Next Generation of Aquatic Restoration Leaders: Abbey Toomer


Operated by Trout Headwaters, Inc., Waders in the Water (WitW) is an interactive, webinar-delivered training that instructs students in common restoration industry tools, techniques, and processes, workplace safety, and proven, practical, & innovative habitat enhancement. WitW graduates have a path to projects, jobs, and careers in the $10B/Yr restoration economy. Corps that offer the WitW training are better positioned to participate in the growing number of public-private restoration partnerships with for-profit, non-profit and government entities.

This summer, The Corps Network and THI are partnering on a blog series to highlight young adults who have benefited from the WitW experience.


She grew up in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas where she loved to fish Lake Norfork and the White River with her Dad and Grandfather, “Pa”. It was this draw to nature and the outdoors that, in 2011, led Abbey Toomer to join Florida’s Community Training Works, Inc., also known as Young American Conservation Corps. 

Starting as an office assistant in 2011, Abbey, now 28, learned the ins and outs of financing and managing a Corps. After three years in this position, she transitioned to working in the field and training other crewmembers.

Over the years, Abbey numerous certifications and completed trainings in proper ax usage, Wilderness First Aid and CPR, and wildland firefighter basic management. She also completed the Waders in the Water training, which introduced her to water safety and the concept of how all environmental systems are connected. With this experience, Abbey spent three months in Mississippi training new Corpsmembers with Climb CDC Conservation Corps in skills such as endangered species tracking, processing, handling, and cataloging invasive species.

Abbey has worked mostly in the Florida Panhandle, but has also worked in Ft. Lauderdale, St. Augustine, and on the Florida National Scenic Trail. Recently, she and her crewmembers are worked with the Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory to expand Living Dock; a learning platform used by thousands of school children, marine biology and aquaculture students, and medical and scientific researchers. They also recently partnered with Florida State University’s Coastal and Marine Laboratory on oyster restoration, coastal restoration and trail maintenance.

Abbey believes the Waders in the Water program provided her insight into new perspectives on nature. While she has always considered herself environmentally conscious and tries to live as “green” as possible, Abbey’s made some changes since the training. She now uses a “First, Do No Harm” approach in her work, pausing to assess both the environment and proposed solutions before taking any action. She asks herself, “Is this solution really the BEST thing to do for nature and this particular habitat?" Abbey strives to help Mother Nature heal herself, instead of counting on nature to fix whatever problems humans impose. She now considers the unique qualities and needs of each project location, knowing that, in restoration or rehab work, one size rarely fits all. 

The professional training she has received through WitW gave Abbey greater confidence to work on bigger restoration projects and communicate more knowledgably with land and project managers. She is excited about continuing Gulf Coast restoration work and looks forward to, along with her team, applying the knowledge she gained through WitW.

“So many folks living in rural Arkansas, and other communities throughout the US that struggle with crippling high unemployment, could really benefit from this training,” reflected Abbey. “These folks would not only become better job candidates for organizations and companies restoring lands and waters, but they would also improve their lives, the lives of their families, and their communities, for many years to come.” 

Gulf Coast Corpmembers Awarded Scholarships to Participate in Waders in the Water Training

Members of the Conservation Corps of the Forgotten Coast install a living shoreline

Waders in the Water Aquatic Restoration Training Interactive Support — Now Easier and More Powerful

From our partners at Trout Headwaters, Inc. comes news about enhancements to the Waders in the Water aquatic restoration training they offer to Corpsmembers.

The Waders in the Water online support tool has been newly upgraded to improve system features and ease-of-use. EcoBlu Analyst 2.0, the cloud-based big data system for the Waders in the Water green jobs training and certification program, is now easier to use than ever. The intuitive, interactive maps of member Corps, conservation projects, and potential restoration industry employers are now faster and more user-friendly, and new resources include feeds for conservation jobs and internships.  

Every Waders in the Water student receives password access to the platform so they can explore opportunities in the growing restoration economy and access a wealth of support material to refresh or expand their knowledge, including stream, river, wetland, coastal, and estuary restoration drawings and specifications, resume templates, environmental glossary and more.  WisCorps’ Garrett Shears took the online class and told us “The web based resource is an incredibly valuable tool.” 

This sample interactive map shows various U.S. Conservation Corps which are Waders in the Water certified.

Presently Corpsmembers and leaders in 23 states are applying their new certification and are using EcoBlu Analyst 2.0 to both understand the restoration economy, and to partner with fellow Corps on projects.

White Mountain Youth Corps Founder Mike Gaffney: “I think the training/certification gives our partners and potential partners more confidence that we're serious about restoration work and that we can be a trusted source for their restoration implementation plans.”

Wyoming Conservation Corps Assistant Director Patrick Harrington echoed the values. “Trout Headwaters has developed a truly unique training for the Conservation Corps world,” he said. This platform is just one of the support tools already deployed for the Waders in the Water Level I training.  

Expect an announcement soon on release of the new Waders in the Water level II training. In the meantime, many corps told us early April was a great time to train and certify newly arriving Corpsmembers in aquatic restoration and the green jobs economy.

To participate in the next online webinar training:

Members of The Corps Network can Register Here for the April 6 & 7, (10 am –1 pm EDT) Waders in the Water Level I class.  

The private-public training program continues to offer on-site sessions for groups of 20-40 students to accommodate individual corps needs. Please contact Luke Frazza for more information.


Marie Walker, Vice President, The Corps Network
(202) 737-6272

Luke Frazza, Project Development, Trout Headwaters, Inc.
(703) 244-7460

Boiler Plate: 
From our partners at Trout Headwaters, Inc. comes news about enhancements to the Waders in the Water aquatic restoration training they offer to Corpsmembers.

Aquatic Restoration Training Reaches Corps in 16 States!