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Kerrigan hiking through the VI National Park on St. John

This past August, I spent two weeks in the U.S. Virgin Islands collecting data for my graduate thesis research. My project is titled, “The effect of watershed development and climate on coral reefs in the U.S. Virgin Islands using satellite based sensors”. To give you a little bit of background, these islands are highly mountainous and when it rains, the surrounding waters receive high amounts of runoff full of sediments and surface pollutants. Combined with increasing rates of urbanization and rainfall events from climate change, these inputs are causing major decline of the coral reefs. St. Thomas is the most densely populated island with the greatest development. The Charlotte Amalie harbor is a popular stop for cruise ships and can fit over 8 ships at one time—talk about a ton of pollution! St. John on the other hand, is very underdeveloped and is home to the VI National Park.

During my trip, I was collecting water samples and taking measurements from sites suffering low and high degrees of pollution around St. Thomas and St. John to compare the water quality—before and after major rain events. The University of Virgin Islands allowed me to rent research vessels and lab space for sampling and analysis. Our field days on the boats normally lasted about 5 hours and at each site we were; (a) collecting water samples, (b) finding the Secchi depth (for turbidity), (c) deploying a CTD that measured temperature, salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen, and conductivity with depth and (d) taking optical measurements using a spectroradiometer. At a couple of sites, the spectroradiometer was put into a water-proof casing so I could SCUBA dive and take measurements over healthy and diseased coral heads to compare spectral signatures. In a field notebook I recorded any pertinent observations of the surroundings, weather and cloud cover, water color, etc… Water samples that were collected in the field were immediately brought back to the lab and filtered for total dissolved solids, organic/inorganic matter and chlorophyll.

Over the two weeks, there were a total of four sampling days. Thankfully, everything ran smoothly with minimal setbacks. The biggest challenge was scheduling these field days in coordination with other scientists at UVI needing research vessels or the CTD. Because I was not certified with UVI, I could not operate any of the boats so it became difficult finding boat drivers and extra hands to help out for 5 hours in the field. However, I was introduced to a number of scientists/professors and other graduate students at UVI and learned about a lot of the research being conducted down there. Weekends were spent either taking day hikes through the national park, relaxing on the beaches, snorkeling/kayaking, and eating some of the local food. Overall, it was a great success and I’m currently planning a second trip in December to collect another round of data.

Deploying the CTD into the water column to measure a variety of water quality parameters with depth.

Thanks to Kristi for sharing her experiences with us!


under: Uncategorized

Spotlight on Diversity: Maria Royle

Posted by: powellbh | October 14, 2014 | No Comment |


Maria Royle is a graduate student in the School of Education, Health, and Human Performance. She has had a life-long interest in science and helping children. She earned a master’s degree in Organizational Management and Leadership from Springfield College, Massachusetts. Her passion for children and science, though, led her to become a candidate in the College’s Science Middle Grades Program; she is currently a clinical intern (formerly known as student teaching) at College Park Middle School in Berkeley County. She has been a volunteer guardian ad litem for over twelve years, serving the Charleston, Dorchester and Berkeley County communities.

Maria is bilingual and learned English as a second language. Her first-hand knowledge of the struggles with learning English and the American culture has helped her to be an advocate for the growing number of immigrant children in local schools. Once she earns her initial certification in middle grades science, she plans to add English for Speakers of Other Languages to her area of certification. Maria was a graduate assistant until the start of her internship and is the recipient of the Goizuetta Scholarship, one of the most prestigious scholarships within the School of Education, Health, and Human Performance.

Maria’s research agenda includes being a team member of a five-year long research project through NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute Education, Education/Public Outreach Program (SSERVI EPO), whose goal is to work with a variety of artists, scientists, and educators to develop an arts infused STEM curricula, for both formal and informal education venues, that inspires and engages students in the multidisciplinary field of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics). In addition, the team will broaden participation by developing materials that are accessible by all students, including those with disabilities. Maria’s research agenda also includes working with English learners; she will be a presenter at the upcoming College of Charleston National Diversity Conference. Her presentation, entitled “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA), will explain the latest federal legislation enacted to help undocumented students attend college.

