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

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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Joy began volunteering with Charleston Waterkeeper in January of 2015. Joy has become a real asset to our organization by getting involved with as many volunteer opportunities as she can get her hands on.  She trained as a Field Investigator for our water quality monitoring program and has provided expertise and research for the Gadsden Creek campaign. We hope you enjoy getting to know another one of our outstanding volunteers in this Saloon Session!


-Tell us briefly about your background.

I am originally from Springfield, IL and spent most of my summers growing up on the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. I have been swimming and boating since I was a year old. Today, I enjoy offshore fishing and scuba diving and exploring the water of Charleston.

-You have quite a bit of background in the regulatory community – tell us more about your experience in environmental work.

I have 8 years of years of dedicated State service as a project manager enforcing Federal and State regulations which included Clean Water Act (40 CFR 122, 136, 403, 405-471, 503), Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (NCP), and 40 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 300, in response to releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances that may endanger public health or the environment. This also includes, practical knowledge and field work experience reviewing complex engineering calculations and plans and direct review of the work submitted in reports by professional engineering personnel. I also ensured that all plans and drawing standards, specifications, and data were up-to-date, and I authorized contractors to carry out all alterations, modifications and additions to submitted plans.

Besides scientific and technical experience, I also have experience in magazine, instructional, scientific and technical writing. I am the author of an article in Picture Framing Magazine national publication; author of a manuscript, “Abandoned: The History and Legends of Central State Hospital of Indianapolis”; author of fifteen instructional booklets for Fibre-Craft Materials Corporation. I developed, edited, and distributed the “GreenSteps Program”, an environmental management program to help Indiana schools become greener and healthier, for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, with funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

-Why  is clean water important to you?

The quality of water is very important to me. I have seen the effect of contaminated ground and surface water from human impacts. It was commonplace in the 70’s to dump chemicals in our local drains and today we see the consequences. When you sit in a room with a family, who cannot live in their home due to toxic vapors and contaminated water, and a large corporation, who is responsible for the contamination, offers to buy their family home, it can’t help but affect you. We are responsible for what we do to our environment and the waterways we enjoy. If we do not protect them now, they will not be here for us to enjoy in the future. I want to know that the water I swim in, isn’t going to compromise my health.


-We are fascinated by your diving stories – what’s your favorite story or find from diving locally?

I wish I had an exciting story of my underwater adventures, like seeing Aquaman or finding Atlantis, but that isn’t the case. I have been diving the Cooper, Wando and May Rivers for about 15 years and currently a PADI Divemaster. Scuba diving for sharks teeth and other fossils in Charleston led me to take a geology class (for fun). Two years later I ended up with a Geology degree. While diving, I find fossils of all kinds of creatures; both land and water. This includes, turtles, whale, horse, sloth, manatee, but the most popular is Carcharocles megalodon, an extinct species of shark that lived approximately 15.9 to 2.6 million years ago that has teeth as large as 7 inches. Some debate it was a descendant of today’s Great White. While I am excited about the Geologic history of the area, finding a wine bottle from the 1860’s, a small ink bottle from the 1700’s, or Coca-Cola bottles from the 20’s, 30’s, or 40’s, are just as exciting. It gives the waters of the area a human element; a time capsule of life before development of the coastlines. Because of my interest in the historic trash that is underwater, I also volunteer for USC SC Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology’s Maritime Research Division on their research and investigation of potential underwater historic sites.

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

I can play several different musical instruments and won numerous ribbons for photography at the county and State fairs in Indiana. I can also install plumbing and electric to code, as well as repair appliances. I am well-travelled. I am a certified Blackwater diver which is only offered here in Charleston. Spent a combined 5 weeks scuba diving in Hawaii and 1 1/2 week on a live aboard diving the Great Barrier Reef. I have been to Germany on a genealogy trip to find my grandfather’s roots. My favorite city is Prague.

-Anything else you’d like to share?

I believe that one person can make a difference.

On Memorial Day 2015, a project I have been working on since 2005, came to an end. I spearheaded a project to have a war veteran’s grave repaired. Here is the article:

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2015 191 Bay Scout Raffle

Hosted by Charleston Waterkeeper

Enter to win the Waterkeeper’s boat! Your raffle ticket purchase enters you for a chance to win a 2015 191 Bay Scout AND helps provide Charleston Waterkeeper with the means to protect your right to clean water. One hundred precent of the proceeds from the raffle will support Charleston Waterkeeper’s work to protect and restore your favorite local waterways.

Tickets are $100 and when you buy 3 you get the 4th one free! The final drawing will be held on Thursday, September 17 at the 6th Annual Water Ball. You do not have to be present to win. Enter early and often for the best chance to win. Good luck!

