Cheyenne Cunningham

Cheyenne Cunningham, a recent graduate from Coastal Carolina University, is an ocean law and policy specialist. Her work and legal interest consists of ecosystem-based management used to coordinate policies across diverse sectors (fisheries, oil & gas, deep sea mining, commerce) among international and domestic entities.

Raised in a small town in Upstate New York, her fascination with the ocean was beyond the common interest of her peers. From a very early age Cunningham acknowledged marine scientists and oceanographers as ocean heroes but had always wondered who would be there to protect the work that marine scientists were doing. As Cunningham says, “Staying motivated and eager is easy when a passion is so ignited, and when a purpose is so undeniable.” Opportunities she seizes empower her ability to acquire and apply the knowledge and skills necessary to excel as a young professional, driven to make a difference.

During her time at Coastal Carolina University, which she graduated in 2018, Cunningham served as president of the organization “Coastal Elasmobranch Society (Shark Club).” Due to early advisement under research professor and global environmental leader Tom Mullikin, Cunningham has exploited a vast dynamic of channels associated with environmental protection. She has since volunteered twice at the Bimini Biological Field Station, a world-renowned shark lab. Focused through an interdisciplinary lens, Cunningham spent the summer of 2018 working as an intern for United States Congress on Capitol Hill, where she participated in several briefings on ocean management issues. The first time Cunningham entered the White House, she explained, “it felt natural, yet so humbling to be a part of something so much bigger than myself.” Prided in this specific opportunity, she has drafted inception reports for the United Nations Development Programme to strengthen the foundation for a sustainable future through international consulting.

Cheyenne often volunteers for an eco-tourism organization native to South Carolina, called Global Eco Adventures. This organization travels to the world’s most fragile ecosystems to provide a first-hand understanding of the planet and the challenges it faces. She recently traveled to San Cristobal Island, Galápagos, to assist teaching students of University of San Francisco Quito about climate change. This unique opportunity to teach about the environment while experiencing the environment, leads to a remarkable impact in motivating others to remain cognizant of the world around them. Cunningham says she will continue to follow Global Eco Adventure’s mission to spread awareness and inspire conservation.

Ignited to grow adept in ocean law and policy, she is taking every stride for fall 2019 enrollment into law school. As part of her preparation for law school, Cunningham has sought out to educate others and establish environmental awareness globally. She will use the Safina Center Launchpad (“junior”) Fellowship to nourish law school applications, and to educate internationally through environmental outreach. It is time to ignite public support, enlist the world to embrace ocean conservation, and understand that our lives depend on taking care of the ocean.

Notable works, coverage and accomplishments

(cover photo: Ian Livingston Brooking; headshot: Valerie Petronis)