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

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.

We want to thank everyone that attended our Sixth Annual Water Ball on September 17, 2015. It was a successful evening for clean water and a wonderful event. We hope you had as much fun as we did! Check out all of the photos from the event here.


© Brandon Lata Photography

We would like to give a huge thank you to all of the amazing chefs that participated this year – your dishes were incredibly inspired!


© Brandon Lata Photography


© Brandon Lata Photography

Next, we’d like to give a huge shout out to all of our sponsors – we could not have pulled off such a successful event without your support!



Finally, we would like to thank everyone that purchased a raffle ticket for a chance to win our Scout 191 Bay Boat. Congratulations to Julien Libaire of Charleston, winner of the raffle drawing. Though we’re sad to see her go, we are happy to see her go to a good home where she will be well used!

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We look forward to an even better Water Ball in 2016. See you all then!


Carter first reached out to Charleston Waterkeeper to see about getting involved this past April. We sent him a list of upcoming events and activities and were pleasantly surprised when he signed up for all of them! Since then, Carter has continued to surprise us with his excitement about our mission and willingness to get involved as much as possible. We hope you enjoy getting to know another one of our outstanding volunteers in this new Saloon Session!


-Tell us briefly about your background.

I was born in Annapolis, MD and grew up sailing, fishing, and crabbing in the Chesapeake Bay. I sailed competitively when I went to high school in Annapolis, so I was on the water every day after school. The Chesapeake is an amazing body of water, but one whose watershed includes one of the most densely populated parts of the country. Because of that, the bay is a great case study for almost any water quality issue you can imagine. My dad works for the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program, so having an expert on the bay’s water quality issues in my family definitely gave me a heightened proclivity towards natural resource stewardship. My family moved to Mount Pleasant when I was a senior in high school, so Charleston has been my home base for the last three years. The amazement I felt with the flora and fauna of the Lowcountry when I moved to the area in 2012 has only grown since then. Charleston sits in a world renowned pocket of biodiversity that is (compared to where I come from in the mid-Atlantic) relatively undisturbed, and what really makes the region special is its estuaries. I don’t want us in the Lowcountry to make the same mistakes that damaged the Chesapeake Bay years ago, so that’s my driving motivation for working on water quality issues!


-You are currently studying for a degree in Biology. Tell us more about your studies and your specific interests in the field.

I’ve always known I want to have some sort of environmental career after college, so Biology seemed like a good way to get a strong foundation in the natural sciences. I think most Biology curricula are severely lacking the mathematics it takes to truly make sense of what you learn in an ecology class though, so I’ve made room for some statistics, math, and computer science classes to augment the major. I’m interested in modeling populations, so these three disciplines come into play when you 1) make inferences from biological data (statistics), 2) turn these inferences into equations that describe what you are studying (mathematics), and 3) build these equations into a software program that is a “model” of some natural phenomenon (computer science). This type of work is done in academia as well as for government agencies such as the US Fish and Wildlife service, so I hope to end up in one of those arenas someday.


-Why did you choose to volunteer with Charleston Waterkeeper?

I read The Riverkeepers by John Cronin and Robert F. Kennedy last spring and had known of the Charleston Waterkeeper for a couple years, so I decided to shoot Cheryl an email and see how I could get involved! The organization had lots of stimulating volunteer opportunities to choose from, so I pretty much just did them all and eventually ended up being a Field Investigator for the summer. That led to getting into the lab where I learned how to test for fecal bacteria in water quality samples, which was my favorite activity of the whole summer! It’s easy to stay motivated while volunteering because the Waterkeeper has such amazing staff and volunteers, and it doesn’t get much more rewarding then spending your day trying to improve your surroundings. Also, how could you beat the early morning boat rides around Charleston collecting samples?


-We are inspired by the many ways in which you are involved in the community. Would you mind sharing some of your favorite experiences volunteering/interning in the environmental field?

My most memorable experience in the environmental field would have to be in 2011 when I lobbied Maryland State Senator Jim Mathias on behalf of my high school environmental club in support of Governor Martin O’Malley’s offshore wind energy bill. Senator Mathias introduced me to the Senate floor where I tried to make my point about why Maryland needs offshore wind energy. The bill didn’t get past that year but it did the following year, so I like to think I helped a bit with that! Since then, I’ve interned for the Robert Lunz Chapter of the Sierra Club and the College of Charleston’s Office of Sustainability, both of which have acquainted me with Charleston’s environmental “scene” and lent different perspectives on the nature of environmental activism. All these experiences have rounded out my education by introducing me to the “non-scientific” aspects of environmentalism.

