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Gulf of Mexico

2019 Gulf Guardian Award Winners

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About the Gulf Guardian Awards

The Gulf of Mexico Program Partnership developed the Gulf Guardian awards as a way to recognize and honor the businesses, community groups, individuals, and agencies that are taking positive steps to keep the Gulf healthy, beautiful and productive. The Gulf Guardian Award exemplifies what the Gulf of Mexico Program is all about: innovative solutions that come about when we pool resources and look for creative ways to positively impact our quality of life and economic well-being.

The first Gulf Guardian Award winners were recognized in 2000. This year, a first, second and third place award were given in five categories:

  • Business/Industry
  • Civic/Non-Profit Organization
  • Partnerships
  • Youth Environmental Education
  • Individual

Since 2009, the Gulf Guardian awards are recognized on a biannual basis.

First Place Gulf Guardian Winners


1st Place Business and industry MS PowerFrom left to right:
Jim Franks, University of Southern Mississippi; Charles Maguire, EPA Region 6; Tony Smith, MS Power; Lakeshia Robertson, EPA Gulf of Mexico Program; Vickie Tellis, EPA Region 4
1st Place Business & Industry
Renew Our Rivers Conservation Program
Mississippi Power
Gulfport, MS
https://youtu.be/o0rTpjj8ToY

Mississippi Power’s Renew Our Rivers (ROR) program is a conservation-based partnership of businesses, agencies and non-profit/community groups dedicated to the removal of litter from southeast Mississippi waterways – all of which are part of the Gulf of Mexico watershed. Since 2010, the level of partnership, participation and commitment has increased and created a sustainable model for reaching the ultimate goal of cleaning more waterways and leaving scenic streams and rivers even more pristine.

1st Place Youth Environmental Education Bayou Town ProductionsFrom left to right:
Lakeshia Robertson, EPA Gulf of Mexico Program; Cherie, Ronald, and Joseph Sandler, Bayou Town Productions
1st Place Youth Environmental Education
Environmental Education and Outreach Mobile Classroom
Bayou Town Productions,LLC
Kiln, MS
https://youtu.be/r_-8NIqCF9Q

The Environmental Education and Outreach Mobile Classroom has enlightened and entertained more than 130,000 students and adults, created awareness of Nonpoint Source Water Pollution and encouraged habit and behavior changes to improve water quality in local priority watersheds and the Gulf of Mexico. Highlights and accomplishments include generation and distribution of educational concepts and materials and achievement of measurable knowledge gained, due to the unique method of presentation.

1st Place Civic/Non-ProfitFrom left to right:
Jim Franks, University of Southern Mississippi; Charles Maguire, EPA Region 6; Todd Running, Houston-Galveston Area Council; Lakeshia Robertson, EPA Gulf of Mexico Program; Vickie Tellis, EPA Region 4
1st Place Civic/Non-Profit
Rivers, Lakes, Bays, ‘N Bayous Trash Bash
Texas Conservation Fund; Houston-Galveston Area Council
Houston, TX
https://youtu.be/hgH_IvmCXXc

More than 109,000 volunteers have participated over 25 years in the River, Lakes, Bays ‘N Bayous Trash Bash, the largest single-day waterway cleanup in Texas. Founded by the Houston-Galveston Area Council and run by the Texas Conservation Fund, the Trash Bash benefits the Galveston Bay watershed with an average of 4,400 volunteers collecting up to 85 tons of trash per year and cleaning over 1,600 miles of shoreline. Every Trash Bash also includes interactive exhibits, posters, and other education materials teach participants what they can do throughout the year to improve water quality and reduce the impacts of trash on the Galveston Bay watershed.

1st Place Partnership Celebrate The GulfFrom left to right:
Jim Franks, University of Southern Mississippi; Coen Perrott, MS Department of Environmental Quality; Charles Maguire, EPA Region 6; Jessica Rankin, MS Department of Marine Resources; Vickie Tellis, EPA Region 4; Avery Sward, MS Department of Marine Resources; Lakeshia Robertson, EPA Gulf of Mexico Program; Vickie Tellis, EPA Region 4; Betty Sparkman, Art in the Pass
1st Place Partnership
Celebrate the Gulf Marine Education Festival
Mississippi Department of Marine Resources
Biloxi, MS
https://youtu.be/amTz7Kt498M

Celebrate the Gulf Marine Education Festival, held annually in Pass Christian, Mississippi, collaborates with 70 organizations and more than 250 volunteers. These include federal and state departments, environmental groups, local businesses, artists, and small business owners. All collaborate to create one free family festival. The festival hosts more than 5,000 visitors from Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida and Alabama.

