Each summer, young adults come to the American Littoral Society to join the Restoration Corps, a youth employment and education program. Also known as R-Corps, the program is specifically designed to engage young people in meaningful environmental projects.
Currently the program operates from May through August out of the NE Chapter Office in Jamaica Bay, NY and the Delaware Bayshore office in Millville, NJ. Participants from local high schools and colleges lend a hand with an array of Littoral Society events and projects, including cleanups, shoreline and habitat restoration, community activities, festivals, rain garden installations, and so much more.
Jamaica Bay R-Corps
The Jamaica Bay R-Corps program began in 2012 with just a small crew of young volunteers that worked towards the goal of cleaning up and restoring Jamaica Bay shorelines and wetlands. Their work over the years has had a lasting impact on the bay and their passion for the environment has impacted those around them in many ways.
This year, in addition to lending a hand with trash pick-up and debris removal on beaches in and around Jamaica Bay, the R-crops crew got to play a role in the Jamaica Bay Terrapin Research Project, which is coordinated by Dr. Russell Burke of Hofstra University.
Diamondback terrapins are both a keystone species and top predators, making their conservation essential for the health of the ecosystems in which they reside. However, their numbers are dropping rapidly in New York's Jamaica Bay due to high levels of egg predation, drowning in crab and lobster traps, and habitat loss.
As part of that work, R-Corps participants helped trap, tag and monitor turtles - checking them for injuries and measuring their size, before releasing them near where they were captured.
In June, the Littoral Society recognized Cameron Williams with the R-Corps Intern Achievement Award. He first came to the Littoral Society as a summer intern when just 14 years old. In those early years, the Jamaica Bay R-Corps program was just getting started restoring Jamaica Bay Marsh Islands.
Cameron has been with the Society ever since, spending eight years of summers carrying heavy loads from cleanup sites, becoming an plant identification expert, acting as first mate on the Jamaica Bay Guardian boat, serving as ambassador at our public programs, and boosting the morale of everyone involved in the program.
Delaware Bay R-Corps
Every summer in the Delaware Bayshore area of New Jersey, 8-10 young people dive into learning about how the park up the road impacts their drinking water at home and how horseshoe crabs on their beaches are connected to an endangered shore bird in Patagonia. Then they work on projects at the intersection of those issues as part of the R-Corps program.
This season, South Jersey R-Corps crew members installed a rain garden at the Cumberland County Library. The garden traps and filters runoff from the roof, helps to replenish groundwater, and prevents over a thousand pounds of suspended solids from polluting the Cohansey River each year.
They also got hands on and feet wet in local streams, learning how to conduct biological habitat assessments for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. In addition, they measured things like water pH, dissolved oxygen, and bacteria levels to get a better idea of how what's happening on land around waterways impacts water quality. Then, they met with our partners to tour an 86-acre parcel of land that we are working to permanently preserve in partnership with the NJ Conservation Foundation.
Further downstream, the crew tagged horseshoe crabs, learned to surf fish, and were taught how to identify different species of marsh grass. They made connections between stormwater runoff and the ecological health of the Delaware Bay, as well as how threatened species, such as the Red Knot, rely on healthy horseshoe crab populations to fuel their migration each year.
Finally, the R-Corps cohort tied this all together to share what they learned with the community. Leading programs at places like the Nanticoke Lene-Lenape’s Cohanzick Tribal Grounds and Bridgeton’s Little Sparks STEAM Camp, the team solidified their knowledge by teaching about the work they conducted all summer.
While all of this work is impressive and helps drive our mission to care for the coast and empower others to do the same, the most important part is that it is helping to shape the next generation of coastal stewards. By meeting people in the field and testing out the multitude of areas in which they can specialize, R-Corps offers participants the opportunity to network and gain perspective on career interests and job possibilities.
Through such leaders of tomorrow, the Littoral Society can continue to boldly defend the coast from harm and elevate the efforts of those who have the greatest stake in the future of the Bayshore region - the people who call it home.
The Littoral Society's R-Corps program is generously supported with finding from the William Penn Foundation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the PSE&G Neighborhood Partners Program. Learn how you can support or join the R-Corps program.