Beach Steward Sea Turtle Washback Program
A Science-Based Citizen Volunteer Program

Baby sea turtleDo you walk the beach every day in search of treasures? Are you a passionate walker that picks up trash? Then you are
the perfect candidate to be a volunteer for the Sea Turtle Beach Steward Program!

Annual Volunteer Training

Successful implementation of the Beach Steward program requires coordination, teamwork, and consistency by all involved in marine turtle protection. Volunteers are required to complete the Beach Steward program orientation and attend one mock beach survey training session. See all important information below:

Step 1: New Volunteers complete NEW volunteer application

  • Application must be printed and brought to beach survey training (see days and times below)
  • Bring copy of driver license with application
  • Applications are secured and brought to personnel department for processing and immediate shredding to protect your personal information
  • Every page must be completed and signed or this will delay your entry into the program
    Under 18 application

Step 2: Returning Volunteers complete RETURNING volunteer application
Application can be emailed to volunteer coordinator, Martha Ferguson (mferguson@sjcfl.us)
Under 18 application

Step 3: Complete Online Orientation

Step 4: Complete Online QUIZ
This lets us know you have completed the orientation

Step 5: Attend simulated beach survey training (see days and times below)

NO REGISTRATION REQUIRED

  • Monday, August 9, 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm, South Ponte Vedra Park, 2993 South Ponte Vedra Blvd, St. Augustine
  • Wednesday, August 11, 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm, Surfside Park, 3070 Coastal Highway, St. Augustine
  • Monday, August 16, 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm, Butler East Park, 5860 A1A South, St. Augustine

Step 6: County staff will contact you with zone assignment and start date

Have more questions? Please read the Frequently Asked Questions page or email volunteer coordinator, Martha Ferguson (mferguson@sjcfl.us)

Additional Information

  • Volunteers must possess a valid Florida Driver's License and pass a background screening.
  • Volunteers are required to commit the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month (September to November) for beach cleanups and be on call in response to storms.
  • Children under 18 are welcome to volunteer but they must be accompanied by an adult or guardian.
  • Volunteer/community service hours can be accounted for with this program.

Visit the Washback Toolkit page to learn more.

Quick Volunteer Program Overview

Season is from July 1 to November 30

This program calls for volunteers to walk the beaches of St. Johns County to remove marine related beach debris and to survey the wrack line (line of seaweed) for washback sea turtles. A washback is a post hatchling sea turtle that is slightly larger than a hatchling as it has left the nest and has been traveling the ocean. 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 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 push marine debris, the mass of seaweed and sometimes washbacks back onto the beach. They are extremely tired, dehydrated and in need medical attention.

Sea turtles are listed as an endangered species so this volunteer program is authorized and permitted through the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and coordinated through the efforts of a Volunteer Coordinator, Zone Captain and several dedicated volunteers. 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 being responsible for ensuring the volunteers have the tools for a successful survey (survey tools are provided by St. Johns County).

St. Johns County is grateful to the network of volunteers that make this program successful.

Interested in volunteering?

To find out more about the Washback Volunteer Program, please visit our Toolkit page