Maria has enjoyed her life as a graduate student. She is happy to be attending a teacher education program that has such a good reputation within the community. Although she was worried about the state licensing exams, she passed them with no problems because of the rigor of her classes and the high expectations of her professors.

We wish Maria the best as she continues her graduate studies and thank her for sharing her experience!

under: Graduate Programs, Guest Bloggers, Jobs & Careers, Middle Grades Education

Dr. Cherisse Jones-Branch, B.A. ’94 and M.A. ’97, Associate Professor of History at Arkansas State University, Jonesboro, was recently awarded the Letitia Woods Brown Memorial Book Award for her manuscript Crossing the Line: Women’s Interracial Activism in South Carolina during and After World War II (University Press of Florida, 2014), by the Association of Black Women Historians at the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) in Memphis, Tennessee.

Crossing the Line chronicles black and white women who were accustomed to a segregated society in South Carolina but who worked both individually and collectively to change their state’s unequal racial status quo.  In this work she explores the early activism of black women in organizations including the NAACP, the South Carolina Progressive Democratic Party, and the South Carolina Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs. At the same time, Dr. Jones-Branch discusses the involvement of white women in such groups as the YWCA and Church Women United. In the final analysis, she argues that where possible, black and white women’s interactions cross the racial divide in South Carolina helped set the groundwork for the broader civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

Association of Black Women Historians Letitia Woods Brown Book Award

under: Award, Guest Bloggers, History, Jobs & Careers, News

Leah Fisher

Leah Fisher, Marine Biology (2012)
Climate Change Policy Coordinator for the National Ocean Service

“Take advantage of your networks. You never know when WHO you know will make the difference”

Leah Fisher is a recent graduate of the Master of Science in Marine Biology program and the current Climate Change Policy Coordinator for the National Ocean Service in Washington DC. Originally from Charleston, Leah attended Duke University for her undergraduate degree and came to College of Charleston to study sea turtles but switched to specializing in marine policy after researching at the Grice Marine Lab (part of the College’s facilities on James Island).

Leah’s open mindedness in her research allowed her the opportunity to apply for the Knauss Fellowship (a marine policy fellowship at the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration) which turned into her current job. Leah’s focus as the Climate Change Policy Coordinator is on climate change issues as they relate to the Ocean Service, with a focus on coastal community resilience and adaptation to climate change hazards, like sea level rise.  She promotes the work and priorities of the Ocean Service in the realm of climate change adaptation and community resilience, and coordinates climate change policy issues across the different programs in the Ocean Service.

Words of Wisdom: “Specifically for Grice students, it’s a unique master’s of science program that lets students explore before committing to a thesis project – so take advantage of the opportunity to explore, and keep an open mind to all of the other types of science that you may not have been interested in previously.”

Congratulations on your success Leah!

under: Jobs & Careers, Marine Biology, Networking, News

History MA Student Maggie Burton Awarded GKF Scholarship!

Posted by: powellbh | September 22, 2014 | No Comment |


I was invited to attend a reception at the Avery Research Center on September 9th to receive my award and honor the other twenty recipients of the Gavalas-Kolanko Foundation Scholarship. The Gavalas-Kolanko Foundation was founded in 1999 by Nicholas Gavalas and Dr. Ronald Kolanko to help disabled students finance their post-secondary education. In the last 15 years, over $100,000 dollars has been awarded to students with disabilities from the College of Charleston, the Citadel, Charleston Southern University, MUSC and Trident Technical College.

The reception was well attended by the family and friends of the recipients, GKF board members, the Charleston media and prominent community members. Each recipient was honored with a brief mention as they accepted their awards. I was absolutely humbled to be included in such an inspiring group of people and am so thankful for the recognition and support of the Gavalas-Kolanko Foundation in helping me complete my Master’s degree at the College of Charleston.

