Yearly Archives: 2017

Saloon Session with Grayson Bainbridge

Grayson Bainbridge joined the Waterkeeper team as an intern in the Summer of 2017. She is currently studying at Clemson University, with a focus on conservation biology. Though she was only with us for the summer, she was a natural fit and is greatly missed. We hope you enjoy getting to know another one of our outstanding interns in this new Saloon Session!


Tell us a little about your background.

I am a local girl from James Island attending Clemson University. I am in the College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Life Sciences studying Conservation Biology as my concentration. I have always had a passion for life and experiencing the outdoors from a very young age, and have always felt as if it does not receive the protection it deserves. I will be graduating in May of 2018 and am hoping to one day work in water conservation.


What is your connection to the water?

Growing up in Charleston, I was always on the water in one way or another- swimming, boating, kayaking, crabbing with my grandpa, to just sitting or playing anywhere near a body of water. My mom has always said she is surprised I haven’t grown fins by now! My ideal job to have when I was little was a mermaid, which always gave people a laugh. I can’t imagine I will ever lose the admiration I have for water and all it entails. When I am not around it or landlocked, I feel like something is missing. Having my life revolve around such a beautiful, nature based area has sparked my determination to protect and serve it as much as I can.

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What does conservation mean to you?

To me, conservation is protecting and improving what we already have for future generations to come, as well as ensuring everyone has equal access to the Earth’s resources. I want to use my passion and knowledge about the subject to spark something in others. Watching how technological life has become for so many, how it has become easier to throw an iPad in front of a bored child’s face instead of playing outdoors worries me. As children are being held back from all that nature has to offer, they will be less likely to want to protect it in the future. Conservationists are needed now more than ever, and it is our actions and words that will set the premise for how the environment will be cared for, for years to come.


What was your favorite part of interning with Charleston Waterkeeper?

My favorite part of interning with Charleston Waterkeeper has been seeing how many people come together to help the organization in working towards their mission of serving and protecting our local waterways. I have worked with people of all ages at our events now, and it makes me so happy to see the amount of people that come out and support the cause. Not to mention, there hasn’t been a single event when there weren’t a good amount of new individuals showing up, which shows that the organization just keeps growing and growing. I am proud to have been apart of something like this!

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Anything else you would like to share?

I have learned a lot about water preservation and conservation working with Charleston Waterkeeper. I was aware of the issues that our watersheds (and water in general) are facing, but not how extreme these issues truly are. It has been an incredible opportunity to see the work that goes into testing these waters and to be shown all of the ways even one person can make a difference. I came into this internship hoping that it would provide me with answers about if this were something I would want to do in my future, and that answer is most definitely a yes. Thank you, Charleston Waterkeeper, or more specifically Cheryl & Andrew!


You may remember meeting Kea Payton a few years ago when she first started going out with us to grab samples. Fast forward 2 years and now Kea has finished her thesis and is ready to share what she’s learned!

Have you ever wondered about plastics in our local waterways? Kea sure did! Her project explored 4 main questions.

Question 1: How are Microplastics Distributed in the Charleston Harbor?

No significant difference was found in microplastic concentrations between several water quality monitoring sites and Breach Inlet. This means that microplastics were well-mixed, no hot-spots were found, and there doesn’t seem to be a significant contribution of microplastics coming from the ocean.


Question 2: Are Microplastics Aggregating at Flood Tidal Fronts?

Higher levels of microplastics were found within the tidal fronts. Results suggest that microplastics are aggregating at these tidal fronts with influxes of particles coming from land-based sources.


Question 3: Do Fronts Serve as a Vector for Microplastics to Enter the Marine Food Web?

Only 1% of zooplankton examined contained these synthetic particles within their gut. This means that there are microplastics available in the tidal fronts, but zooplankton aren’t eating them. This suggests that frontal zones may not serve as a vector for entry into the food web and that our primary consumers (those at the bottom of the food web) are more selective feeders than originally thought.


Question 4: Are Microplastics Found in our Local Fish Population?

All recreational fishes examined in this study contained microplastics in their GI tracts; fishes studied include Croaker, Flounder, Mullet, Red Drum, Sea Trout, Spot, and Whiting caught in the Charleston Harbor.

Broader Impacts

On average, 3 microplastic particles per liter (43 – 100 μm) are being found in the top meter of the water column in Charleston Harbor. Physical damage (i.e suffocation, blocked and/or torn digestive tracts) from the ingestion of these small particles can contribute to various health risks for the organism and the composition of the particles have been reported to leach and sorb chemical contaminants. Such properties make these small synthetic polymers a greater ecological concern as damage and chemical uptake could expand up the food web through trophic transfer. These particles were detected in local zooplankton and fishes, but the evidence of trophic transfer remains unclear. The overall presence of microplastics in Charleston, however, does suggest a potential threat to the local marine food web.

FUN FACT:  Using data collected from this study (3 particles per liter), assuming even distribution and the estimated area (36.26 km2) with the historical (3.65 m) and the maximum (15.84 m) depth of the Charleston Harbor, it is estimated that 396,937,500 to 1,722,600,000 microplastic particles (43 – 100 μm) are suspended in the water column in the Charleston Harbor; using historical and maximum depth respectfully.