Marine Environmental Award Individual 2017

Don Bates with the Litter Gitter
Don Bates with the Litter Gitter


Don Bates

Employee of Thompson Engineering for 16 years, Don is a Registered Professional Geologist.

Don has led operations in Thompson’s Jackson, MS office and is now Vice President of Operations for Thompson Engineering and works from the corporate office in Mobile


Don grew up in Louisiana “playing in the swamp”.   He has long had an interest in community cleanups and has participated with the Living Lands and Waters river cleanup in Knoxville, TN as well as Coastal Cleanups in Alabama and Mississippi.


More recently, Don spearheaded an employee volunteer litter cleanup crew, an effort that has netted thousands of pounds of trash. The most impactful effort has been at Mobile’s Maple Street tributary where Don and several Thompson Engineering employees, along with volunteers from the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program, Partners for Environmental Progress and the University of South Alabama gathered in November 2016 to tackle the tributary’s trash problem by kayak and by foot along the shore. The initial cleanup netted 200 bags of trash and 12 tires. A subsequent cleanup in March resulted in even more trash collected.


Don is the brain behind a small stream litter collector dubbed the Litter Gitter. The tool was first deployed in Mobile’s Maple Street tributary after the November 2016 cleanup in an effort to keep the tributary as clean as it was immediately after the cleanup. Since that time, Don has monitored and emptied the Litter Gitter weekly. In total, the Litter Gitter has trapped more than more than 250 pounds or 120 cubic feet of litter, which has prevented it from entering the Maple Street tributary. Don estimated the Litter Gitter is trapping 80-90 % of the floating litter that enters the tributary through stormwater drainage pipes.

Even more impressive is that once Don removes the trash from the trap, he recycles plastics and aluminum.

Marine Environmental Award Organization 2017


Each year, just as endangered sea turtles make their way to the white-sand beaches of Alabama’s shoreline to nest, hundreds of volunteers gear up for another season of The Share the Beach activities. During hatching season, from May to October, these small creatures become our neighbors as they hatch from their nest. Volunteers assist our temporary residents in making the perilous journey to the water. But, there’s much more to The Share the Beach program than being onsite during a hatching.


The Share the Beach program was formed in 2005 by the Friends of the Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Each year, the volunteer group is tasked with patrolling the beach, educating the public and school groups, late-night nest observation and assisting with supply and equipment preparations. Share the Beach volunteers monitor several areas of Alabama’s coastline, devoting their time to searching for new nests, marking them and protecting the nests and hatchlings from natural and human-related dangers. From 2003 to 2013, more than an estimated 40,000+ hatchlings have safely entered the Gulf of Mexico from Alabama’s beaches.


Share the Beach follows protocols set forth by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the federal endangered species recovery permit. Volunteers help protect the nesting sea turtles and their habitat under these guidelines by using donations from sponsors and from the Adopt-a-Nest program. The program does not receive federal funding.


The dedicated volunteers of The Share the Beach program help ensure the support and protection of these endangered giants of the ocean when they are just tiny turtles beginning their journey.  450 volunteers watched over 50 miles of nesting habitat and 176 sea turtle nests this year alone.

Marine Environmental Award for an Individual

Gulf Coast Marine Environmental Excellence Award -which recognizes an individual who has made outstanding contributions to marine environmental sustainability in the Alabama Gulf Coast Region.

2016 Recipient: Sam St. John

2015 Recipient: Andrew Saunders

2014 Recipient: Ann Bedsole

2013 Recipient: Skipper Tonsmeire

2012 Recipient: Russell Ladd, III

Marine Environmental Award For an Organization

Gulf Coast Marine Environmental Leadership Award‐Recognizes an organization whose efforts have resulted in the improvement of marine environmental sustainability in the Alabama Gulf Coast Region.

2016 Recipient: Alabama Coastal Foundation

2015 Recipient: John Borom Alabama Coastal Birdfest

2014 Recipient: Mobile Big Game Fishing Club

2013 Recipient: Dog River Clearwater Revival

2012 Recipient: South Mobile County ExxonMobil