Current Student Spotlight

Current Student Spotlight Spring 2023: Julia Chrisco


Julia is finishing up her thesis work with advisor Dr. Barbara Beckingham and has recently presented at the Society of Lake Management Professionals in Daytona Beach FL, where she earned 2nd place in the poster competition and a $1,500 award. She also presented her work at the Midwest Aquatic Plant Society conference in Grand Rapids Michigan! Julia's research and hard work earned her a $26,000 scholarship from NASA known as the Space Grant! Additionally, Julia had the opportunity to talk with middle school students involved in the women in STEM club at Moultrie Middle School about her research!

Current Student Spotlight Fall 2022: Chloe Vandermolen

chloe vandermolen

Chloe earned a Biology from Montana State University. Chloe is currently an EVSS/MPA concurrent student, where she recently defended her thesis entitled "Extending the Red Band Difference Algorithm to Regions Impacted by Harmful Algal Blooms" on November 3rd. Chloe was recently selected as South Carolina’s finalist for the prestigious 2023 John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship program! Chloe was chosen as a finalist and nominated by Sea Grant. This one-year fellowship will begin in February 2023 and places graduate students interested in ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources with federal offices in Washington, D.C. During her fellowship, Chloe would like to advance a public-service perspective that allows science to positively impact people, communities, and the environment. We are excited to see Chloe's journey as a fellow!

Current Student Spotlight Fall 2022: Kayli Paterson


Kayli is from San Franscisco, California and recieved her undergraduate degree from Oregon State University in Chemical Engineering. She is currently in the EVSS/MPA concurrent program finishing up her thesis. Her research topic is looking at a type of microplastic called tire particles and their movement through stormwater management systems. Over the summer, Kayli had an amazing research opportunity through the Environmental Fellows Program hosted by the Yale School of the Environment. She was able to intern with an environmental non-profit and learn about what they do and how they benefit overlooked communities. Kayli completed the fellowship with the Mystic River Watershed Association in Arlington, Massachusetts where she spent eight weeks living in the Boston area and learning about stormwater issues and solutions endemic to the site.

Current Student Spotlight Fall 2022: Greg Rothman


"The project I am working on involves investigating the transmission of a virus known as white spot syndrome virus (WSSV) from invasive red swamp crayfish to white shrimp and other native crustaceans of South Carolina. WSSV is the causative agent behind white spot disease, a highly virulent disease that is known to infect over 100 arthropod species, and has had major impacts in single-species aquaculture settings. It is listed by the World Organisation on Animal Health (OIE) as one of 11 major threats to crustaceans worldwide, and both the specifics of transmission alongside the environmental factors that influence it are still unknown. I am conducting lab based trials to better understand the epidemiology of this virus under the environmental conditions present in our coastal ecosystems. This research will help us better understand and inform management of the potential for disease outbreaks among South Carolina's both economically and culturally important crustacean species."

Current Student Spotlight Fall 2022: Ansley Williamson


Ansley's thesis project utilizes acoustic monitoring methods to better understand the biodiversity of songbirds and anurans that inhabit ephemeral wetlands. "We will compare community diversity and composition of songbirds and anurans (frogs and toads) in two ways: 1) in wet vs. dry sites and 2) using human vs. automated detection. The soundscape will be characterized using acoustic recorders and artificial intelligence algorithms to identify species occurrences in the recordings. We will compare artificial intelligence algorithms results with in-field human identification results to report on whether these methods are redundant or complementary. Our study will provide ecological information on the diversity of songbirds and anurans that are supported by ephemeral wetlands to inform best management and monitoring practices."

Current Student Spotlight Fall 2022: Hannah Houston

hannah h
Hannah is a third-semester EVSS student. Her thesis research focuses on exploring the relationship between fine roots and fungi (mycorrhizae). She says, "The fine root + fungal due is responsible for nutrient uptake from soil into the plant, and this functionality has huge implications for nutrient cycling. Understanding this process will improve our knowledge of ecosystem level biogeochemical cycling, further showing how to better manage forest resources in the face of climate change.

