Already having a home in Gulf County made it easy for Tony Cole to make the move from Alabama to Northwest Florida for a new job opportunity. Getting his dream job was the icing on the cake. Thrilled to be a part of the Buffer Preserve is just an added extra.


Tony comes to us from Ranburne, Alabama. While working in Alabama, Tony owned and operated a logging crew for many years. This is where he gained a great skillset and diverse background in heavy equipment and vehicle maintenance.


Tony also worked as a mechanic for a lumber company. This experience has helped him gain extensive and proficient working knowledge of many types of vehicles and trailers. Tony also possesses a CDL license.


Having this knowledge is such an asset for the Preserve. Keeping equipment and the vehicle fleet ready to roll is something Dylan Shoemaker has only dreamed about lately. Dylan is happy to have Tony as his maintenance top guy.

“Tony has certainly jumped in and become acquainted with all aspects of the Buffer Preserve,” Shoemaker said. “One morning recently it was storming, and I called all employees to tell them to come in a little later if they needed to due to bad weather.

“Well, Tony was already at the Buffer and working even though it was well before time to start. He has proven to be valuable employee already.”


Tony has lived in Alabama his entire life and married his high school sweetheart. They have a son named Joseph.

Tony said “I have wanted to work in the resource management field my entire life, so this is my dream job…at least until the mosquitos come out,” Cole said.

Sophia Fonseca is the Preserve’s new Environmental Specialist 1.

Sophia comes to us from Jupiter where her diverse background brings a great skillset in both resource management and education and outreach.


She received a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science from Florida State University Honors College. During her time at the university, she was heavily involved with many on campus environmental service programs as well as outside associations.

Some of these included St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge and T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park. Sophia also spent time as a Forest Conservation Intern in the rainforests near Puyo, Ecuador.


Most recently, Sophia’s experience as a biologist came from working on land management plans for the Bureau of Land Management. This helped her gain extensive working knowledge of many different plant species and restoration projects. Sophia loves learning about plants and how they support the local fauna.

“An animal can only be fully understood through the knowledge of how it interacts with its surroundings,” she said. “Only then can proper conservation measures be achieved.”


Her long-term career goal is to become more involved with resource management and environmental stewardship while educating the public about its importance.

“I am very excited to join the team at the Buffer Preserve and look forward to learning more about the site and interacting with the public,” Sophia said.


Dylan Shoemaker, Preserve Manager says that gaining two new employees with such outstanding work ethics is extraordinary.

“I am so proud to have Sophia as our newest employee,” he said. “She has already tackled new assignments and is always looking for ways and methods to make the Buffer Preserve better!”