Buy Tickets


Raffle Details:

Prize: 2015 Scout Boats Inc. 191 Bay Scout (19ft center console bay boat) with a 2015 90hp Yamaha 4 stroke engine and Magic Tilt trailer

Ticket Price: $100

Online Sale Period: June 1 through September 16, 2015

Drawing: Thursday, September 17 at Charleston Waterkeeper’s 6th Annual Water Ball. Drawing and Water Ball will be at the Cigar Factory on East Bay Street. Ticket holders do not have to be present to win

Incentive: Purchase 3 tickets get 1 free

Tax: Ticket purchase price is not deductible as a charitable donation

Scout Boats Description of the 191 Bay Scout:

With a skinny 10” draft, the 191 Bay Scout is all about fishability. Due to its 100% hand-laid fiberglass construction and fuel efficient hull design, this boat performs remarkably with a Yamaha F90 hp engine, reducing your operating expenses annually. The bow contains a large storage area/fish box, complete with anchor locker and 4 rod racks mounted in the gunwale. The 191 also comes standard with four aft stainless steel flush-mounted rod holders and an aerated bait well leaning post.


Diane Gould has volunteered with Charleston Waterkeeper for many years, we are very excited to finally feature her in a Saloon Session! Diane is a biologist by training, but she’s also a life-long learner with an insatiable hunger for knowledge. Her most recent volunteer effort was compilation of research for the Fact Sheets featured on Our Watershed page. We were so excited about her research that we created the weekly #WaterWednesday series earlier this year to highlight all of her hard work. We hope you enjoy getting to know another one of our outstanding volunteers and supporters!


-Tell us briefly about your background.

I was born in a coastal town in Massachusetts called Winthrop, where I spent many happy days as a child playing in the waves despite the bone-chilling cold water! Roaming the beaches and finding skate egg cases and jelly fish led to a life-long fascination with the marine environment. Love of the ocean led me to study ecology at Cornell University and ultimately to get a Ph.D. in marine environmental science from U. Mass./Boston. My career path led me to the US EPA-funded National Estuary Program where I worked as Executive Director of the Massachusetts Bays Program for 6 years and as Regional Coordinator of the Casco Bay (Maine) Estuary Partnership for 13 years. These programs are federal/state/citizen partnerships that work on solutions for pollution problems.

In 2012, I retired from US EPA and moved here with my husband to Charleston. My son Andrew is a local architect here who designed a lovely home for us, next door to his home and my two grandchildren. We are walking distance from the Ashley River and a short drive from Folly Beach and Sullivan’s Island with their miles of sandy beach! A wonderful surprise was the playful dolphins visible near the shore and right at Aquarium Wharf downtown!

-Why did you choose to volunteer with Charleston Waterkeeper?

One of the citizen organizations I worked with in Maine was Friends of Casco Bay, part of the national Waterkeeper Alliance. Friends of Casco Bay played a key role in efforts to address pollution issues in the Bay through their extensive water quality monitoring program. In 2006 I was greatly honored to receive their Friend of Casco Bay award, largely for my efforts to educate the public about pollutants, especially toxic chemicals in the Bay. When he heard my retirement plans, Joe Payne, the Baykeeper for Casco Bay, urged me to meet with Cyrus Buffum at Charleston Waterkeeper. I hoped that my experience would be helpful to Cyrus and his staff.

-Why is clean water important to you?

Estuaries are key to the health of our water resources. When I arrived here in Charleston I wanted very much to learn what important issues impact the health of the Ashley Cooper watershed and Charleston Harbor. Pulling together material for the Watershed section of the website was a wonderful opportunity for me to learn about the history of Charleston’s water resources, the plants and animals, the value of the resources, the monitoring that has been done, and the pollution threats we are facing.


-You have quite the background – tell us more about your experience in environmental work.

My field research in college looked at the growth rate and contribution to the food chain of single celled algae called diatoms on a tidal mudflat. Diatoms can “swim” through the mud to reach the sunlight when the mud is exposed at low tide and hide back in the sediment when the water flows back in. These fascinating organisms have been an obsession of mine since childhood when I spotted them gliding along under my toy microscope in drops of brackish water from the tidal ditch behind my house.

My work with the National Estuary Program included writing State of the Bay reports and other material summarizing science for the lay public, helping to write and implement an environmental plan for the Presumpscot River, and working to define and implement needed research programs including eelgrass monitoring, toxics in birds and sediments, and impacts of red tides on shellfish.

-We are encouraged by your passion for knowledge – what’s your favorite subject to study nowadays and why?

Since retiring, I’ve been taking advantage of the wonderful opportunities for senior citizens to study at the College of Charleston. So far, I’ve taken courses in art history, architecture and philosophy. The art history came in very handy last fall when I spent a month living a block from the Louvre in Paris!

-Anything else you’d like to share?

Its been a real pleasure working with the dedicated staff of Charleston Waterkeeper! You are doing a great job!