Become a Volunteer

There are many opportunities for you to get involved with the Reserve. Below are descriptions of the different volunteer opportunities that are available. We are also willing to work with you on an individual basis if you have a certain skill you think would be helpful to the Reserve.


Animal Rehabilitation Keep (ARK) Volunteers

Regular Volunteer: Volunteers attend regularly scheduled weekly shifts either in the morning (9:30am - 12:30 pm) or afternoon (1:30pm - 5:00pm). Daily tasks involve food preparation, feeding, enclosure cleaning, water refills, laundry, and dishes. Other duties consist of cleaning cages, tubs, tanks, and floors. Additional daily tasks are provided if time permits which may include freezer inventory, weed maintenance, organization, and other alternative projects. If needed, volunteers may aid with moving animals from enclosures and assist with weight checks.

Animal Rescue: Once trained with handling of sea turtles and a diverse array of birds, rescues are permitted. This involves traveling in your own personal non-UT vehicle to pick up animals at an established site. Individuals must feel comfortable rescuing the species prior to departure and ensure that they have a suitable enclosure for transport. Due to the nature and size of sea turtles, rescues may require more than one person with the ability to lift heavier animals. Due to the nature of wildlife in our area, most rescues require having a vehicle that can be driven on the beach.

Events: The ARK is involved with a variety of events throughout the year that may take place on the UT Marine Science Institute property or off property at a variety of locations. Examples of yearly events include the Whooping Crane Festival, Sand Fest, and sea turtle releases.

Turtle Patrol: Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles’ nesting season on the Texas coast begins April 1st and ends July 15th. Throughout the season, patrols are conducted on the beach either in a UTV or enclosed non-UT personal vehicle. Surveying extends to San Jose Island where assistance may be needed on a situational basis. To be involved with Turtle Patrol, you must attend a yearly nesting and stranding training at Padre Island National Seashore and an ARK UTV training.

Friends of the ARK: The Friends of the ARK (FOTA) is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to fundraising to benefit the ARK. Involvement may include attending various events, selling merchandise, and collecting donations. If you are interested in becoming involved with FOTA, the primary contact is Lee Harrison, who can be reached at or (361) 332-631.


Education Volunteers

Events: Assist staff at festivals or events. Duties may include assisting with education programs, setting up and facilitating interactive/informational booths, taking photographs, and related miscellaneous tasks as needed.

Bay Education Center: Greet visitors at the Bay Education Center (BEC) in Rockport, Texas. Sporadically help as a substitute educator for Science on a Sphere presentations.

WEC Tours: Lead public tours of the Wetlands Education Center (WEC). These tours occur on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.

Patton Center Docent: Work a regular 3-hour shift as a docent for the Patton Center for Marine Science Education in Port Aransas, TX. Docents greet guests, monitor the touch tanks, educate the public on aquaria exhibits, answer questions, and help the public interpret and interact with static graphics and their associated activities.

Programming: Assist education staff with educational programming for K-12 students and the general public. Programs may occur at the WEC, BEC, and/or other UTMSI administered locations.

R/V Katy: Assist education staff/naturalist with programming and safety aboard the R/V Katy. Must be 18 years or older and in good physical condition. Programs on this research vessel are typically 4 hours in duration, so volunteer must be able to endure variable weather conditions and be willing to get wet and dirty while on-board for extended periods of time.

Aquaria: Assist UTMSI staff in maintaining aquaria. Duties may include feeding animals and assisting with cleaning tanks, life support systems, and tools.

Collection: Assist the Aquarium Education Specialist with collection of fish and other animals as needed for the aquaria in the Patton Center for Marine Science Education. Volunteer must be able to endure varying weather conditions, be willing to get wet and dirty, and be physically fit enough to help transport buckets and coolers filled with water and fish. Possible collection methods include seining, trapping, netting, fishing with a rod and reel, and snorkeling.

Clerical Work: Assist with scanning and organizing documents such as permission slips and photo release forms that are collected from program participants.


Stewardship Volunteers

Invasive Species Removal: Help remove invasive species of plants from UTMSI property and assist in replanting native plant species. Help grow seedlings or cuttings of native plants. Volunteer must be in good physical condition and able to handle harsh climatic conditions such as high temperatures or strong winds.


Lab Volunteers

Assist researchers in laboratory experiments. Duties may include data entry, data analysis, water/sediment filtration, setting up/taking down and organizing equipment, preparing media and solutions, maintenance and cleaning of glassware and equipment, resolving problems with equipment, and care of animals and various microscopic organisms.


Citizen Science Volunteers

Assist researchers by collecting data for active projects. Volunteers may be required to lift ~10lbs, walk >.5 miles, work on a dock above water, and use a hose. Specific duties and conditions will vary based on sample location.

Volunteer Forms

Volunteer Application

Annual Renewal Form

Get/Find UT EID

Code of Conduct



Volunteer Training


R/V Katy Volunteer Training Manual

Bay Education Center Volunteer Training Manual

Wetlands Education Center Volunteer Training Manual


Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Clean-Up


An educator leading a tour of the Wetlands Education Center




Working with live sea turtles is one of the many rewarding tasks at the Amos Rehabilitation Keep



        Volunteers helping to plant native species in the Wetlands Education Center