A former Corpsmember starts his own conservation group
Where are they now? – Catching up with 2005 Corpsmember of the Year,
Diony working on Peralta Creek
Diony Gamoso, formerly of Marin Conservation Corps (now Conservation Corps North Bay), won Corpsmember of the Year in 2005 for his commitment to service. Read below to find out what he’s been up to since accepting his award, or find out more about Diony and his Corps experience by reading his bio from our 2005 National Conference.
Diony Gamoso has always loved nature and animals. He studied wildlife biology in college and spent the first four or five years after graduation working as a wildlife field biologist. He then accepted a 3-month-long internship doing habitat restoration in San Francisco through the San Francisco Natural Areas program. Around this time, Diony was also working intermittently for the Student Conservation Association. A friend took notice of Diony’s interest in environmental preservation and suggested he might find value in working for the Marin Conservation Corps (now Conservation Corps North Bay, CCNB). Diony checked online and noticed that the Corps was hiring Crew Leaders. He decided to give the program a try.
“I thought I’d be there for maybe a year or even just six months so I could get some valuable experience under my belt and then move on,” said Diony. “I was thinking at the time that this would just be a steppingstone. But then I ended up staying there for about three years.”
During his first year with CCNB, Diony worked in the field doing flood control, fire fuel reduction, irrigation, and various other land management projects. He made it clear to his supervisors from the very beginning that his main interests were in habitat restoration and environmental education. To give Diony some teaching experience, the Corps offered him a position with Project Regeneration; CCNB’s summer youth program for Marin County high school kids. Diony organized educational field trips and led program participants in service learning projects. Diony went back to being a Crew Leader at the end of the summer, but his supervisors wanted to help him in fulfilling his ambition to become a teacher. He was soon promoted to Education Department Assistant.
“I felt like the culture of the Corps was to find opportunities for people. Any time there was a new project that came along, or a new position they thought I might be interested in, the Corps would say, ‘Hey, you should apply to this!’” said Diony. “Basically they just kept on opening up new opportunities for me within the Corps and I really felt useful and needed, so I stuck around.”
Diony spent the rest of his time with the Corps in the Education Department. As a field teacher he taught CCNB crews about watershed, habitats, fire ecology – basically any of the science related to their field work. Diony also helped in the classroom teaching English as a Second Language to Latino students and tutoring Corpsmembers in math, science, and reading. During his last six months with CCNB, Diony was simultaneously enrolled at Dominican University to get his California teaching credential in secondary school science. He left the Corps in 2006 to focus on his studies. After receiving his teaching credential, Diony spent a little over a year teaching physical science and biology at Berkeley High School. However, he soon decided that as much as he valued education, he was happiest in the field.
For the past three years, Diony has worked seasonally as a biological science technician doing habitat restoration in the Presidio park of San Francisco. He took the job because he felt it would give him more experience in conservation while also providing plenty of time for him to pursue other projects. Diony has taken advantage of this extra time to reestablish a creek group in his neighborhood in Oakland. The group was established about a decade ago, but interest soon faded. Diony can take credit for reviving Friends of Peralta Creek and turning it into the growing organization that it is today. Friends of Peralta Creek has organized field trips for over 300 youth and has engaged between 50 – 100 adult volunteers in events and creek restoration projects.
“The focus is on bringing native plants back to the Peralta Creek watershed. But combined with that is education about watersheds in general and how we can protect the creeks from being polluted, and how we’re connected to the ocean through the creek,” said Diony. “…I became interested in this kind of education as I worked in the environmental field. I think I realized just how disconnected so many people are from the nature that’s around them. So I guess I had a desire to make a difference and get kids involved in learning about all this nature that’s right there.”
Diony says the skills he learned at CCNB are definitely still relevant to his work in the Presidio and with Friends of Peralta Creek. It was at CCNB that he learned how to build willow walls and brush mattresses. Diony still teaches youth and volunteers about these erosion control mechanisms and still uses them in his work today. Diony was recently offered a year-round, fulltime job doing habitat restoration in the Presidio for the next two years.
Diony is confident he would’ve found his way into conservation even if he had never found CCNB, but he says he is grateful that the Corps helped expand his horizons and gave him a place to get hands-on experience in the work he now does for a living.
“The Corps changed my perspective a lot about people with different backgrounds…it helped me connect with a lot of people who I might not normally associate with in my regular social circles,” said Diony. “I loved the sense of community there. I would say there was a certain kind of love in the Corps – not necessarily like a warm and fuzzy kind of love, but in the sense that everyone really cared for each other and went the extra mile to help each other out.”
To youth considering joining a Corps, Diony says:
“a) Good idea! I got so much out of it and I think that practical work experience is so important….I felt that the Corps was a great place for getting some solid job skills. It’s just very good, practical experience…and b) My words of wisdom would be that you should let people know what it is that you hope to get out of your Corps experience and where you’re trying to go next. My experience with the Corps was that as soon as they found out what my goals were, every opportunity that arose that was related to what I was interested in, they would offer it to me. I was very thankful for that.”