MDWFP’s Mississippi Museum of Natural Science
STAFF SPOTLIGHT: Nicole Smith
Event Planner & Naturalist
Whether she’s buying 50 frozen rats, creating events, or facilitating workshops, Nicole has dedicated her career to helping us learn to conserve our natural world.
Get to know her in the interview below.
WHAT’S YOUR WORKDAY LIKE?
If variety is the spice of life, then museum work is definitely spicy!
I am either providing care for our animal ambassadors, teaching classes where needed, or creating new and exciting teacher and family workshops.
Whether I’m putting together the next big STEM event, or working with our visitors, museum life is never boring.
ANY FUNNY WORK STORIES?
One day, I was creating a purchase order for 10 pounds of glitter and 50 frozen rats. I thought, “I wonder what the nice folks in accounting think when they see orders like that!”
Of course, the glitter was for a craft project and the rats were for our snakes.
However, it would look odd if you didn’t’ know what we were doing.
WOULD YOU SHARE A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND?
I grew up at the base of “rattlesnake mountain” in north Alabama where I spent my childhood catching fireflies, riding bikes, and collecting rocks.
Rock collecting with my brother planted the interest to pursue a degree in anthropology/geology.
I have always loved the outdoors so it made sense to find a way to turn that love into a career.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS CAREER?
Working in environmental education is not a job. It is a vocation.
Early on, I saw a real need for “science interpreters”, who spoke the language of science and that could use that to communicate to those that were curious about it.
I am constantly inspired to find new ways to reach diverse audiences and feel a real calling for this work.
HOW DOES YOUR JOB CONTRIBUTE TO CONSERVATION?
I think of myself as a nature facilitator, who helps people connect to the outdoors in meaningful and playful ways.
Sometimes, I do that by creating events with outdoor components like NatureFEST, other times by facilitating workshops where nature and science combine like Family Nature Detectives.
Whatever I do, the goal is to create a culture where we speak the language of science and learning to conserve the world in which we live.
ANY ADVICE FOR A STUDENT INTERESTED IN A BIOLOGY OR MUSEUM CAREER?
They say if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life.
But, I would add that it is wise to find internships, volunteer placements, or work-study programs.
Getting your feet wet with these introductory experiences will help you see if this is really your path.