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Saloon Session with Will Vesely

Will is involved with Charleston Waterkeeper in many different ways, from outreach to lab work. He first learned about our work while doing research in Dr. Vulava’s lab at the College of Charleston. He then got involved with the College of Charleston Waterkeeper Club, eventually taking on the role of President. Will has done a great deal to help our organization so we are very excited to feature him in the Winter 2016 Valiant Volunteer! We hope you enjoy learning more about another one of our outstanding volunteers!


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Tell us a little about your background.

I am originally from Atlanta, Georgia and I am a senior at the College of Charleston majoring in Environmental Geology with a minor in Environmental Studies. I would call myself an environmentalist that is looking to make a major difference to positively change our relationship with nature. I am currently researching water quality, and I previously studied emerging contaminants in the environment. My research interests include examination of water quality impacts due to urbanization and the fate of emerging contaminants. I am the current president of the CofC Waterkeeper Club and have been working hard to build a strong foundation for the club. I think with the foundation that has been laid, the club will take the campus by storm in the coming semesters. In my free time, I enjoy hanging out with my girlfriend Emily and my dog Cal. I also like going on long runs and nature hikes. I enjoy being outside as much as possible and in particular being on the waterways. My local waterway is the Chattahoochee River which flows through metro Atlanta.

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What is your connection to the water?

I grew up in Atlanta near the Chattahoochee River and was at the river every chance I got. Growing up near a major urban waterway, I got to see first-hand the visible impact of pollution. I remember walking my dog at the river when I was in 8th grade and seeing entire sections of the Chattahoochee entirely trashed. When it rains in Atlanta, the river becomes unsafe for swimming due to high E. coli levels. Seeing this pollution got me motivated from a young age to make a difference in protecting waterways. I saw the club as a perfect way for me to protect local waterways and be able to educate a college campus about the importance of clean waterways. The club has been such a great opportunity for me personally to prepare for a career in protecting and serving the environment, as well as a great vehicle for me to expand my leadership and communication skills.

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Tell us more about your research.

I am currently completing my Bachelor’s Essay on dissolved organic carbon dynamics. In particular, I am looking at the impact of urbanization on the chemical characteristics of dissolved organic carbon in coastal South Carolina estuaries. I got involved with research 2 years ago during a summer internship in Dr. Vijay Vulava’s geochemistry lab studying the fate and transport of pharmaceutical and personal care products in natural soils. Then I was able to get a Summer Undergraduate Research Fund (SURF) grant from the College of Charleston this past summer studying dissolved organic carbon. My future plans are to go to graduate school and continue doing research looking at fate and transport of emerging contaminants. My career goal is to make a tremendous impact collaborating the important science with major land-use decisions. I hope to leave the environment in a better place than when I got here and with a message that people can draw from for years to come.

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What is your favorite part of volunteering?

I really enjoy being able to get out in the community and educate people about the importance of good water quality in their lives. Its a great feeling connecting with the public and the communities about the Waterkeeper’s message. The thing that gets me most excited are the clean-ups. This is because you get to see your impact on a particular area immediately, plus it is so important to keep waterways trash-free. The club has adopted Wappoo Cut Boat Landing and it has been essential to our expansion. Clean-ups are also a great way to get children excited about protecting the environment from a young age.

Anything else you would like to share?

I think it’s important to remember for the future of the planet and the environment that hope is not lost. It is an essential for more and more people to light a candle rather than accept the darkness.