1st Place Individual Christina SimonielloFrom left to right:
Jim Franks, University of Southern Mississippi; Charles Maguire, EPA Region 6; Dr. Christina Simoniello, Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System; Lakeshia Robertson, EPA Gulf of Mexico Program; Vickie Tellis, EPA Region 4
1st Place Individual
Dr. Christina Simoniello
Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System (GCOOS)
St. Petersburg, FL
https://youtu.be/uOKYEohhpu8

Dr. Simoniello has comprehensive knowledge of the gulf, is passionate about education and outreach, and is the person everyone wants to work with in the Gulf of Mexico. In 2018, Dr. Simoniello provided leadership to countless classrooms and festivals in the gulf region, GOMA activities, the Animal Telemetry Network, the Marine Biological Observation Network, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Stewards, the Citizen Science Data Portal and much more. Dr. Simoniello has also improved the Gulf of Mexico environment by using her primary role as the GCOOS Regional Association’s education and outreach coordinator to inspire gulf residents, innovate scientific and educational approaches, and integrate information and resources. Additionally, Dr. Simoniello leads two annual science festivals that inspire thousands of gulf residents with hands-on environmental activities.

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Second Place Gulf Guardian Winners

2nd Place Business and Industry The Oyster BedFrom left to right:
Jim Franks, University of Southern Mississippi; Charles Maguire, EPA Region 6; Vickie Tellis, EPA Region 4; Beth Walton, Oyster Bed; Tommy Waller, Oyster Bed; Lakeshia Robertson, EPA Gulf of Mexico Program
2nd Place Business & Industry

The Oyster Bed
The Oyster Bed,LLC
Hammond, LA
https://youtu.be/NlnAsVm3U5E

Through its business selling oyster and seafood cookware, the Oyster Bed works with restaurants and community groups to promote the importance of oyster reefs and oyster shell recycling. The company’s cookware allows restaurants and home cooks to use oysters that have been pre-shucked at warehouse facilities, where the shells are routinely recycled and used to build new oyster reefs in the Gulf. They also partner with and donate to conservation groups to help raise awareness about how healthy oyster populations benefit the Gulf ecosystem as a whole.

2nd Place Youth Environmental Education LSUFrom left to right:
Jim Franks, University of Southern Mississippi; Charles Maguire, EPA Region 6;  Dean Chris D'Elia, Louisiana State University; Brian Matherne, Louisisna State University; Lakeshia Robertson, EPA Gulf of Mexico Program; Vickie Tellis, EPA Region 4
2nd Place Youth Environmental Education

LSU EnvironMentors Program
LSU College of the Coast & Environment
Baton Rouge, LA
https://youtu.be/q_ceNrduDic

Through EnviroMentors, LSU student volunteers mentor high schoolers on a year-long scientific research project. The program focuses on underprivileged young people who are typically underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. Students who complete the program increase their likelihood of graduating from high school and pursuing higher education, and their projects address real-world issues. Recent topics include effects of human impacts on plankton species, pathogens in oysters, and removing phosphorus from LSU’s University Lake.

2nd Place Civic/Non-Profit Gulf StarFrom left to right:
Charles Maguire, EPA Region 6; Jim Franks, University of Southern Mississippi;  John Tirpak, US Fish & Wildlife Service; Laura Bowie, Gulf of Mexico Aliance; Jim Miller, Freeport-McMoRan; Lakeshia Robertson, EPA Gulf of Mexico Program; Vickie Tellis, EPA Region 4
2nd Place Civic/Non-Profit
Gulf of Mexico Alliance’s Gulf Star Public-Private Partnership Program
Gulf of Mexico Alliance
Ocean Springs, MS
https://youtu.be/IPYIo-ax3WU

GOMA's Gulf Star program is a public-private partnership of agencies, businesses and non-profits, which supports priorities tied to healthy ecosystems that impact Gulf economies: water quality, coastal resilience, education, stewardship, healthy habitats, ecosystem monitoring, marine debris, and sustainable wildlife and fisheries populations. Funded by eight primary partners, more than $2 million has been awarded for regional projects in just the first two years of the program. This has resulted in 31 projects and more than 130 partner institutions implementing those projects. Gulf Star funding partners include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Shell Oil Co., Anadarko Petroleum Corp., The Nature Conservancy, Freeport-McMoRan, BHP Billiton and Hess Corp. 

