With more than 110,000 acres of coastal lands and waters to manage and protect, the small staff at Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is very busy, and always happy to receive help. Through a strong volunteer program, hundreds of individuals play a vital role in the preservation, restoration and management of our mangrove estuary, donating of more than 18,000 hours each year.
The reserve is constantly seeking qualified individuals to assist with a variety of tasks, from research and stewardship efforts out on the land and water to greeting and educating visitors at the Environmental Learning Center. While manyof the volunteers are retired and find purpose in sharing their free time for this important cause, the Reserve can accept volunteers of any age over 14.
One Marco Island resident has been instrumental in helping the facilities department at the Rookery Bay Field Station, on Shell Island Road. Ron Schlechtweg has donated more than 500 hours since he started in the summer of 2015. The Reserve’s Dockmaster, Bob Sebold, cannot say enough about how much Ron helps him every week.
Ron and his wife Jane moved to Marco Island full-time after he retired in 2014 from General Electric (GE) inCincinnati. During his 40 years at GE, Ron held positions in Engineering and Project Management at their Jet Engine division. He worked with aerospace companies and airlines around the world. When you fly today, there is a chance that Ron worked on the engines powering your airplane.
Ron and Jane have three children and one grandson, living in Dallas, Chicago and London. Ron enjoys traveling and boating, and he also owns a vintage Corvette. When not volunteering at Rookery Bay Research Reserve, he donates his time to the Boys and Girls Club of Collier County as a Science/Engineering/Math mentor.
Ronhelps the Reserve’s facilities team do everything from mowing the grass to installing a new motor on one of the vessels. He enjoys the “hands on” mechanical aspects of his assignments. Ron tells us that volunteering gives him a chance to learn about Rookery Bay, meet wonderful people and help support the variety of things that takes place there. Ron’s help with the facilities team directly supports many aspects of the Reserve’s operations.
Renee Wilson is Communications Coordinator at Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. She has been a Florida resident since 1986, and joined the staff at the Reserve in 2000.