Maggie is a second year student in the History MA program and is a Graduate Assistant in the Graduate School Office. We congratulate her on this momentous award!

under: Academics, Award, Financial Aid, Graduate Programs, Guest Bloggers, News


RICHMOND, VA. – College of Charleston volleyball’ senior right-side hitter Cara Howley was selected as the CAA Offensive Player of the Week on Monday, as announced by the conference office. Cara is a second year graduate student in the Communications program.

The McKinney, Texas, native led CofC to a perfect 4-0 record, including being handed tournament MVP honors at the Cougars’ home-hosted CofC Classic.

Howley threw down 66 kills (4.71 p/set) for The College, hitting .461. Her 26-kill outburst against Wake Forest on Friday night was both a career-high and the eighth most kills ever recorded by a CofC player in a single match.

The standout senior also chipped in with 37 digs and six blocks.

UNCW’s Morgan Owney won the Defensive Player of the Week award, while Northeastern’s Brigitte Burcescu won Rookie of the Week.



For all of the latest news and information on Cougar volleyball, you can follow the program @CofCVolleyball and @CofCSports or follow the team on Facebook here




under: Uncategorized


The University of Charleston, South Carolina at the College of Charleston is partnering with other departments on campus to provide numerous professional development opportunities: one-time events, workshop series, and career skills for graduate students. This variety of offerings allows students to develop a broad array of transferable skills while focusing on particular skill sets of interest throughout their graduate careers.

The Graduate Student Professional Development workshops will also help our graduate students to maximize the full potential of their degrees and certificates after graduation. The weekly workshops will be cover a broad range of topics relevant to students across all disciplines and stages of graduate study. The series will kick off on Monday, September 22, 2014 with a presentation from Environmental Studies program director Dr. Tim Callahan. “Choosing a Ph.D. Program” will focus on the key factors that students should keep in mind to determine the Ph.D. program that is the best fit for them. Dr. Callahan’s talk begins at 3:00 pm and will be held in the Beatty Center Room 301. If you would like to attend this event, please RSPV @[email protected] or call 843-953-1435 to RSVP.

The series will continue through October 2014 with more events to come in November! Check out the schedule below for more event information. Also, be sure to check out our website and Facebook to stay up informed about upcoming events and other professional development opportunities!

Wednesday, October 1- Using Social Media for Professional Development, Avery Research Center (125 Bull Street) from 12:00-1:00 pm; led by Cicely McCray
Tuesday, October 7- Resume vs. CV Workshop, Career Center Resource Room (Lightsey Center) from 12:00-1:00 pm; led by Linda Robinson
Tuesday, October 14- Giving Research Talks for short time frames, i.e. 20 minute talks, Avery Research Center Smart Classroom from 12:00-1:00 pm; led by Dr. Jason Coy

under: Events, Graduate Programs, Jobs & Careers, Networking, Professional Development

GSA Wants YOU!

Posted by: powellbh | August 27, 2014 | No Comment |


On behalf of the Graduate Student Association, welcome back to campus! My name is Brett Powell and I am the new President of the Graduate Student Association for 2014-2015 and I’m looking forward to working with everyone this year!

First and foremost, I want to invite all of our graduate students on campus to attend the Graduate Student Association (GSA) meeting on Friday, September 5.  Meetings begin at 5:00 pm and are held in Room 409 of the Stern Center. This is our first monthly meeting of the semester and we encourage everyone to be in attendance as we will be making important announcements about upcoming events, campus involvement, and funding opportunities for students and organizations. Did I mention that there will be pizza? So, be sure to mark your calendars for Friday the 5th and come share a slice while meeting fellow graduate students and learning all about how to get involved on campus and throughout the community!

