“Go Get ‘Em” Alumni Blog Series: Lisa Vandiver, Environmental Studies

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Lisa Vandiver, Ph.D., graduated from the College of Charleston’s MSc Environmental Studies program and now works at NOAA’s Restoration Center in Charleston. Originally from Athens, Georgia, Lisa moved to Charleston in 1997 to pursue a BSc in Marine Biology. After working at Kiawah Resort as a naturalist as an  undergraduate, Lisa enrolled in the Environmental Studies program at the College specializing in stormwater management and the effects of stormwater on tidal creek ecosystems.   After she completed her Masters, Lisa attended the University of South Carolina earning her Ph.D. in Environmental Health Sciences. Upon graduation, she was immediately accepted into the Knauss Fellowship program in Washington D.C.

At NOAA , Lisa works with the Damage Assessment Remediation and Restoration Program (DARRP) and the Community-based Restoration Program (CRP). Through DARRP, Lisa helps restores coastal and marine habitats and resources to compensate for the natural resource injuries incurred from oil spills and hazardous waste sites. Currently, Lisa and her team are planning for restoration for the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the hazardous waste site in Brunswick, Georgia. Through CRP, she coordinates with local communities, territorial agencies, and federal partners to reduce land-based sources of pollution (LBSP) to coral and seagrass habitats in the Caribbean.

“This is definitely the most rewarding part of my career, not only because it is nice to work in the Caribbean, but because I am able to see major changes in pollutant loads and human behavior as a result of our work.” Lisa attributes some of the skills she uses in her job to her graduate school experience at the College of Charleston. “College of Charleston provides a unique interdisciplinary experience that truly provides you the skills needed to succeed in a profession as a natural resource manager.  We were required to attend Charleston County Council meetings and evaluate local environmental management issues. These experiences taught me lessons about the complexity of environmental management and the importance of the human dimension. The understanding and ability to work with others towards a common goal is key to the success of any career. My graduate career at the College of Charleston was integral in fostering and developing these skills.”

Words of Advice to Graduate Students
Network, network, network! Now-a-days many people go on to pursue their graduate degrees, so it is not the ‘foot in the door’ that it used to be. Once you graduate, you can almost guarantee that for every job you apply to you will be competing against another Master’s degree or even a Ph.D.  The primary thing that can give you an edge over your competition is your network. It is likely that you have already begun developing your network without even knowing it.  The marine science world is surprisingly small and Fort Johnson is filled with well-known and respected scientists and soon your friends will become your colleagues. Graduate school is a great time to expand your network which will help you get your foot in the door when you need it.

Your graduate career is your opportunity to explore new ideas and opportunities. Take advantage of this time!  If you have an opportunity to work on a research cruise or you have a chance to study abroad or you simply have a chance to help a friend out in the field, GO, you will be surprised how it will open up a whole new world of ideas and opportunities. Worst case scenario you would have added one more person to your network.

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