Crew Leader of the Louisiana Conservation Corps (LaCC)
Gulfcorps Courtney Gullo Crew Leader of the Louisiana Conservation Corps (LaCC) © Christina Wayne

Stories in the Gulf of Mexico

GulfCorps Alumni

An interview with Courtney Gullo about her experiences with GulfCorps, her crew members and how GulfCorps helped her make her next career move.

The GulfCorps program aims to create jobs for hundreds of young adults along the Gulf of Mexico while protecting and restoring the Gulf. Teams of young adults work with GulfCorps to restore the natural features and habitats on critical conservation lands throughout the Gulf of Mexico region. GulfCorps is a collaboration between of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), supported by the RESTORE Council (Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revised Economies of the Gulf Coast States).

Courtney Gullo served as Crew Leader of the Louisiana Conservation Corps (LaCC) from August 2018 through March 2019. She is now working as a Prescribed Fire Intern at The Nature Conservancy's North Shore Field Office near Abita Springs, Louisiana. This internship is through a program of the Student Conservation Association.

GulfCorps put me into a situation where, after learning and training about fire, I could actually go into a conservation and fire career. I could never be more grateful than I am for what GulfCorps has done for my future.

How did you get involved in GulfCorps? What were your duties as crew leader?

After finishing a term of service with the Maine Conservation Corps, I loved the work so much that I came back home and looked for similar conservation opportunities here in Louisiana. I  saw a job posting for LaCC on The Corps Network's Twitter account and immediately applied.

After some experience in this field I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. But prior to starting this position, our Program Coordinator helped me understand that my position title was Crew Leader and my topline duties were mapping out day to day schedules for the crew to follow and working with our Project Partners to map out the project scopes.

I also organized food plans, managed the tool inventory and maintenance, and used the GPS to track our progress. As Crew Leader, I also had to ensure that my crew members had access to appropriate safety gear and that we always followed the necessary safety protocols for whatever we were doing that day.

Tell us about some of the people that made up your crew.

My crew had a wide array of characters, as all crews do. Everyone came from extremely different backgrounds but then we all came together for the same experience. An aspiring rapper; a 19 year-old New Englander just out of high school; mixed with a seasoned conservation corps guy; and two people who had no experience but wanted to work outside. Starting out it appeared we would not mix. But, when people come together with a common goal, it didn't matter what anyone's background was.

Members of the Louisiana Conservation Corps crew that completed the Firefighter Type II training at Camp Tiak in Wiggins, MS.
GulfCorps Alumni Members of the Louisiana Conservation Corps crew that completed the Firefighter Type II training at Camp Tiak in Wiggins, MS. © Christina Wayne

What was your favorite type of work you did with GulfCorps?

I really liked the construction-type work that we did a lot. Yeah, I know, I know, "coastal restoration" seems different than construction work, but we rebuilt hundreds of feet of boardwalks and public access areas where people can connect to nature without creating renegade trails, or bushwacking through a sensitive area. The wetlands and marshes of southwestern Louisiana are beautiful. I enjoyed the work a lot because I enhanced my knowledge on using power tools and was able to create a better space for the public to be able to utilize the land and experience what our refuges had to offer.

What are you doing now that GulfCorps wrapped up for the season?

I had the amazing opportunity though GulfCorps to become a trained Wildland Firefighter Type II (crewmember). This certification gives me the qualifications to apply controlled fires with a team of other certified firefighters, or other "Red Card" holders. It didn't even occur to me that that was something I'd be interested in, but after completing the trainings I realized that fire was the path for me. Once GulfCorps wrapped up, I heard of this new Fire Internship with SCA as an intern with The Nature Conservancy in Louisiana and thought it was perfect because I wanted to stay close to home and enhance my fire knowledge. This internship lasts 5 months and once it finishes this Summer I'm hoping to find a full-time job in wildland fire and begin my career.

All 44 trained GulfCorps members pose after completing Firefighter Type II training at Camp Tiak in Wiggins, MS, in December 2018.
GulfCorps Alumni All 44 trained GulfCorps members pose after completing Firefighter Type II training at Camp Tiak in Wiggins, MS, in December 2018. © Christina Wayne

What impact did GulfCorps have in your life?

GulfCorps has impacted my life more than I had ever imagined. I started GulfCorps just trying to get back into the conservation field. What I didn't expect is that this opportunity opened many new paths I didn't know existed. GulfCorps put me into a situation where, after learning and training about fire, I could actually go into a conservation and fire career. I could never be more grateful than I am for what GulfCorps has done for my future.

What's your advice for new GulfCorps members?

My advice to new GulfCorps members would be to embrace every single opportunity that is given to you. Even if it seems insurmountable, embrace it and put the effort in, you'll get there. Times will not always be ideal, sometimes you may think "What am I doing here?" But get past it. Never quit a job on a bad day. GulfCorps will be the greatest opportunity you've ever had, if you want it.