CHARLESTON, S.C. – For a graduate student who grew up in Charleston with an interest in the estuarine environment and marine biology at an early age, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District was the perfect fit for an internship and valuable work experience.
“The project I’ve been assigned to with USACE is exciting because I am working on a coastal change detection study near Charleston Harbor,” said Bailey Horn. “My project investigates a relatively new remote sensing technique, called satellite derived near-shore bathymetry, to map changes in the bathymetry (seafloor) of shallow-water, coastal areas over time. We are interested in studying Clark Sound, which is a highly dynamic bay located behind Morris Island. If you visit Clark Sound by boat, you don't even know where the shoals are, you don't know where the oyster beds are, they're hidden at high tide, they're exposed at low tide, and it’s constantly changing. Basically, I will be looking at satellite imagery over time to analyze the trends in shoaling and erosion of Clark Sound with the purpose of understanding why this area is so dynamic.”
Horn attended Ashely Hall, an all-girls school in Charleston, from 1998 until she graduated in 2015.
“I grew up exploring Charleston’s tidal creeks in a little john boat, which fueled my curiosity to learn about the estuarine environment,” said Horn. “My biology and marine science teachers at Ashley Hall were influential in igniting my passion for the marine sciences by teaching me all about this marine world.”
The district has a partnership with Ashley Hall since girls are an underrepresented group in the science, technology, engineering and math fields.
“I was first connected to USACE during my senior year at Ashley Hall,” she said. “I completed a senior capstone project studying the meaning of leadership and what it takes to be an effective leader. I remember interviewing Maj. Nathan Molica, a former deputy commander at USACE Charleston District, for my project. We discussed the importance of duty, instilling trust in others, teamwork and leading by example.”
In addition to studying marine science in the classroom, Ashley Hall also provided Horn with the opportunity to volunteer with local marine science organizations like the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and Charleston Waterkeeper.
After Ashley Hall, Horn earned a Bachelor of Science in marine biology from the College of Charleston. She also worked for the South Carolina Oyster Recycling and Enhancement Program at the SC DNR Marine Resource Division at Fort Johnson for a couple of years.
“My work with the SCORE Program was a direct link for applying my love for and background knowledge in the marine sciences to gaining some valuable hands-on experience,” she said. “The SCORE Program is a community-based program that works with volunteers to monitor and help rebuild oyster reefs throughout coastal SC.”
She added that she eventually decided to advance her degree and went back to CofC to work on a master’s. Currently, she is in the Environmental and Sustainability Studies graduate program. She is studying hydrographic surveying and geographic information systems.
“Studying marine biology, hydrographic surveying and GIS completes the circle for me,” said Horn. “I am still exploring coastal South Carolina, just adding more tools to my tool belt for doing so.”
Horn said her academic advisor at the school connected her with Jennifer Kist, a geospatial coordinator at the district. Kist does the GIS and coastal dynamics studies in South Carolina and is an adjunct professor who has been teaching at the college since 2017. She is teaching an advanced hydrographic mapping and GIS class taught through the Benthic Acoustic Mapping and Survey, BEAMS for short, Program through the department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences.
“Jennifer mentioned that I could come on as a for-credit volunteer intern,” said Horn. “It's an unpaid position, but I think it's well worth my time just because of the folks I'm meeting, the GIS skills I am learning and the experience of working with a great team of industry professionals.”
Horn says she wants to stay in the hydrographic surveying field and hopes the internship will help her secure a full-time job in her field after she completes her advanced degree.
“The advice I'd give to somebody as an undergraduate or graduate student is to work hard in school and make as many connections as you can because that's how you will get a job,” said Horn. “It's all about connections and networking. I’ve always gotten my jobs through volunteering. I'm really thankful for the internship here and the opportunity to work with USACE Charleston District.”