Current Student Spotlight Spring 2022: Sam Pettit


"I received my undergraduate degree in Biology with a concentration in Coastal Ecology and Conservation from University of South Carolina-Beaufort in 2015. About a year after graduating, I started my career with South Carolina State Parks. I eventually found my way to Edisto Beach State Park in 2018 as the Park Interpreter. My main job duties include managing the operations and staff of the park's Learning Center, along with overseeing resource management projects on park. I ensure that my staff has everything needed to run efficiently and also provide educational programming to park visitors. For my research and thesis, I would like to focus on increasing environmental literacy about the ACE Basin by utilizing educational programs and interactive exhibits. I am currently collaborating with DNR on creating a new interactive exhibit at the Learning Center that incorporates water quality and land use. The water quality data comes directly from Big Bay Creek via a SWMP station located on our fishing dock."

Current Student Spotlight Spring 2022: Nicole Killen


Nicole Killen, President of MESSA and second year Concurrent student, is working on a research project with Dr. Calvin Blackwell, in partnership with CofC's Center for Sustainable Development and the Athletic Department, on increasing recycling behavior within TD Arena using a behavioral economics approach (Nudge Theory). Nicole is also a Graduate Assistant for the Center for Sustainable Development on campus.

Recently awarded SCDHEC’s Collegiate Recycling Grant, she says, “I really wanted my research project to incorporate sustainability on campus in some capacity. I read the book Nudge by Thaler and Sunstein, and I really became interested in behavior change. I started thinking about what this could look like on campus, and there were a TON of different options to consider. Around the same time, the CSD began looking for opportunities to increase sustainability initiatives within the Athletics Program at CofC, specifically in TD Arena. Immediately, I knew this could be a great place to implement a behavioral nudge to influence recycling.”

Current Student Spotlight November 2021: Shelly McComb


Shelly is an EVSS student from Easley, SC, with an undergraduate degree from Clemson University in Biology and a minor in Environmental Policy. The goal of her research is to understand what influences and motivates local government decision-makers to pass and implement sea level rise and nuisance flooding (“sunny day flooding”) policies, specifically in areas that the ACE Basin Coastal Training Program is interested in educating.

“I really wanted to find that place where science meets policy. Coming from a natural science background, I was looking for a project outside my comfort zone. I learned so much from talking to people about sea level rise while also strengthening my public speaking skills. I think it’s really important now to understand the motivations behind our decision makers and be able to relate to them on a personal level.”


Current Student Spotlight October 2021: Kayla Squiggins


"I grew up in Clover, SC, which is a small country town an hour south of Charlotte, NC. Back in 2018, I received my B.S. in Chemistry from Erskine College in Due West, SC. For my project I will be researching antibiotic resistant bacteria presence in stormwater within the City of Charleston. Whenever there is flooding, high tides, or a large rainfall event, fecal bacteria that may be resistant to antibiotics runoff through the stormwater drains and go straight to the waterways without being treated. During flooding, there are many people who walk through these waters and are at risk for bacterial infections, so I will also be using data from MUSC to find any correlations between admitted patients with bacterial infections and recent flooding events."

Click here to view Kaylas full highlight 

Current Student Spotlight October 2021: Jackson Barratt Heitmann


Jackson’s research is looking at how disturbance (fire, sea level rise, anthropogenic changes, and restoration activities) impacts avian biodiversity and community composition in ephemeral wetlands. He says, “The Sea Grant award will help fund field work at two sites (Stono Preserve and a private property outside the Francis Marion), where we will investigate the relatively understudied forested wetlands in our regional context, and if the bird communities occupying these wetlands are unique, or especially species rich compared to nearby uplands.” It will also help fund education and outreach activities that will engage K-5 students through curriculum development and lesson delivery, as well as various land management stakeholders in the region through a land management symposium.”

Current Student Spotlight October 2021: Haley Kenyon 


New Hampshire native Haley Kenyon is working with Dr. Annette Watson as an EVSS Graduate Student. Her research focuses on the absence of indigenous knowledge throughout socio-ecological systems and ecological assessments. “While my background is very natural science heavy, I wanted to branch out and see if I could master my skills within citizen science. I think this project is the best of both worlds; I get to be immersed in natural science (salmon fisheries) along with absorbing different tactics on how to talk to indigenous communities, and Arctic biologist, found within the Circumpolar Arctic region.”

