Excited voices filled the room as GulfCorps members found their seats; the feeling of starting something new was in the air. Eager young adults gathered to the shores of Weeks Bay, Alabama from communities around the Gulf of Mexico to begin GulfCorps orientation. These few days will lead to months of natural resource conservation employment benefitting the Gulf. Orientation goals were simple—bring everyone together to build camaraderie, provide hands-on training, and inspire young adults to seek careers in the natural resources fields.
Funded by the RESTORE Act, GulfCorps recently finished it’s first year of restoration and training activities. In year one, 50 members successfully worked on 24 different projects covering all five Gulf states. Now the program is expanding to train a total of about 100 members,each Gulf state will go from hosting one, to two crews. And, new crew locations in Pensacola, Florida, Western Louisiana, and Corpus Christi, Texas were added this year. The crews will work full-time for approximately 23 weeks. This expansion means more on-the-ground habitat restoration will be accomplished producing sustainable and lasting benefits to coastal environments, economies, and communities.
Orientation included career panels, primers on habitat restoration and specifics about the work teams will be doing at project sites. Members also learned about risk management, team building, diversity and inclusion, and Leave No Trace principles. A highlight for all was a chance to move out of the classroom and into the field Field trainings included advanced monitoring and field sampling techniques to help articulate the success of NOAA’s restoration projects.
In addition to training, the orientations help build comradery and new friendships across the GulfCorps crews, to support collaborative work in the months ahead.
GulfCorps is also creating awareness and interest in the natural resources conservation field within local communities. To achieve that awareness, NOAA, The Nature Conservancy, and other partners are educating members and their communities about the financial growth and opportunities of the natural resources job sector.
GulfCorps graduates are linked to job centers and leading universities that focus on training and educating a new generation of scientists, particularly from underrepresented minority communities. This theme was enhanced recently when Florida A&M University announced STEM scholarship opportunities for GulfCorps graduates.
Over the first three years, GulfCorps expects to employ up to 300 coastal citizens, and expend over 250,000 hours of person-power to restore and improve coastal habitats. The experience will provide members with practical job skills for career growth, contributing to local workforce development benefitting economic and environmental sustainability of Gulf communities.