A member of a conservation corps group based in Apalachicola, Florida, pauses during a training exercise.
Conservation Corps A member of a conservation corps group based in Apalachicola, Florida, pauses during a training exercise. © Audra Melton/TNC

Stories in the Gulf of Mexico

GulfCorps in the Gulf of Mexico

Restoration project that aims to create 300 jobs over three years along the Gulf of Mexico.

Restoring the Gulf’s Environment and Economy

GulfCorps, a project of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), aims to create jobs for hundreds of young adults along the Gulf of Mexico. With the support of the RESTORE Council (Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revised Economies of the Gulf Coast States), GulfCorps protects and restores the Gulf’s lands and waters while creating jobs through conservation corps in the five Gulf states (Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas). These crews are teams of young adults restoring the natural features and habitats on critical conservation lands.

GulfCorps launched in 2017 when NOAA awarded a $7 million grant to TNC for the creation of the program, a collaboration of TNC, the Student Conservation Association (SCA), and The Corps Network (TCN). GulfCorps mobilized with one crew in each of the five Gulf states in early 2018. By the program’s third year, we plan to have three crews in each state, totaling 15 GulfCorps crews. This project was made possible through funding received from the NOAA Restoration Center and RESTORE Act.

Restoring Communities and the Coast See what GulfCorps is doing for coastal environments along the Gulf of Mexico, and for the young people who have joined the efforts.

A Busy Winter for the GulfCorps Program

By Christina Wayne—GulfCorps Program Specialist

GulfCorps Program Specialist
Christina Wayne GulfCorps Program Specialist © Michael Dumas

Saying the 10 GulfCorps crews for Year 2 have been busy in Quarter 1 is an understatement. From Corpus Christi, TX, to Apalachicola, FL, the crews trained, learned and worked hard.

GulfCorps Training

Since the addition of five more crews to GulfCorps in Year 2, the working season started with two orientations at Camp Beckwith in Fairhope, AL. The Student Conservation Association (SCA) and The Corps Network (TCN) staff and trainers provided stellar learning and networking opportunities for seasoned and new crews alike in two four-day sessions. From group dynamics to mapping, the gamut of restoration and conservation was covered.

The Nature Conservancy’s Alabama Coastal Programs staff took students into Weeks Bay for some hands-on basic aquatic monitoring training. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) staff taught land-based reporting and monitoring techniques. TCN staff gave the crew members insight into the leader/follower dynamic as well as the impact of working as a team to problem solve. SCA trainers emphasized the need to Leave No Trace behind in environmental work as well as homing in on diversity, inclusion and equity. Guest speakers conveyed their expertise on wide-ranging subjects from sea turtles to invasive species.

Crew members even had the chance to interact with current and former professionals from organizations such as the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), The Weeks Bay Foundation, Audubon Mississippi, The Nature Conservancy’s Human Resources department, US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Members also heard from the Executive Director of the RESTORE Council and a representative from the Governor of Louisiana’s Office of Coastal Activities as keynote speakers.

Fire Training

When the crews weren’t working at National Wildlife Refuges (NWR), State Parks or National Forests, they were learning even more at Camp Tiak in Wiggins, MS. The Forest Stewards Guild (FSG) came out to Mississippi from Colorado and New Mexico for three training sessions in November and December. All 10 crews attended a four-day session of S-212, Wildland Fire Chain Saws, and have several certified sawyers on their teams now. Eight of the crews sent select individuals to attend the six-day Firefighter Type II training which covered S-130, Firefighter Training; S-190, Introduction to Wildland Fire Behavior; and L-180, Human Factors in the Wildland Fire Service. Leading up to the Firefighter Type II training, crew members also had to complete a 100- and 700-level Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) incident management system course plus pass the Arduous Pack Test to be certified to help with prescribed burns on federal land.

Hurricane Cleanup

In addition to all this, Florida and Mississippi crews did some heavy lifting in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. The Conservation Corps of the Forgotten Coast, the Conservation Corps of the Emerald Coast, and the CLIMB Conservation Corps all helped the Apalachicola area begin recovery efforts immediately following the storm. Limitless Vistas, Inc., in New Orleans helped keep Bayou Sauvage NWR clean, safe and open to the public during the partial government shut-down. Our crews have a lot to brag about: hands-on learning combined with relevant soft-skills training has led to real world successes!

