Here’s a glimpse of what we’ve been up to lately.

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.


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.

Charleston Waterkeeper is supported by a diverse group of volunteers and members connected by a common thread: a personal connection to Charleston’s local waterways coupled with a strong sense of community service. Their stories are engaging and inspire us every day at Charleston Waterkeeper. Join our community of supporters and together we’ll make our waterways cleaner and our community stronger.

Caroline Irwin

Caroline is a longtime Charleston Waterkeeper Ambassador and supporter. She is the granddaughter of country musician and avid fisherman Arthur Smith (think Guitar Boogie and Dueling Banjos) and first got connected with us in 2012 through her work with Arthur Smith Fishing Tournaments. Caroline carries on the family tradition and can often be found poling through our shallow saltwater marshes chasing redfish with her husband John (Fly Right Charters).

As a sales professional, she enjoys helping with fundraising and events that support our community programs, especially when they connect her love of fly fishing, her friends, and clean water. Caroline sees a lot of opportunity to support her local waterways and offers this encouragement:

“There are so many levels of involvement and I encourage people to find, first, why the water is important to them and then engage with the Waterkeeper to protect and educate.”


Photo Credit: Jason Stemple

James McGavick

If you’ve ever seen our website, the Waterline, social media, Water Quality Scorecard, 2015 By the Numbers, or #WaterWednesday, you’ve seen James’s skill with a camera. James and his wife Corrie are the talent behind MCG Photography. Their love for clean, healthy waterways brought them to the Lowcountry.

James is a waterman and has a very personal connection to our local waterways:

“Water is essential to my health and happiness, and a part of why my wife and I chose Charleston as our home over 12 years ago. From swimming to rowing to stand up paddle board, over the past 46 years I’ve found myself living within a few minutes of a body of water; lakes, rivers, sounds and oceans.”

Several years ago, James reached out wanting to get involved and quickly became an important part of our ability to share our story and work with you. Our water quality testing work is important to James:

“Charleston Waterkeeper monitors the health of our waterways so that we can more easily enjoy the beauty around us. Supporting Charleston Waterkeeper’s efforts by donating time and talent (photography) was an easy decision.”


Photo Credit: Kathy McGovern

Linda Parlo

Linda, a native Swede, recently moved to Charleston with her family (her husband works with a Boeing contractor). In Sweden, Linda worked as a marine biologist with the Kustbevakningen, the Swedish Coast Guard.

We met Linda at the the South Eastern Wildlife Expo in February 2015. Her sense of community service and background made her a great fit as a Field Investigator for our water quality testing work. Linda won “Field Investigator of the Year for 2015” for her habit of always having Swedish coffee to share during morning sample runs (and if she ever offers you “Swedish Mushrooms” don’t worry, they’re just candy). That, and her sampling technique is impeccable.

Linda also volunteers with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and NOAA. Her connection to the water echoes a strong sense of stewardship of our local waterways:

“I support Charleston Waterkeeper because a healthy watershed is vital to me and to all of us and we need to take better care of it. I love being on the water in Charleston, and marine life need clean water too!”


Carl Cole

Carl first volunteered with Charleston Waterkeeper in August 2014 as Field Investigator with our Recreational Water Quality Monitoring Program. After a 30 year career as an IT manager, he retired in 2012 and immediately began training as a Master Naturalist with Clemson University. In 2014, Carl was certified as the sixth Statewide Master Naturalist in South Carolina.

Carl volunteers in a variety of naturalist activities but prefers to get either dirty or wet or, sometimes, to set things on fire. Carl’s at his best in the field testing water quality, hauling oyster shells, or conducting prescribed burns in the Audubon’s Francis Beidler Forest and McAlhany Nature Preserve. Serving as a water quality Field Investigator, or in his words a “bottle monkey”, is a natural fit.

For Carl, the importance of clean water is a simple:

“Charleston Waterkeeper and clean water matter because, for the most part, we ARE water.”

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Annie O’Brien

Annie first got involved with Charleston Waterkeeper during graduate school in the College of Charleston’s Masters of Public Administration program. We quickly pressed her (and a few classmates) into service to help coordinate volunteers at the Water Ball in 2014. They all excelled and Annie, fortunately for us, stuck around serving first as an intern and then as our outreach coordinator.   

Annie left us to work with the Folly Beach Green Team, but we were delighted when Annie volunteered at Water Ball again is past fall. If you attended, she likely greeted you at the door welcoming you to the event. Annie recently completed her graduate studies and is working for Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach serving those in need on Charleston’s sea islands.

As an avid surfer, clean, healthy water and our quality of life in Charleston go hand-in-hand for Annie:

“I support Charleston Waterkeeper because our waterways are our most critical resource. Without clean water, Charleston wouldn’t be the same!”

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Lane Kennedy

Lane chose Charleston Waterkeeper and we’re so thankful she did. Lane is a student at the College of Charleston and serves in the Bonner Leader Program. Bonner Leaders are committed to service, leadership, and social justice in the Charleston community through working with local nonprofits. Through the Bonner Leader Program, Lane has committed to working with Charleston Waterkeeper for her college career.

