Volunteering In Nature: Volunteering for UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County’s Ecology and Natural Resources Program

“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they have the heart.” Elizabeth Andrew

Many colored hands hold red hearts and thumbs up signs in front of a white background.
In 2022, 255 people volunteered for UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County!

It’s the people who have a lot of heart that make it possible for the Ecology and Natural Resources program at UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County to do what we do! Because of volunteers who choose to gift us with their time and dedication, we are able to provide a variety of programs that connect the community of Sarasota County to their environment, and the spectacular wildlife that shares this community with us. 

In this ongoing blog series, we want to convey the impact and meaning of volunteering not only for those who benefit from the services that volunteers help provide, but the volunteers themselves; giving you an inspiring peak into the world of volunteering for the Ecology and Natural Resources program. 

What Exactly Does the Ecology and Natural Resources Program Do? 

The Ecology and Natural Resources program provides programs and education for a wide variety of areas of interest. These include native and invasive wildlife and plant species, as well as connecting community members of all ages to our county’s beautiful natural areas and ecosystems, and more!  

We are committed to answering our community’s questions about the variety of wildlife that is commonly encountered in Sarasota County, fostering a spirit of coexistence and conservation. From alligator ecology and safety education, to tips and tricks for providing habitat for wildlife in hopes of attracting some of Sarasota County’s spectacular visitors to your yard or community, we are here to provide education that protects both human and wildlife interests and needs. 

Head over to our website to view the variety of exciting programs that we offer for families, youth, adults, and professionals, or contact kclements@scgov.net to inquire about bringing a program to your community or group. For current events and programs, check our Eventbrite collection. 

What Do Volunteers Do? 

With such a wide range of programming, there are many opportunities to volunteer your time doing something that fulfills you and utilizes your knowledge, experience, and passions. Are you a retired teacher or educator, someone who enjoys working with children, or a fascinated nature enthusiast? Assist as educators for LIFE, our award-winning 4th and 5th grade environmental education program, help us table at community events, or guide adult nature walks in Sarasota County’s natural area preserves! Volunteers can also offer their wildlife and nature photography skills to capture inspiring images to be used for educational materials or provide vital administrative support.

A black and white clean line graphic of outstretched hands in front of a heart.
“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”
-Arthur Ashe

Volunteers Provide Essential Services…But Did You Know That Volunteering Has Unique Benefits for the Volunteer? 

Volunteers increase our capacity to respond to community needs and interests in a way that would not be possible otherwise. At UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County, volunteers provided 13,042 hours of service in 2022, amounting to an estimated $390,615 worth of labor! 

We sure do have some stellar volunteers, and we are incredibly grateful for their big hearts! And it turns out that while volunteers greatly benefit the organizations that they assist and are often motivated by a desire to be of service in their community, they too benefit from this altruistic choice. Studies have shown that volunteers may enjoy greater mental and physical health, a reduction in stress, and even “have lower mortality rates than those who do not [volunteer], even when controlling for age, gender and physical health” (Thoreson, 2023). These benefits are especially impactful for individuals ages 60 and older (Thoreson, 2023). 

How Can You Become a Volunteer? 

An elder woman watches young children using nets to examine aquatic insect species on a sunny day by a lake.
Dip-netting with 4-H youth during UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County’s Exploring Your Environment summer camp.

Are you looking to get involved in the community, and donate your time and expertise while learning about nature in Sarasota County, connecting with other like-minded individuals, and helping to increase environmental awareness in youth and adults? Consider volunteering for the Ecology and Natural Resources program! Email the program lead, Dr. Katherine Clements kclements@scgov.net, to express interest and learn more about the volunteer application process. 

What To Look for Next in This Series 

Follow along with the Volunteering in Nature series to learn about what volunteers have accomplished this past year and read a few inspiring stories from Ecology and Natural Resources volunteers themselves!


Thoreson, A. (2023, August 1). Helping people, changing lives: 3 health benefits of volunteering. Mayo Clinic Health System. https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/3-health-benefits-of-volunteering 


Zahir Ringgold Cordes, Environmental Education and Outreach Program Assistant for UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County's Ecology and Natural Resources Program
Posted: August 9, 2023

Category: Conservation, Events, Natural Resources, UF/IFAS Extension, Wildlife, Work & Life
Tags: Conservation, Ecology, Natural Resources, Nature, Pgm_EcoNR, Volunteer, Volunteering_in_nature

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