Meet Two of Our GulfCorps Alumni, Sarah Vande Brake and Courtney Gullo

Sarah Vande Brake worked for the Aqua Crew out of the Houston office of the Texas Conservation Corps for six months. Courtney Gullo served as Crew Leader of the Louisiana Conservation Corps (LaCC) from August 2018 through March 2019. Find out how GulfCorps is shaping their careers.

Sarah Vande Brake (left) and Courtney Gullo (right) are GulfCorps alumni who worked to protect critical conservation lands in the Gulf of Mexico region.
GulfCorps Alumni Sarah Vande Brake (left) and Courtney Gullo (right) are GulfCorps alumni who worked to protect critical conservation lands in the Gulf of Mexico region. © Michael Dumas 2018 and Exquisite Productions

Little St. George Island Living Shoreline
Shoreline stabilization, harvesting marsh plants, and planting behind living shoreline
St Joe Bay State Buffer Preserve
Prescribed fire and fire prep work, invasive ID and treatment/removal, repairing wildfire plow scars and small ditches for proper sheet flow, and repairing low-water crossings
Apalachicola NERR Stewardship Project
Planting, prescribed fire and prep work, invasive ID/treatment/removal, repairing boardwalks, trails, primitive campgrounds, boardwalks and facility maintenance
Apalachicola National Forest Invasive Species
Invasive plant species management
Tate's Hell State Forest
Invasive plant species management, endangered species protection, prescribed fire
Perdido River WMA Stewardship Project
Invasive species management, brush management and fire-risk reduction, natural areas user amenity and trail maintenance
Grand Bay Savanna Complex Stewardship and Bog
Invasive species management, pitcher plant bog restoration and vegetation thinning, prescribed fire burn
Bon Secour Stewardship and Mapping
Invasive species management, boardwalk, trail, and facility maintenance
Perdido River WMA Stewardship and Recreation
Invasive species management, prescribed fire and fire preparation, facility and general maintenance and debris removal, hiking trail maintenance
Splinter Hill Bog Stewardship Project
Invasive species management, prescribed fire burn, facility and general maintenance, and debris removal
Upper Wolf Bay Tract Stewardship Project
Invasive species management, prescribed fire and fire preparation, facility and general maintenance and debris removal,
Lillian Swamp Stewardship Project
Invasive species management, prescribed fire and fire preparation, facility and general maintenance and debris removal
Meaher State Park Stewardship and Trails
Invasive species management, prescribed fire preparation, facility and general maintenance, and debris removal
Meadows Tract Stewardship Project
Invasive species management, prescribed fire preparation, facility and general maintenance, and debris removal
Kuppersmith Tract Stewardship Project
Invasive species management, prescribed fire preparation
Dauphin Island Parks Stewardship Project
Incasive species management, sand dune creation, prescribed fire preparation, facility and general maintenance, and debris removal
D'Olive Watershed Invasive Species Project
Invasive species management, facility and general maintenance, debris removal
Mon Louis Island Stewardship Project
Invasive species management, facility and general maintenance, and debris removal
Helen Wood Park Stewardship Project
Invasive species management, facility and general maintenance, and debris removal
Perch Creek Preserve Stewardship Project
Invasive species management, prescribed fire preparation, facility and general maintenance, and debris removal
Alabama Recreational Fishing Facility
Invasive species management, facility and general maintenance, debris removal, and planting native vegetation
Prescribed Fire Training Tracts
Prescribed fire training, prep-work, and fire activities
City of Orange Beach Stewardship Project
Prescribed fire and fire prep-work, invasive species management, trail management and facility/amenity maintenance
Round Island Wetland/Island Restoration
Monitoring for percent coverage of planted cells (sea oats)
DeSoto National Forest Habitat Restoration
Invasives species mapping and treatment/removal, erosion control, pitcher plant bog restoration, longleaf pine planting, fire prep work, and prescribed burns
MS NWR Stewardship Project
Invasive ID and treatment/removal, woody vegetation removal in pine savanna habitat, facility maintenance, tail maintenance, prescribed fire preparation and burning