GSA is also still in need of candidates to fill two positions on our executive board for the 2014-2015 school year. Students interested in running for Vice President or Secretary of GSA should be present at the meeting to declare their interest in the position. To expedite the process of completing our executive board, candidates should come to the September 5th meeting prepared to stand up and introduce themselves and give a brief statement about their interest in the position. Candidates will require one nomination from the graduate students present at the meeting before being considered for candidacy. We will then vote on the candidates in accordance with the bylaws during the meeting. The duties required of each position can be found in Section 5 and 7 respectively in the GSA Constitution.

In addition to electing officers, we will also be organizing our committees at the September 5 meeting, so if you’re a new graduate student and still want to get involved with campus and community life, this is the perfect opportunity for you!

I look forward to seeing everyone at our meeting and can’t wait for what the year ahead holds for the Graduate School and GSA!

For any questions regarding our upcoming meeting, elections, or any other concerns, email [email protected]!

under: Events, Graduate Programs, Graduate Student Association, Guest Bloggers

Environmental Studies graduate student Friedrich Knuth returns to Charleston this fall after an eventful summer of impressive research trips to Honduras, Washington, and Florida.


Deep sea diving with a submarine off of Roatan, Honduras
In May, I joined Matt Rittinghouse on a research trip to Roatan, Honduras. Matt and his advisor Peter Etnoyer (NOAA) had traded maps of the seafloor around Roatan for submarine dives with the Roatan Institute of Deepsea Exploration. Karl Stanley, the submarine pilot, took us on two dives down to 2000 feet to verify the habitat model Matt had created for predicting the presence of deep sea coral. In the process, we had the unique opportunity to see fascinating deep sea creatures such as bioluminescent fish, dumbo octopi, rough sharks and many others. It was an exhilarating feeling to descend into such depths, because there is no sun light and one can only see as far as the flood lights will shine. The only means of navigation become the compass and depth gauge. Luckily, the maps were accurate and we were able to traverse the island periphery without any major loss of orientation. 


Surveying Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) along the South Atlantic Continental Shelf
In June, I spent the second summer in a row joining a research cruise funded by the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council to assess the presence and health of snapper and grouper populations between Florida and North Carolina. The chief scientist on board was Stacey Harter along with Andy David, both from NOAA’s Panama City lab. This work is directly related to my thesis. It is the second year that I am able to go out with this team and collect data on what the seafloor looks like and where the fish are hanging out. Much like Matt, I am trying to understand the biogeographical distributions of the target organisms, in this case fish, and create a predictive habitat model for the presence thereof. During the cruises I was part of the mapping team, which meant I worked from 8PM until 8AM. In the morning we would produce a finalized map of the seafloor. Based on this map the daytime Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) team would conduct their dives. Wherever our maps indicated that there are steeps slopes, that is where dives were planned, as fish like hard bottom and places to hide. Unfortunately, sometimes there were no fish, even though there were steep slopes indicated by the bathymetry. This is where my thesis aims to provide more insight into why some areas may have a lot of fish and others might not.


At sea for the deployment of the Regional Scale Nodes (RSN) Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) project with the University of Washington
The RSN OOI is a massive NSF funded project to deploy long term telepresence monitoring sensors at various target sites around the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate. The plate is located off the coast of Seattle and functions as a microcosm of tectonic activity with both spreading and subduction zones. The project has been 25 years in the making and is are getting closer and closer to its completion. In July I had the pleasure of joining chief scientist John Delaney and his team on the first of seven legs in 2014. We were able to deploy various sensors such as seismometers, mass specs, fluid samplers and high-definition cameras, as well as install more fiber optic cable and junction boxes. Once these sensors are all put in place and plugged into the network, scientists from around the US and world will have live 24/7 access to the data being collected at the bottom of the ocean. It is an unprecedented look into processes that are fundamental to the way our planet functions in a biological, physical and chemical way. You can read more at http://www.interactiveoceans.washington.edu.




under: Academics, Environmental Studies, Guest Bloggers, Travel

Public Speaking Pointers

Posted by: McCrayCC | August 8, 2014 | No Comment |


We all have to present our work to others at some point in our graduate careers, and this commitment to public speaking can lead to real anxiety for some individuals. I know this because I used to be in that group. I have been so anxious before a 12 minute talk that my hands actually went numb from the terror, my pulse started racing, and I ended up speaking so fast that my 12 minute talk became 9 minutes, tops. That leaves a lot of room for awkward silence.