2nd Place Individual Harriet PerryFrom left to right:
Jim Franks, University of Southern Mississippi; Charles Maguire, EPA Region 6;  Harriet Perry, University of Southern Mississippi;  Lakeshia Robertson, EPA Gulf of Mexico Program; Vickie Tellis, EPA Region 4
2nd Place Individual

Harriet Perry
University of Southern Mississippi
Ocean Springs, MS
https://youtu.be/_p-E7q6a6jE

Harriet Perry is a senior research scientist and professor emerita with the GCRL. For 50 years, she has been an educator, researcher and collaborator in the disciplines of environmental science and aquatic biology. Her interests include the research of Brachyuran (true) crabs, population dynamics of estuarine and marine invertebrates, invertebrate taxonomy, blue crab aquaculture, invasive species, and management of marine fisheries. She also mentors, trains and educates people around the entire Gulf of Mexico ranging from fishermen to environmental groups to students and scientists.

2nd Place Partnerships Gulf TreeFrom left to right:
Jim Franks, University of Southern Mississippi; Charles Maguire, EPA Region 6;  Christina Mohrman, Gulf of Mexico Alliance; Renee Collini, Northern Gulf of Mexico Sentinel Site Cooperative, Mikaela Heming, Northern Gulf of Mexico Sentinel Site Cooperative; Lakeshia Robertson, EPA Gulf of Mexico Program; Vickie Tellis, EPA Region 4
2nd Place Partnership

Gulf TREE
Gulf of Mexico Alliance
Ocean Springs, MS
https://youtu.be/FlQA6R-zcHE

Gulf TREE was created to provide guidance in tool selection for natural resource managers, community planners and others incorporating resilience into their projects, filling a critical need for stakeholders gulfwide. Gulf TREE is a unique online resource and features 110 tools on topics including identifying vulnerabilities, mapping, community planning, and outreach. It includes tool fact sheets, case studies and other valuable resources to inform coastal decision-makers. Partner collaboration and extensive stakeholder engagement were keys to project success. A 14-member project team guided the project and more than 200 participants from 108 organizations provided feedback.

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Third Place Gulf Guardian Winners

3rd Place Youth Environmental Education Land TrustPictured from left to right include:  Jim Franks, University of Southern Mississippi; Charles Maguire, EPA Region 6; Johnny Marquez, Land Trust for the MS Coastal Plain; Judy Steckler, Land Trust for the MS Coastal Plain; Lakeshia Robertson, EPA Gulf of Mexico Program; Vickie Tellis, EPA Region 43rd Place Youth Environmental Education
Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain’s Training Program for Southern Mississippi Youth
Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain
Biloxi, MS
https://youtu.be/9jbDYTnpXa4

The Land Trust and its partners created the program to educate and inspire youth while significantly enhancing the environment. This project worked to improve land resources and habitat in Harrison County through forest restoration, environmental education and invasive-species control—all of which will have long-lasting benefits to the health of the gulf. The program aims to connect youth with the environment and give exposure to related career opportunities, which could lead to even greater benefits for the resiliency of the region.

3rd Place Partnerships Nature Based Tourism PlanFrom left to right:
Jim Franks, University of Southern Mississippi; Charles Maguire, EPA Region 6; Vickie Tellis, EPA Region 4; Melissa Pringle, Allen Engineering and Science; Rhonda Price, Department of Marine Resources; Lakeshia Robertson, EPA Gulf of Mexico Program
3rd Place Partnership
Gulf Coast National Heritage Area Nature Based Tourism Plan for Coastal Mississippi
Mississippi Department of Marine Resources; Allen Engineering and Science
Biloxi, MS
https://youtu.be/sF4YZ27uRiM

The 2016 Nature Based Tourism (NBT) Plan for Coastal Mississippi created a sustainable opportunity for tourism growth in the Gulf Coastal region, while offering incentives for residents to protect natural heritage and increase resilience. The plan establishes a 10-year strategy for the Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area and serves as a model for a statewide nature-tourism strategy. Outcomes to date are marketing resources for NBT businesses, a Passport program, the Gulf Coast Outpost certification program and a Blueways design guide to increase natural recreation opportunities.

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