For the Gulf of Mexico Alliance (GOMA), The Lodge at Gulf State Park provided the perfect place for the group’s annual all-hands meeting. For the past 15 years, the gathering has rotated among the five states in the Alliance: Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Alabama.
“Since this is like an environmental, conservation-oriented organization, being at the Lodge, with all the sustainability built into it and sitting in nature basically … it’s a nice fit,” GOMA Environmental Education Coordinator Lee Yokel said. “Previously the Alliance has been in Mobile proper and this is the first time that they’ve actually gone to Gulf Shores. The Lodge is really excited. This is like the first big meeting they’ve had at their brand-new facility.”
Yokel said the yearly meeting provides an opportunity for the various teams in GOMA to come together with eyes on accomplishing a specific goal and teaching local governments and citizens about how to work toward the same goal.
“The alliance is kind of a unique organization. It’s got all these teams and groups,” Yokel said. “This is the one time in the year that these people from around the Gulf can come together, face-to-face, to work on these shared issues of importance. The goal is to further that work.”
Following an action plan approved by the five Gulf states’ governors, this year’s June 10-13 meeting focused on marine debris. One of the presenters on June 13 was Orange Beach Coastal Resources Department Director Phillip West talking about the highly successful Leave Only Footprints program.
“We’re hoping, like the cities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, to spread that Leave Only Footprints program to other areas of the Gulf that may have similar problems with beachgoers leaving their stuff behind,” Yokel said. “So we’re attacking the marine debris problem in a different way and providing the opportunity for all of us to come together to share working on the problem.”
West’s presentation will be broadcast live on the Texas State Aquarium’s Facebook page at 10:30 a.m. on June 13.
A four-hour workshop on June 10 taught attendees how drones can be used in the fight against marine debris.
“The data and monitoring team is really keen on learning more about using this drone imagery and how it can supplement conservation techniques,” Yokel said. “How can the city of Gulf Shores utilize this technique and resilience in the future for planning for storms or recovery after storms?”
The four-day workshop was aimed at getting new knowledge and techniques to battle marine debris into the hands of local officials and companies involved in the environment and conservation.
“It’s taking down to the community level, down to the local managers who really need this stuff,” Yokel said. “With that drone workshop we had some people from Volkert, we had people from the state agency, we had people from nonprofits. Everybody wants to know how we can use this within my organization. So we’re providing some concrete stuff.”
Also on Monday, attendees learned about 19 different online tools to use in conservation and environmental efforts.
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