So how do we learn to manage our public speaking anxiety? Some would suggest simple hacks: use confident body language, speak slowly and in a deeper tone, or my least favorite “picture your audience in their underwear,” which is most definitely the LAST thing I want to think about during a talk. While these hacks can be helpful for people with minor issues they are by no means sufficient if you are experiencing serious anxiety prior to public speaking events.

You might have public speaking or performance anxiety if you have experienced any of the following before giving a talk:

  • trembling
  • sweating
  • clammy hands
  • rapid heart rate
  • shortness of breath
  • muscle tension,
  • blushing
  • confusion or losing your train of thought
  • upset stomach
  • shaky voice
  • dizziness

At this point I think just about everyone can say yes to experiencing at least one of these prior to public speaking. Thankfully, since my numb-hands-speedtalk days I’ve learned some new ways to manage public speaking anxiety.

Know your stuff: This is the most important part for dealing with anxiety related to graduate level and professional presentations. Minor hacks such as puffing up like a fish to project confidence and lowering your voice will not help you if you don’t know the material. This happens to me on a regular basis: I do just fine presenting my own work (which I know) but the moment I have to present for journal club (where one student reviews a recently published paper in depth in front the of the department) I start getting anxious because I am presenting work I am unfamiliar with.

Make sure that you give yourself plenty of time to go over your talk before hand. One trick that has helped me immensely is to structure my slides so that the end of each slide leads directly to the next. By building in and practicing transitions you are much less likely to get lost, and your audience will appreciate having a cohesive narrative in your talk.

Notes aren’t just for class: Even when you know your project inside and out it is still good to have some form of notes on hand–whether it is a general outline of your talk, important sources and citations, or specific technical details of experiments. You can do this the old fashioned way and have printed notes, but I recommend becoming familiar with the joy that is presenter view on PowerPoint . If you don’t know how to use it I highly recommend this approach as it allows you to have your notes for each slide displayed for you, but not your audience. However, not all presentation venues are set up for presenter view (a lot of conferences are like this, unfortunately) so keep a hard copy of your notes handy just in case.

Get (non-threatening) feedback: Next time you have a big anxiety-inducing speaking event coming up (thesis defense, anyone?) try running through your presentation for a small group of fellow students, professors, and other coworkers and get their feedback afterwards. This is an enlightening experience as sometimes what you are the most worried about no one notices, or you find out that you have a distracting tic that you never noticed.

Managing the anxiety response: Sometimes no amount of preparation can prevent your innate flight response when faced with public speaking. If you can’t stop your innate responses you can learn to manage them. Your audience has no idea your hands are numb, and no matter how bad the talk goes you will not be chased down with pitchforks.

When you feel yourself starting to get anxious remember that these feelings, while very much real, do not mean that you cannot give a great talk. The trick is learning to be separate from your anxiety by acknowledging it and allowing yourself to have that feeling, then deciding that even with the feeling you can move forward. It can take some practice learning how not to be overwhelmed by these feelings, but eventually you will be able to acknowledge them and move past them in order to accomplish your goal of giving a good presentation.


under: Communication, Education, Elementary Education, English, Environmental Studies, Gifted & Talented, Graduate Programs, Graduate School Office, Graduate Student Association, Guest Bloggers, Historic Preservation, History, Languages, Marine Biology, Mathematics, Middle Grades Education, Performing Arts, Prospective Students, Public Administration, Science & Math for Teachers, Student Services, Uncategorized, Urban and Regional Planning

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