Saloon Session with Carter Allen

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!


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