Saloon Session with Diane Gould

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!

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