MDWFP’s Mississippi Museum of Natural Science
STAFF SPOTLIGHT: DEBORA WAZ
Conservation Outreach Educator (North MS)
Debora joined the museum team in 2012.
Get to know Deb and why she lives with
an alligator, several turtles, and some crawfish!
WHAT’S YOUR WORKDAY LIKE?
Different every day!
But on a typical day I rise early, pack up my animals— a box turtle, several aquatic turtles, a small alligator, and my most recent addition: two small crawfish – into my museum van and head to a school to do several programs.
At the school, I’ll teach students of various ages about Mississippi Wildlife and other conservation related topics.
Every day is different.
I also facilitate teacher workshops, participate in career days, and visit many libraries and campgrounds in the summer.
Another part of the job I enjoy is working with other conservation professionals in the state on education projects through groups like the Bear Education and Restoration Group and the Mississippi Bat Working Group.
ANY FUNNY WORK STORIES?
Every day is a funny story when you work with kids and animals … I’m not sure which is more unpredictable, maybe kids?
The kids love it when the animals tinkle on me – which is every day after I feed them – so it happens all the time. It’s a daily occurrence for me, but pretty special for them!
WOULD YOU SHARE A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND?
I grew up in Connecticut, went to school in New Jersey, and then landed in Mississippi after volunteering with the Student Conservation Association.
I enjoy bass fishing and I’m a member of a bass club. I also enjoy hiking and traveling to explore public lands.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS CAREER?
I knew a desk job wasn’t for me and I’ve always had a strong environmental ethic. I wanted to be outside and I wanted to be challenged.
I began in the biology/ecology field, but quickly saw the need for educators in conservation work. I’ve always enjoyed working with kids — all my first jobs were as a camp counselor or coach — so it’s a natural fit.
It’s been a very fulfilling career thus far and I enjoy the feeling that what I do every day matters.
HOW DOES YOUR JOB CONTRIBUTE TO CONSERVATION?
Conservation is wise use of natural resources. Most often, I’m part of the first step in building good conservationists. People don’t often care about things they don’t know about.
So, I spend a lot of time teaching youth about Mississippi’s natural resources in hopes that when they grow up they’ll care enough to make wise choices when using natural resources.
ANY ADVICE FOR A STUDENT INTERESTED IN AN ART, BIOLOGY, OR MUSEUM CAREER?
Go for it! It is a very rewarding career path.