Lane chose Charleston Waterkeeper because she is an avid SCUBA diver and waterway conservation issues are important to her. Lane’s sense of community service on behalf of our local waterways is clear:

“I love being part of Charleston Waterkeeper. Every day I go into work, I know that the work I do is appreciated and important. I get to put my own ideas and creativity into almost everything that I do. I’ve met so many people, I’ve learned so much along the way, and I can’t wait to be a part of whatever Charleston Waterkeeper does next.”


All of us at Charleston Waterkeeper are proud that such a great group of folks have chosen to get involved with us. It’s inspiring to work with a such a diverse and giving group of people dedicated to making their local waterways cleaner and communities stronger. Lets keep the momentum going together. Join our community of supporters!

Lane Kennedy joined the Waterkeeper team as an intern in the Spring of 2015. She is currently studying at the College of Charleston, with a focus in the natural sciences. Lane is involved in many different aspects of Charleston Waterkeeper, each of which she approaches with a combined sense of insight and creativity. We hope you enjoy getting to know one of our outstanding interns in this new Saloon Session!


What is your connection to the water? Why intern with Charleston Waterkeeper?
I’m studying to become a Marine Biologist, aiming for a doctorate! My minors are in Physics and Environmental Studies. I SCUBA dive when I get the chance, and I spend every summer by the sea. I became an intern for Charleston Waterkeeper through the Bonner Leader Program at CofC. I chose to reach out to CWK because environmental conservation means the most to me, and we are encouraged to find an cause that is important to us. I love interning with CWK because I love the people, I love everything I’m learning, and I love protecting the Earth’s water.

Tell us about the Bonner Program and what being a Bonner Leader means to you.
I started as a Bonner Leader at the College of Charleston as a freshman. The Bonner Leader Program is a diverse group of students committed to service, leadership, and social justice. As a Bonner, I am committed to serve one nonprofit organization of my choice for all four years of college. Through the program, we have weekly meetings that focus on the development of leadership and facilitation skills, and discussions and education on relevant social justice issues. The Bonner Program is my home away from home, and in it, I have found some of my best friends. Bonner is a safe space where I can always find support and advice for whatever I may be going through. The Bonner Leader Program has given me access to opportunities I could never have imagined, such as interning for Charleston Waterkeeper.

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Where can we find you when you’re not in school, interning, or volunteering? What’s your favorite way to spend your free time?
You can find me with my friends, playing the guitar, napping in parks, and staying fit with yoga. When we get the chance, my friends and I love to get together and make home-cooked meals and have family dinner nights. When I am home in North Carolina, I can be found cuddling with kittens or biking the local trails. Achieving my Bonner responsibilities, being in the Honors College, and having one major and two minors doesn’t leave me with much free time, so I make sure to spend it taking care of my mind and body.

What is your favorite part of interning with CWK? What gets you most excited?
I love being part of Charleston Waterkeeper. Every day I go into work, I know that the work I do is appreciated and important to CWK. I get to put my own ideas and creativity into almost everything that I do. I’ve met so many people, I’ve learned so much along the way, and I can’t wait to be a part of whatever CWK does next.

What’s something quirky about you that others may not know?
My family and I are obsessed with cats. Over my lifetime, my family has cared for 10 cats, and the most we have ever had in our household at once was 8 cats. All of the cats that stay with us are given Hawai’ian names. Our two newest kittens are named Kohu’ole and Keonimana, Kohu and Keoni for short.

Anything else you would like to share?
If there’s anything I’ve learned in college and my experiences thus far, it’s that life is too short to not pursue your passions. Shape your life around what matters to you, and don’t hold yourself back. Also, fun fact: the resting heart rate of a sea turtle is one beat every nine minutes.

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On October 23, 2015, Charleston Waterkeeper’s Staff Scientist travelled to Greenville, SC, to attend the 2015 South Carolina Marine Educators Association (SCMEA)’s Annual Conference. SCMEA is a non-profit organization that aims to improve and expand marine education in South Carolina. SCMEA holds an annual conference intended to keep members up-to-date on the latest resources available. The 2015 conference was held from October 23-25 in Greenville, SC, at the Roper Mountain Science Center. Charleston Waterkeeper was invited by the SCMEA Board of Directors to give a presentation about Charleston Waterkeeper’s watershed education work. Here, Cheryl recaps the experience.

During the conference, I gave a presentation on the value of our Recreational Water Quality Monitoring Program and how it serves as an asset to SCMEA’s membership base and the Charleston community. Click here to see my full presentation: CarmackC_SCMEA. However, the greatest value of attending the SCMEA annual conference comes not from presenting, but from the abundance of new information, resources, and contacts obtained. SCMEA members provide a wealth of knowledge regarding environmental and marine education all across the state of South Carolina.


Not all marine educators work in a traditional classroom setting. I attended sessions led by marine educators from the Watershed Ecology Center (through USC Upstate), Patriot’s Point, South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium, DNR’s ACE Basin NERR, and graduate students from Clemson University. It is inspiring to hear about the variety of programs being offered by passionate educators from across a wide span of backgrounds. Presentations included ways to incorporate art into your lessons, simplifying difficult concepts using a story, and a day camp dedicated to teaching kids all about the importance of our oceans. Learn more about these efforts by visiting the websites provided above. These hard-working folks are dedicated to providing the necessary tools to help ensure conscious stewardship of our state’s natural resources for generations to come.

Learn more about Charleston Waterkeeper’s Education Program here.