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.

New Beginnings in GulfCorps’ Third Year

By Jeff DeQuattro—GulfCorps Program Director

GulfCorps Program Director, speaks to attendees about why GulfCorps is so important to him and The Nature Conserancy.
Jeff DeQuattro, GulfCorps Program Director, speaks to attendees about why GulfCorps is so important to him and The Nature Conserancy. © Exquisite Productions LLC

Each fall The Nature Conservancy and its partners, the Student Conservation Association, The Corps Network and NOAA kick off a new year of GulfCorps with an orientation in coastal Alabama. In late September this year more than 110 people from across the Gulf descended on Camp Beckwith on the shores of Weeks Bay in Fairhope Alabama to inaugurate GulfCorps’ third year

GulfCorps Program Director Jeff DeQuattro and his team worked long hours in the lead up to the orientation, which was by far the program’s biggest yet. We asked DeQuattro to tell us more about orientation.

Group selfie of Year 3 Orientation participants at Beckwith Camp & Conference Center, Fairhope, AL.
Year 3 Orientation Group selfie of Year 3 Orientation participants at Beckwith Camp & Conference Center, Fairhope, AL. © Exquisite Productions LLC

Can you tell us about this year’s orientation?

Orientation occurs for every crewmember and leader at the beginning of each GulfCorps season. The Student Conservation Association is tasked with leading the planning and execution of the orientation. This year, they engaged our project partners and individual corps to help design, plan and implement the orientation. They helped pull off an incredible training event that inspired our crews and staff for a well-trained and happy kickoff to Year 3!

This was our largest group yet, with over 110 people from 12 different crews that work from Texas to Florida. We are kicking into high gear in terms of monitoring the work that the crews have done the past two seasons, and at orientation we spent a lot of time with the crew leaders and staff teaching them how to do the ecological monitoring in the field, and how to train their crewmembers to do the same.

We had our standard orientation track for 80 or so new crewmembers, but took extra time with the leaders to make sure they had the training and tools needed to collect data in the field. We also added an incredible professional development component this year. The Corps Network helped each participant create an Individual Development Plan (IDP), which includes polishing or creating resumes, signing up in career databases like USAJobs, and attending workshops held by professionals where they learned about interview skills, resume tips, learning styles and other skills related to securing a career or job after GulfCorps.  

Do you have a moment or any highlight from this year that sticks out in your mind?

The crewmembers and leaders were really, truly listening and paying attention. They heard all week how important it is to put themselves out there, whether that means introducing themselves to a professional from the field they want to work in or finding something they are really good at and volunteering to be responsible for that thing—like running the GPS to track the progress of the work. Well—they did these things. I don’t know how many times some of our new crewmembers came up to me to shake my hand and introduce themselves. They shared that they’ve never really taken a chance on anything like GulfCorps before, or that they are normally very shy and don’t engage with groups very much. I saw so many young adults really come out of their shells, and out of their phones, it was extremely inspiring and satisfying

crew leader Mikah-Hakim Lewis (L) assists crew members Zhian Hunt, Jasmine Poole (foreground) and Quentin Riley with monitoring sheets prior to the star
Limitless Vistas, Inc. crew leader Mikah-Hakim Lewis (L) assists crew members Zhian Hunt, Jasmine Poole (foreground) and Quentin Riley with monitoring sheets prior to the star © Exquisite Productions LLC

What makes orientation week special for you?

By the end of the week, everyone was tired, but completely hyped up to go get some work done. Since orientation, we’ve already had crews knocking out acres of invasive species and starting to get situated with project partners for the upcoming seasons of work. I love seeing everyone together at one place. It really confirms the huge impact of the program. Huge in terms of geography and ecological impact, since we have about 130 projects this year spanning from Brownsville, TX to Apalachicola, FL; but also huge in terms of people because each one of these young adults could have a future in natural resource careers, and many would never have imagined you could protect and restore nature and get paid for it.

What’s next for GulfCorps?

We have big hopes for Year 3. Our members are very well trained. We have about 25 members who have returned from Year 2, and those seasoned crew leaders are light years ahead of where they were a year ago. I anticipate having a very significant impact on our coastal resources this year, specifically on marsh and wetland restoration, invasive species treatments, and on prescribed fire in the coastal forests. I’m also really excited to see what jobs our participants get after the end of their season!

One of the daily morning circle-ups run by Student Conservation Association to check in with members and provide team building experiences.
Circle-up One of the daily morning circle-ups run by Student Conservation Association to check in with members and provide team building experiences. © Exquisite Productions LLC

Meet Our GulfCorps Alumni

Simon Cruz Haggerty worked for GulfCorps from September 2018 to March 2019. 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.

GulfCorps alum Simon Cruz Haggerty (far right) and his team during a controlled burn exercise.
Simon Cruz Haggerty GulfCorps alum Simon Cruz Haggerty (far right) and his team during a controlled burn exercise. © Christina Wayne/TNC

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.