Maybe You Need This Too

If you have a strength, talent or desire, we can help you put it to work helping the wildlife in our area.

Opportunities for Volunteering

The Refuge offers volunteer opportunities in a variety of areas including animal rescue, animal care, fundraising, education, and public relations – just to name a few. If you have a strength, talent or desire, we can help you put it to work helping the wildlife in our area.

Volunteering with the Refuge is a rewarding experience. It is extremely satisfying to know that you are directly impacting the lives of animals every day – knowing that your contribution helps release these animals back into their natural habitat and gives them the second chance that they deserve.

Volunteering can be a lot of work, but it can also be a lot of fun. Volunteering with the Refuge is a great way to give back to our community while meeting and working with a wide variety of people. Volunteer appreciation parties, community events and fundraisers are always fun to attend and participate in.

Learn more about ways you can get involved:

  • Docents
  • Fundraising and Event Committee
  • Wildlife Capture and Rescue Team
  • Wildlife Caregivers
  • Wildlife Transport and Pick-up
  • Stranding Team Volunteers

Volunteer with the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge

The Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge offers a variety of volunteer opportunities. Six categories are recognized, with each having its own set of related opportunities.

Wildlife Caregivers work at the refuge and assist with the day to day operations, including wildlife care, facilities maintenance, and diet preparation. Other actives may include rescues, releases, fostering, animal training, animal enrichment, and rehab care. Wildlife Caregivers undergo training conducted by the volunteer coordinator and the refuge staff; progress through 4 Wildlife Care Volunteer levels, each requiring a set number of hours, higher levels of responsibility, and new skills.

  • Minimum of 8 hours a month required to maintain active volunteer status.
  • Age requirements: 18 years and older.

Docents play a critical role as a representatives of the Refuge in classrooms, community events, and other educational settings. Docents participate in our in-house and  outreach educational programs alongside Refuge staff. Other activities include program content development and operant conditioning training. Docent training will include wildlife handling skills, wildlife transport, and the study of natural history and zoology.

  • Minimum of 8 hours of a month required to maintain active docent status.
  • Age requirements: must be at least 18

Wildlife Capture and Rescue Team are trained to assist Refuge staff with the capture and transport of wild animals that have become injured or distressed. Specialized training is required.

  • Age requirements: must be at least 18

Fundraising and Event Committee plays a vital role to the refuge’s mission and future. Members work alongside the Executive Director to promote the Refuge through fun and exciting communities events and membership drives. Activities include event planning, public relations, sponsorship recruitment, and more.

Stranding Team Volunteers are specifically tasked with responding to marine mammal and sea turtle stranding events along the Emerald Coast. For more information on the stranding team check out The Marine Mammal Stranding Team page.

For more information on volunteering contact

Volunteer with the Wildlife Rescue Team

The objective of the Rescue Team is to transport wildlife to our clinic as quickly and delicately as possible. When wildlife needs help, the ECWR must rely on trained volunteers from all around the tri-county area for transportation.

Wildlife can be very dangerous and unpredictable. Animals may bite or scratch out of fear. Personal safety is always our number one concern.Therefore we must ask that any member of the public interested in aiding our Rescue Team attend our volunteer orientation to get training in order to assist us in rescues/captures.

During training we cover topics such as:

  • The importance of always wearing gloves when dealing with wild animals.
  • The importance of keeping children and pets AWAY from the animal
  • Why one should NEVER offer food or water to injured wildlife.

We strongly encourage anyone who is interested in volunteering at our wildlife rehab clinic to contact Michelle Pettis at 850-684-1485. For additional question regarding the ECWR Wildlife Rescue Team, please contact Michelle Pettis at 850-684-1485.

If you find an injured or orphaned wild animal, please first call the ECWR immediately at 850-684-1485.

Volunteer with the Marine Mammal And Sea Turtle Stranding Team

The Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding Team is made of dedicated volunteers who respond to live and dead cetaceans (whales and dolphins) across the Florida panhandle and sea turtles in Okaloosa County. Volunteers may participate in response, live animal transport to rehabilitation, carcass recovery and necropsy. Additionally, stranding team members participate in public outreach events, such as beach clean ups, and act as educational docents in our Education and Outreach Center.

Volunteer Requirements:

  1. Be a current, active refuge volunteer
  2. Must be 18+ years old
  3. Must be in good health
  4. Must be able to lift 50 pounds
  5. Must be able to sit or stand for long periods
  6. Must complete necessary training classes
  7. Must wear logo gear on responses
  8. No smoking, drug or alcohol use while on responses

The first step for refuge volunteers to become Stranding Team volunteers is to attend an orientation. Marine Mammal orientation dates will be sent to all current refuge volunteers to the email listed in your Volgistics Account.

If you are not a current refuge volunteer, you must first fill out an application, attend an orientation and volunteer at the refuge before becoming a stranding team volunteer. No exceptions will be made.

Please contact our Marine Mammal Stranding Coordinator, Brittany Dolan, with any questions at

Current Volunteers

Current ECWR Volunteers click this link to visit our virtual volunteer program where you can schedule and delete shifts, monitor your hours and much more:

Ready to Volunteer?

Click the blue button below for “Volunteer Application & Waivers” to fill out the application and submit once complete.  YOU MUST ALSO RESERVE A SEAT BY GETTING A TICKET ON EVENTBRITE! Click the green button to sign up for the training you are interested in! The EventBrite ticket is free, but there is a $25 Volunteer Fee that will be due at the time of orientation!!!

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