Ways to Get Involved

From its start in 1903, the National Wildlife Refuge System has owed its very existence to concerned citizens eager to protect America's natural resources. Check out ways that you can become involved, and contribute your strength on behalf of America’s natural resources.


Volunteering - RV Volunteer Program

Wheeler offers several opportunities for RV volunteers to staff the Visitor Center and provide information to visitors, to help with general maintenance, and other needs. The RV site includes water, electric, and sewer service, as well as access to washer/dryer. RV volunteers from all over the country and all walks of life visit and volunteer. Volunteers get to experience some of the most rewarding wildlife work in the country.  To view and apply for current volunteer positions, please visit volunteer.gov and search "Wheeler NWR".

Volunteering - Local Volunteers/Groups

A wide array of volunteer activities are available for local individuals and groups.  Individual volunteers should be age 18 or older, although there may be opportunities for organized groups of youth.  If you interested in volunteering at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, please inquire about current opportunities by calling 256-350-6639 or emailing us at wheeler@fws.gov.

Education Programs

Refuge internships

Refuge internships are unpaid internships, but free housing can sometimes be provided in bunkhouse style quarters provided at the refuge. Interns work 40 hours per week for a minimum of 10 weeks. The refuge intern program is designed to provide valuable work experience for college students or recent graduates and to provide work assistance for the refuge. We strive to always provide a variety of quality experiences for interns while accomplishing needed refuge work.

The primary purposes of the intern program are to identify and introduce potential employees to the National Wildlife Refuge System. For this reason, internships are usually filled by college students or recent graduates. Interns provide a valuable work force for these refuges. Having an interest or goal of future employment with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is not a requirement for those applying to be refuge interns.

A cover letter, resume and three references with email and phone contact information are required.

All interns will be involved in multiple refuge programs.  This gives an intern a well-rounded look at and direct involvement with many aspects of national wildlife refuge national wildlife refuge
A national wildlife refuge is typically a contiguous area of land and water managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  for the conservation and, where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

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operations which often proves useful when searching for jobs after your internship.  However, summer internships tend to 

  • Interns often have the opportunity to spend time at the other refuges within the complex – Mountain Longleaf NWR, Cahaba River NWR, Watercress Darter NWR, Sauta Cave NWR, Fern Cave NWR and Key Cave NWR.
  • Interns assist with water management, wood duck banding, bird surveys and other biological program activities.
  • Interns assist with the youth summer day camps. 
  • All interns assist with refuge maintenance which includes mowing, trimming, trail work, invasive plant control (spraying herbicides), trash collection, and other maintenance as it comes up.
  • General refuge summer internships typically run from mid-May to early-August. If refuge operational needs allow, other terms may include September – December or January – April.

To Apply:
In most cases, to be considered for an internship position, an applicant must be able to stay a minimum of three months. However, in rare cases, slightly shorter internships (10 week minimum) may be scheduled.

Internships are volunteer positions. Housing will be provided. Interns stay in the large and modern bunkhouse having 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, large kitchen, and large community area located directly behind the refuge headquarters. Applications are accepted continually, with selections being made on specific dates.

Email a cover letter with your specific interests and dates available. Include a resume and three references with phone and email contact information to wheeler@fws.gov.

In your application describe your background & experience relating to the following:

  • Educational background
  • ATV/UTV, boat experience
  • GPS/GIS and computer experience
  • Map reading skills
  • Basic plant identification skills
  • Basic wildlife identification skills
  • Wildlife survey experience
  • Maintenance experience (trail and other)
  • Be sure to provide your dates of availability!

Youth Conservation Corps 

Wheeler NWR usually accepts applications for the summer Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) program each March.  This 8-week youth employment program in June and July.

WHERE: Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge headquarters located at 2700 Refuge Headquarters Road, Decatur, AL.

WHAT: Full-time (40 hours per week) summer employment, Monday through Friday, 7 am-3:30 pm, for 8 weeks from June-July.

SALARY: $11 per hour

HOURS: 7 am - 3:30 pm

DUTIES:  Assist with and complete natural resource conservation, habitat protection, and enhancement projects including, but not limited to: trail and grounds maintenance, boardwalk repairs, sign installation, trash and debris removal, waterfowl banding, etc.  Duties are performed in all types of weather/outdoor conditions.

REQUIREMENTS: Ability to use common hand tools and perform physical labor.  Must be between 15 and 18 years of age for the duration of the program.  Must have parental approval and transportation to refuge headquarters.  Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

Selection: Selection (4 positions) will be on a random basis from the pool of diverse eligible applicants.  Those not initially selected will remain on an alternate candidate list should vacancies occur during the program.

For further information, please contact: wheeler@fws.gov