-What’s something unique that your fellow volunteers may not know about you?

I have studied and played jazz guitar for the past several years and was part of the Wando High School Jazz Band and the College of Charleston’s Jazz Guitar Ensemble. I was also in a reggae band in high school called “The Westerlies”!

-Anything else you’d like to share?

I would encourage anyone interested in the Charleston Waterkeeper to volunteer with them because I have learned so much so far and have had some very memorable experiences!


Kea Payton is a graduate student in the Marine Biology program at the College of Charleston. We are pleased to be involved with Kea’s project and excited to feature her work here. Kea has joined us as a special guest on our routine sample runs while she gets her protocols worked out, but this week marks the official start of sampling for her thesis. We hope you enjoy learning about Kea and her studies on plastic pollution in this Saloon Session!


-Tell us a little about your background – where are you from, what do you do, what’s your local waterway?

I was born and raised in Anderson, SC with some northern influences, as the majority of my family is from Illinois. I am currently a graduate student in the Marine Biology masters program at the College of Charleston. I have been interested in marine biology since I was in elementary school, though I also entertained ideas of being a veterinarian. Though I did not live by the ocean as a child, my family and I did a lot by the water, whether it was frequent visits to the coasts of SC, FL, and GA or taking the boat out on our local Lake Hartwell, a large 58,000 acre man-made lake that stretches across upstate SC and into Georgia.

-Tell us more about your thesis project.

My thesis project looks into the impact of microplastics on the Charleston Harbor estuary. Synthetic fibers and particles from polyester clothing, micro-scrubbers, and degraded plastic products find their way into the harbor and pose a potential threat to the local animals and food web dynamics. These plastics not only affect larger organisms such as fish, birds, and sea turtles, but the small particles affect some of the smallest marine animals that help fuel the food web, called zooplankton. In particular, I am looking at aggregation zones, known as tidal fronts, or points where the fresher water from the Ashley, Cooper, and Wando Rivers meet the incoming ocean tide. These points are thought to be areas where the exposure of zooplankton to microplastics may be greatest and thus a source of plastics entering the food web.


-Tell us how you got involved with this kind of work. What brought you to the College of Charleston and the graduate program in Marine Biology?

After graduating from the University of North Carolina Wilmington, I took a year off from school, but continued to work in the field of marine biology whether it be in a lab or enhancing my SCUBA skills. Marine biology is what I love, so I always had the plan to continue my education and get a Masters and even a PhD degree. Ironically, I wanted to continue my studies in tropical and coral reef ecology/ physiology; however, I found myself in a beautiful but less tropical area without many reefs. To keep my connection with the tropical reef system that I love, I sought out Dr. Phil Dustan to become my major advisor for my thesis. We entertained several ideas for a project, but thought it was best to stay local and build a project around mine and his interest of plastic pollution and its effects.

-We know water is important for your studies, but what does clean water mean to you on a personal level?

Water is the basis of life, without it we would not exist. So water means everything to me. From feeling weightless and humbled when underwater, to knowing that this medium means so much to the sustainability of this planet and its creatures. Clean water means splashing around in a bathtub full of toys as a child, having something to soothe me after a hard basketball practice, or even getting to enjoy learning about organisms and systems that are in a completely different element than myself. I have been truly fortunate to have clean water when I know there are people in this world that are exposed to contaminated water everyday. Even I have contributed to water pollution with the car I drive and the plastics my purchases are wrapped in, but I believe we as a people must work harder to reduce our footprint and help keep our water clean. Earth is covered in about 71% water and only about 2% of that is freshwater. We shouldn’t waste it.


The Gadsden Creek public hearing on Wednesday, June 17 was a great success! Over 90 people turned out to have their say in the creek’s future. After a short presentation by the WestEdge development team, almost everyone who spoke was in favor of saving Gadsden Creek.

We hope the development team will reconsider their plan to fill Gadsden Creek. Charleston Waterkeeper would like to see WestEdge move forward with a plan that connects the Westside community to the Ashley River and Brittlebank Park, restores the creek to control flooding, and creates new public access to Gadsden Creek. LS3P’s 2012 concept for WestEdge or Bevan and Liberatos’s more recent rendering are a good start.

The DHEC/OCRM public comment period ended as of Thursday, July 2. Now we are waiting to hear DHEC/OCRM’s final decision on the matter.

Thank you to all those who attended and submitted comment letters! It was wonderful to see so many of you stand up for Gadsden Creek.

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