Pascagoula River Apple Snail Removal Project
Emergent, non-native aquatic plant control, and apple snail/egg removal
Bennet Bayou Preserve Project
Invasive species management and brush removal, planting of native trees and march grasses, facility maintenance to trails, boardwalks, signage, boundaries, kiosks, and facilities
Cameron Bay Preserve Project
Invvasive species management, native trees planting, facility maintenance to trails, boardwalks, signage, boundaries, kiosks and other onsite facilities
Ramsey Spring Preserve Project
Invvasive species management, native trees planting, facility maintenance to trails, boardwalks, signage, boundaries, kiosks and other onsite facilities
Sabine NWR Stewardship Project
Prescribed fire, facility maintenance, control of native and non-native vegetation, distribute surveys/questionnaires to waterfowl hunters and engage vistors during volunteer days
Cameron Prairie NWR Stewardship Project
Prescribed fire throughout the refuge, facility maintenance, control of native/non-native vegetation, debris removal, public engagement, wildlife enhancement and management
Lacassine NWR Stewardship Project
Prescribed fire throughout the refuge, facility and recreation amenity maintenance, control of native/non-native vegetation, debris removal, apple snail removal
Bayou Sauvage NWR Invasive Species Mapping
Invasive species mapping, trail and boardwalk maintenance work, and invasive species treatment
Big Branch Marsh Stewardship Project
Pitcher plant bog restoration, endangered species protection, invasive species treatment, trail maintenance, prescribed fire
Armand Bayou Nature Center Stewardship
Invasive and exotic species management
Coastal Heritage Preserve Stewardship Project
Invasive species management and planting native species
Virginia Point Marsh Planting Project
Monitoring native vegetation planting
Turtle Bayou Nature Preserve Stewardship
Invasive and exotic species management
Trinity Bay Marsh Creation
Planting native vegetation
Port Aransas Nature Preserve Stewardship
Invasive species management
Mission Aransas NERR Stewardship Project
Invasive species management
Nueces Delta Preserve CBBEP Stewardship
Invasive species management
Laguna Atascosa Coastal Corridor Planting
Planting native vegetation
St. George Island Living Shoreline & Marsh
Shoreline stabilization, bagging shell, construction survey, transporting and placing bagged shell in place, and harvesting marsh plants
Jones Swamp Wetland Preserve Project
Invasive species and fire prep clearing, planting native trees and plants, boardwalks and trail enhancement, debris and trash removal
Three Mile Creek Apple Snail Removal Project
Emergent, non-native plant control, apple snail/egg removal from bank perimters, and debris removal
Weeks Bay Foundation - Rangeline Preserve
Invasive species management, pitcher plant bog restoration, vegetation thinning, preserve maintenance, and debris removal
Weeks Bay Foundation - Juniper Preserve
Invasive species management, pitcher plant bog restoration, vegetation thinning, preserve maintenance, and debris removal
Weeks Bay Foundation - Rio Vista Preserve
Invasive species management, pitcher plant bog restoration, vegetation thinning, preserve maintenance, and debris removal
Weeks Bay Foundation - Polo Ridge East
Invasive species management, pitcher plant bog restoration, vegetation thinning, preserve maintenance, and debris removal
Weeks Bay Foundation - Polo Ridge West
Invasive species management, pitcher plant bog restoration, vegetation thinning, preserve maintenance, and debris removal
Weeks Bay Foundation - Wiese Tract
Invasive species management, pitcher plant bog restoration, vegetation thinning, preserve maintenance, and debris removal
Weeks Bay Foundation - McPherron Tract
Invasive species management, pitcher plant bog restoration, vegetation thinning, preserve maintenance, and debris removal
Weeks Bay Foundation - Balzli Preserve
Invasive species management, pitcher plant bog restoration, vegetation thinning, preserve maintenance, and debris removal
Weeks Bay Foundation - Shine Preserve
Invasive species management, pitcher plant bog restoration, vegetation thinning, preserve maintenance, and debris removal
Weeks Bay Foundation - Crescent Point
Invasive species management, pitcher plant bog restoration, vegetation thinning, preserve maintenance, and debris removal

GulfCorps — Year 2 Projects Explore this map of current GulfCorps projects and the places we work to protect.