A team of University of Central Florida students and biologists is seeking volunteers to help save Turtle Mound, a Native American shell mound within the Canaveral National Seashore in New Smyrna Beach.

The project, which runs Saturday and Sunday, is one of six national finalists in the 2011 Field & Stream Magazine and Toyota Hero for a Day Conservation Projects Competition. The competition aims to recognize individual efforts to protect fish and wildlife.

The mound, which stands 35 feet tall, provides archeological evidence of the way of life on the east coast dating back to the year 800. It’s a historical gem in danger of disappearing because of erosion caused by wind and boat wakes.

Volunteers are needed to help weave oyster shell mats together on Saturday. Sunday volunteers will focus on planting native shoreline vegetation to help stabilize the area around the mound.

Pre-schoolers enrolled at UCF’s Creative School for Children have been taking care of mangrove seedlings for the past eight months in preparation for this weekend. The project fit nicely into the children’s science curriculum. On Friday, the toddlers prepared more than 150 mangroves for the trip to the coast.

“The children and their families are so excited about this project,” said Suzanne Caffery, a teacher at the school. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to really make a difference.”

Anyone 12 years and older who has no trouble bending over, working in water and working up a sweat is welcome. Sunday is a particularly good day for younger volunteers because of the planting and because touch tanks with local biodiversity will be on display to help show why it is important to keep the area healthy.

Linda Walters, a biology professor who has long worked in the Indian River Lagoon to help save oyster beds, secured support from the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program, the National Park Service, UCF, the Coastal Conservation Association, Field and Stream Magazine, Anderson Rentals and Costa Sunglasses to help save the historical treasure.

“This is critical work to help preserve the health and integrity of Mosquito Lagoon and Turtle Mound, local treasures for residents and the creatures that call the lagoon home,” Walters said.

The workday runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Turtle Mound, immediately inside the New Smyrna (North) Entrance of Canaveral National Seashore. Volunteers should wear old clothes and closed-toe, hard-soled shores. Bring water, work gloves, sunscreen, insect repellent and lunch. Parking is limited but free if you mention that you are part of the Turtle Mound stabilization project.  Expect a 1/3-mile walk to the site after parking.

For more information, contact Walters at [email protected] or John Stiner at [email protected]