GulfCorps in the Gulf of Mexico
Creating 300 environmental restoration 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.
New Beginnings in GulfCorps’ Third Year
By Jeff DeQuattro—GulfCorps Program Director
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.
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
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!
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.
Learn more about the organizations working together through GulfCorps to restore the Gulf of Mexico :