “Our mangroves are being grown in 57 homes around Lee County and will be returned and planted at one of SCCF’s many restoration sites next year.”
A total of 85 sea turtle volunteers get up before sunrise from April 15 through October to patrol 18 miles of beach on Sanibel and Captiva for nesting activity. They identify new nests, screen nests to prevent predation, check each nest every day for issues that could impact development, and inventory nests after they hatch to document hatch success.
Sea turtle volunteers also contribute to conservation efforts by educating beachgoers and community members about the threats that sea turtles face and how they can help.
“With four teams out on the beach each morning, surveys can add up to a total of 20 hours cumulatively on a peak season day,” said Evans. “The total number of volunteer hours in 2021 was 3,972—the equivalent of 99 forty-hour work weeks!”
SCCF has 24 shorebird volunteers who help with monitoring nesting activity and fledging success from February through August on Sanibel and North Captiva. Some of those volunteers also serve as year-round shorebird monitors who help SCCF Shorebird Biologist Audrey Albrecht with surveys and band resighting. They also help post nesting areas and maintain those postings, and education and outreach on the beach.
Terrestrial & Freshwater Turtles
A group of 20 dedicated volunteers has greatly helped to help protect and research the terrestrial and freshwater turtles on the island. They help survey, transport, and identify turtles while educating the public, identifying new populations, and acting as stewards for these at-risk species.
SCCF’s robust Adult Education Program is dependent on 12 dedicated volunteers. They include trail guides at the Erick Lindblad Preserve Trails, Shipley Trail, and Weeds ‘N’ Seeds walks.
“These volunteers lead trail and plant walks—showing residents and visitors the wonders of Sanibel and SCCF’s preserves and teaching them about the ecology and natural history of the islands,” said Evans.
Native Landscapes & Garden Center
A group of 13 volunteers come weekly to help with a variety of gardening projects, including planting, mulching, weeding, and invasive removal around the Bailey Homestead.
“Visitors and customers often comment on how beautiful the grounds look and that’s a testament to the countless hours that our volunteers have devoted to the property,” said Evans.
Hammerheads (pictured at right)
Over the last year, 10 individuals earned the name “Hammerheads,” which was coined by long-time SCCF supporter and volunteer Dean Skaugstad. They donate their time and skills to SCCF, and help multiple other nonprofit organizations on the island, such as the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum.
The Hammerheads are known for many different virtues, including their outstanding workmanship, willingness to lend a hand when needed, and creativity and problem-solving.
SCCF has been monitoring bald eagle nests on Sanibel for decades, but in recent years has involved the community through citizen science and partnering with Audubon Florida’s Eagle Watch program. Currently, 11 volunteers help with nest surveys.
Trailblazers (pictured at right)
Mike Rice and his crew of nine Trailblazers keep SCCF’s public trails cleared for hikers. This effort is greatly appreciated as it gives Wildlife & Habitat Management staff more time during the busy season to focus on exotic plant removal and restoration projects.
SCCF has been monitoring swallow-tailed kites since 2016. Currently, seven volunteers are monitoring kites. Through a partnership with the Avian Research Conservation Institute to monitor kite nests on Sanibel, an increase in nesting on Sanibel has been documented. “We are working to understand their habitat needs and our volunteers have been instrumental in helping our biologists gather data,” said Evans.
Captiva Cruises Docents
SCCF and Captiva Cruises began a partnership in 1992 that includes volunteers who work on behalf of SCCF and Captiva Cruises on the 4-5:30pm Dolphin Adventure Cruise. Seven volunteers take turns narrating the cruise and sharing information about the ecology of the estuary and wildlife that lives in the back bay.
Six volunteers at the Marine Lab help with sampling and data collection as well as oyster reef and mangrove research. Their work supports the science used by SCCF to advocate for protecting and restoring our coastal ecosystems.
Mind Your Line
Mind Your Line is a collaborative program operated by a network of island agencies: SCCF, City of Sanibel, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Ding Darling Wildlife Society, Sanibel Sea School, and Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife. The program aims to reduce the amount of entanglement injuries and mortality in local wildlife populations through education, outreach, and collection and recycling of monofilament. Five volunteers help by emptying collection bins and bringing the line to the Bait Box for proper recycling.
Other volunteers recognized included Sue Sanders for her devotion to the Sanibel Sea School and leadership of all volunteers there. At SCCF, a core group of volunteers has helped with events coming out of the pandemic, including Lisa Cochrane and Diane Neitzel on the Tennis Tournament, Linda and Tom Uhler for Wines in the Wild, and Neitzel joined by Shelley Greggs for a variety of other events throughout the year.
Other SCCF Volunteers with 20+ Years of Service
Allen Dunham – 22 Years
Robin Krivanek – 22 Years
Chandra and David Liebetrau – 21 Years
Molly Downing – 21 Years
Claudia Burns – 20 Years
Irene Nolan – 20 Years
Joan Rogers – 20 Years
Hammerheads, (l to r), Dave Gallespie, Rick Goodrich, Dean Skaugstad, Pete Wiese, and Tom Stafne.
Trailblazers, front row (l to r), Merrill Frank, Sarah Frank, Mike Rice, John Maclennan; back row (l to r) Doug Born, Ed MacManus, Robert Fisher, Mark Calkin; not shown George Blanar.