Current Student Spotlight September 2021: Judy Taylor


"While working with Dr. Sandifer, I’ve had the opportunity to be involved in an initiative called EJ
Strong, which is a collaboration between researchers from DHEC, CofC, Univ. of SC, and
Clemson that has been holding educational workshops to train leaders in underserved
communities across South Carolina in disaster risk reduction and self-assessment. This has
been a great experience for me, as I’ve been able to meet and collaborate with a wonderful,
diverse group of people, and I’ve also learned a lot about on-the-ground environmental justice
work and hazard management from the perspective of the communities facing these issues."

Click here to view Judy's full highlight

Current Student Spotlight October 2020: Sofia Troya


"I am from Quito, Ecuador, where I grew up surrounded by 11+ active volcanoes, the Amazon Rainforest at my doorstep, and the Galapagos Islands a couple hours away. This, and having a role model like my dad who has worked in conservation during my whole life-invoked a sense of urgency for environmental action and a passion that led me to pursue a career in environmentalism. My goal is to be able to take back what I learn and use it in my home country and Latin America."

View her full highlight here.  

Current Student Spotlight March 2020: Ruth Eklund


Ruth Eklund recently published "Oil Spills and Human Health: Contributions of of the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative" in October 2019. 

View her full highlight here

Congratulations to EVSS student Brittney Parker for being accepted into the John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship Program for 2020!


"The Sea Grant Knauss Fellowship provides a unique educational and professional experience to graduate students who have an interest in ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources and in the national policy decisions affecting those resources. The Fellowship, named after one of Sea Grant's founders and former NOAA Administrator John A. Knauss, matches highly qualified graduate students with "hosts" in the legislative and executive branch of government located in the Washington, D.C. area, for a one year paid fellowship." -

Brittney is currently wrapping up her thesis research on microplastic content in various fish species around Charleston. 

Current Student Spotlight November 2019: Trey Gillespie


Trey started off his first semester in the EVSS program out at sea! 

View his full highlight here

Congratulations to 2019-2020 EVSS Merit Scholar Award winners Nolan Schillerstrom and Josh Jones! 

The EVSS Merit Award is given to two student/faculty research teams each academic year. Successful students earn a salary support in the form of a Research Assistantship worth $13,000 over two consecutive semesters. The faculty advisor will receive $600 to support the research topic (including travel, supplies, and/or summer salary support for roster faculty on 9-month appointments). Applicants for the award submit a proposal to perform environmental studies research along the lines of a thesis or internship project for the MES (or concurrent) degree requirements.  

Josh Jones: Using 3-D Imaging to Evaluate Physical Processes on Living Shorelines


View his full highlight

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Scott Harris, College of Charleston


There is little quantifiable data on the effect living shorelines have on wave energy. Multiple studies have measured the long term effects over years but only few have looked at how living shorelines affect individual waves or tidal-scale time periods. Wave lab facilities pose cost and logistical problems for evaluating living shorelines. This project will utilize stereoscopic video imaging techniques to evaluate the effect manmade oyster reef colonies have on wave height and energy. Two pairs of cameras offset from each other will be analyzed with structure from motion technologies to produce a three-dimensional videos for a wave that interacts with an oyster reef and a nearby control site. The 3D images and datasets created can determine wave heights for waves, producing a quantitative result on what effect the living shorelines have on actual wave height in situ.

Nolan Schillerstom: Social Marketing as a Tool to Reduce Human Disturbance to Federally Threatened Rufa Red Knot (Calidris canatus rufa)


Academic Advisor: Melissa Hughes, PhD


This study will focus on the Federally Threatened Rufa Red Knot (Calidris canatus rufa) to evaluate existing conservation strategies used on an island in South Carolina and test social marketing as a new tool for changing human behaviors on the beach. Human disturbance is recognized as one of the greatest threats to resting migratory shorebirds such as Red Knot. Signage and education are the primary conservation strategies used to minimize human disturbance, but the species continues to decline. Community-based social marketing has potential to be a new and more effective tool for shorebird conservation