Coasts

New Jones Beach, Sunken Meadow Volunteer Program Launches

Volunteer beach stewards are Audubon's extra eyes and ears in the field, helping to minimize disturbance to nesting birds.

“A lot of people don’t know what the Piping Plovers are, and a lot of people don’t know that they are New York State endangered. You leave every conversation telling them their beach is a special place. You leave every day with the feeling that you made an impact for nesting shorebirds. Who doesn’t love that? Of course I would do it again,” said Edward Cerverizzo of Oceanside, New York, the first trained Jones Beach steward in Audubon New York’s new Beach Steward Volunteer Program.

The Beach Steward Volunteer Program is the first of its kind from Audubon New York. This summer, in partnership with New York State Parks at both Jones Beach and Sunken Meadow State Parks on Long Island, we’ve been able to offer local community members a unique, hands-on opportunity to gain valuable field work experience in the world of conservation.

Through their work in the new program, volunteers help minimize common disturbances faced by Piping Plovers, and educate beach-goers of the wonders of these adorable little shorebirds.

During the spring and summer, Jones Beach and Sunken Meadow State Parks are home to multiple threatened, endangered, and at-risk coastal bird species, including the Piping Plover and Least Tern. This makes these locations a critical spot for disturbance monitoring.

At this summer’s program launch, over 30 volunteers were trained in shorebird biology and how to educate and interact with the public. Volunteers like Edward engaged hundreds of beach-goers, informed people about the danger of bringing dogs to beaches with nesting birds, and even directly prevented a drone user from disturbing birds by opening up dialogue about the harm that drones can have on protected nesting areas on the beach. Each individual that is educated results in a more responsible and environmentally-aware group of people who frequent our shores.

Edward Cerverizzo dons his blue "Be a Good Egg" t-shirt and beach steward hat as an official Audubon volunteer. Photo: Arielle Santos/Audubon

The goal of the Beach Steward Volunteer Program is to educate visitors and minimize disturbances to beach-nesting birds.

Stewards educate the public on what birds are in their area and what they can do to help protect them. Our “Ask me about the Birds” banner invites the public to ask about their local wildlife. New York State Parks kindly donates binoculars and backpacks for volunteer stewards to use. Audubon New York provides educational materials, including bird identification guides and lists of dog-friendly beaches people can go to. Our stewards are also armed with an official Audubon New York “Bird Steward” hat, which is more than enough reason to participate!

Various land owners, state and federal agencies, and not-for-profit organizations hire biological technicians to monitor and protect Long Island’s beach-nesting birds, but with a limited capacity and a lot of ground to cover, biologists can’t be everywhere at once. Our volunteer beach stewards are the extra eyes and ears we need out in the field. We like to stress that while making sure we are minimizing disturbances to these birds, stewards are the informers – not the enforcers. Educating the public is equally important.

If you have a passion for the environment, love wildlife, and want to directly help in the breeding success of vulnerable bird species, this program is an incredible opportunity. There is no commitment necessary and you do not need any prior experience. The only requirement is the desire to make a difference, and we will prepare you to do the rest.

It is crucial that we educate the public of their impacts on the birds that depend on our beaches to keep their populations going. Information is key. With help from volunteers like our beach stewards, we can make a real impact on the future of our local endangered and threatened shorebird species.

Want more information on becoming a Beach Bird Steward? Contact nycoast@audubon.org.