Volunteer

Volunteering at Neal Smith

Friends of the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge VolunteeringThe volunteer program is an active and vital part of Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge. Annually, dedicated volunteers contribute thousands of hours to assisting the Refuge with a wide variety of projects. Our volunteer program recruits people of all talents, ages and backgrounds who have an enthusiasm for volunteering and an interest in the tallgrass prairie. Volunteer projects will vary according to the needs of the Refuge, ability, and personal interest; yet all have one thing in common – they are vital to your Refuge’s success.

Friends of Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge VolunteersFor many of the projects available, volunteers may come and work anytime the Refuge is open, and for as many or as few days/hours as they have available. We also encourage groups (scouts, churches, service groups, clubs, etc.) to volunteer together for many of our projects.

Some of the most common volunteer projects include:

  • Seed Handlers – harvest and clean prairie seeds; harvesting is outdoors in the summer/fall, and cleaning is indoors nearly year-round
  • Seedling Caretakers – transplant seedlings in the greenhouse, and later plant them in the prairie; goal is to enrich existing prairie plantings with rare or hard to grow plants; transplanting is indoors and planting is outdoors, during the spring and early summer
  • Prairie Stewards – use hand tools to cut non-native or undesirable trees and shrubs, then pile them for later burning; pick up trash along roads and trails; work is done outdoors nearly year-round
  • Invasive Species Monitor – locate and remove invasive plants using clippers, spades, or other hand tools; work is done outdoors during the growing season
  • Tallgrass Trailkeeper – walk one or more of the Refuge’s hiking trails once a week, and cut any overhanging grasses with clippers; perform light maintenance on trails; work is done outdoors during the growing season, and trail lengths range from ½ mile to 2 miles
  • Nature Store and Information Desk Attendant – greet and provide information to visitors about the Refuge and Friends of Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge; open and close the Prairie Point Nature Store, operate the cash register and assist customers; work is done indoors and shifts are available year-round; must be able to commit to a regular, weekly schedule
  • Environmental Education and Interpretation – assist the Refuge’s Visitor Services Specialists with providing education and informational programming to school groups and the general public; work is done indoors and outdoors, primarily during the spring, summer and fall
  • Maintenance Assistant – help maintenance staff with a variety of projects, including mechanical repair, mowing, sawing, etc.; many tasks require special training; work is done indoors and outdoors throughout the year
  • Office Assistant – help office administrative staff with a variety of projects, including mailings, brochure folding or ordering, etc.; work is done indoors throughout the year
  • Adopt-A-Trail
  • Special events and Second Saturday Stewardship

Other special projects are available throughout the year, such as data entry, bird nest spotting, breeding bird surveys, photography and many others. If you have an idea for how you can use your special skills to help the Refuge, contact us and we can talk about it. We create new positions each year, and always have space for something special.

P.O. Box 399
9981 Pacific St.
Prairie City, IA 50228
515-994-3400
Get Directions
The refuge roads and trails are open daily from dawn to dusk.

The Prairie Learning and Visitor Center is open year-round.
Regular Hours:
Monday-Saturday from 9am-4pm and Sunday 12-5pm

Winter hours:
December 1-February 28
Monday-Saturday from 9am-4pm; closed Sunday.

We are open on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day; we are closed on all other Federal holidays.