Virtual Volunteers Share The Love
By Ally Greco, Director of Communications & Outreach
Until last year, Save the Manatee Club (SMC) had regularly received requests for guest presenters to talk about manatees in classrooms and other groups. Unfortunately, unless the presentation was in the Central Florida area, many of these requests had to be turned down due to a lack of local volunteers or an inability to travel due to location, cost, or staff and volunteer availability.
This all changed in 2020, when SMC began its virtual volunteer presenter program. Interested volunteers from all over the United States were able to share their love for manatees by educating audiences through virtual presentations on Zoom, Teams, and other platforms. The presentations have been given in many U.S. states, including Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. Two volunteers, Annabella and Kerry, have given several presentations since the program took off last fall.
Annabella, from Miami, Florida, was looking for a new way to volunteer when the pandemic began, as her regular in-person volunteer positions with her parish and at Zoo Miami came to a halt. She came across the volunteer presenter position with Save the Manatee Club and realized it would be a perfect fit since volunteers can sign up for presentations as they fit their busy schedules. Annabella is a current biology student at the University of Florida and hopes to pursue a career in wildlife and conservation biology.
“I especially enjoy sharing our manatee facts with younger groups of students who may have never heard about them before,” says Annabella. “So far, one of my favorite moments from a presentation was when a student earnestly asked about what other ways they could help protect manatees. His sincerity really stood out to me because it demonstrated how much people can become invested once they learn more about these animals.”
Volunteers don’t have to live near manatee habitat to educate others about protecting manatees. Kerry is from Pennsylvania but has loved manatees since she was a little kid. She signed up to volunteer to “help make the world seem a bit brighter” during the pandemic, she recalls. Between her job working with horses, her university classes in philosophy and biology, and her outdoor hobbies like hiking, paddling, running, and climbing, Kerry still found time to give nine presentations during the last school year.
She loves seeing how excited people get to learn about manatees, wherever they may be. “I have been lucky to have given virtual presentations to groups all over the country. No matter where the group is located, you get that same excitement and desire to get involved,” Kerry explains. “I had one student ask if he could make a comic book about manatees. Another student actually wrote to the governor of Florida about his concerns regarding the issues that manatees face…It’s an inspiring thing to be a part of.”
Prospective volunteers who love talking about manatees, are comfortable engaging audiences, and have a webcam, mic, and some knowledge of virtual meeting platforms are encouraged to apply for the volunteer presenter program. Visit savethemanatee.org/volunteer to sign up.
Are you an educator or group leader who would like to have a guest speaker from Save the Manatee Club (or do you know someone who is)? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your request, including potential dates and times, your preferred meeting platform, and information about your class or group.