College of Charleston graduate student Cheyenne Twilley likes the smell of the salty sea air, the sound of water pulling along the coast and the amazing habitats found throughout the Lowcountry. She likes learning about the environmental issues threatening these intricate ecosystems. And she really likes to help people connect the dots between the science of pollution and the practical impacts on our beaches and waterways.

a crowd of people at a beach cleanup

More than 100 people attended the World Oceans Day event at Folly Beach in 2022.

That’s what led her to spearhead a World Oceans Day event in 2021 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, after discovering that there were no recognized events for the Carolinas listed on the official United Nations World Oceans Day website.

“This initiative started as a platform to bring together residents, businesses, organizations and municipalities and educate them on the importance of ocean conservation,” says Twilley.

In 2022 Twilley, who is entering her final year in the College’s dual graduate program in environmental and sustainability studies and public administration, expanded the event to Folly Beach, just seven miles from the College of Charleston campus, where 120 participants cleaned the shoreline. In partnership with Global Echo Adventures, she also helped launch World Oceans Day events last year in Maui, Hawaii, and San Cristóbal Island.

“When people gain firsthand experience, they develop a deeper understanding of the challenges these environments face,” she says. “What people don’t know we cannot expect them to protect. Awareness inspires conservation.”

For 2023 World Oceans Day, June 8, 2023, Twilley is again helping coordinate efforts in Myrtle Beach, Folly Beach, Maui and San Cristóbal. Twilley says the confidence she’s gained through the EVSS/M.P.A. program and related internships has been invaluable to the success and growth of her World Oceans Day events, which has garnered support from organizations including the South Carolina Aquarium and numerous business partners.

world oceans day flyer“As Cheyenne enters her third year of directing World Oceans Day Coastal Cleanup in South Carolina, she has shown the importance of community engagement, collaborative partnership and environmental education in making a difference in protecting our coastal environments,” says Lucy Davis ’20 (M.S.), program coordinator for the College’s graduate program in environmental and sustainability studies. “Cheyenne embodies what it takes to be a graduate student in the Environmental and Sustainability Studies Program, and she is a true leader in the environmental field as she lifts up organizations working in conservation and includes her community in these efforts.”

South Carolina residents are invited to participate in the Myrtle Beach event at 9 a.m. beachside by the SkyWheel and at 4 p.m. at the Tides Hotel on Folly Beach.

Now in her second summer as an intern with Elko Coastal Consulting – a coastal preservation advocacy, research and management firm based in Charleston – Twilley hopes to parlay her experiences into a full-time career as a coastal conservation policy analyst, helping connect scientific research with practical policy measures.

“I’m really passionate about the policy process and how it works,” she says. “I think I can be the liaison between the science and the policy interface. I want to be that knowledge broker, translator and open line of communication to promote more sound ocean conservation.”