Tom’s fondest memories of the Gulf are of camping on its barrier islands for weeks at a time. "It was amazing," he says. "Experiencing the slow and subtle changes of the day, the quiet, clear nights and then—at times—the violent thunderstorms that nearly blew my tent away with me in it."
Tom, who earned his bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from Rowan University, camped on Gulf islands in Mississippi and Florida to study animal populations as part of his graduate work.
After earning his master’s degree from the University of Southern Mississippi, he was employed by the National Park Service at Gulf Islands National Seashore, where he spent more than four years working with the management of coastal shorebirds, sea turtles and seagrass projects. In 2010, during his final year with the Park Service, Tom spent much of his time serving as a resource advisor on clean-up activities following the oil spill.
In 2011, Tom joined TNC. As the marine program manager, he oversees conservation and restoration efforts and studies along Mississippi’s coast. Tom believes restoration in the Gulf of Mexico is an ongoing process. "As long as there is a human reliance on the Gulf, there will be a need for the stewardship of its resources." he says. "I see success being achieved when we can move from a reactionary and restorative approach to a proactive 'maintenance' of Gulf ecosystems. This would be a more economically viable approach that would benefit both people and nature."