MDWFP’s Mississippi Museum of Natural Science
Don’t miss your opportunity to experience one of Jackie’s programs
when you get the chance. She brings her warmth, knowledge, and
wonderful experience to every presentation.
Get to know her in the interview below.
WHAT’S YOUR WORKDAY LIKE?
For the past four years on most days, I load up my educational reptiles and head to a school – it could be in Tunica, Vicksburg, Starkville, or anywhere in between. I could be going to meet pre-k up to high school students.
I weave information into my programs about natural resources with furs, animals, and other materials as well as stories about my experiences as a biologist.
Hands-on presentations are correlated to the state science curriculum objectives and are both content and grade appropriate.
Then, it’s back home to care for the animals and prepare for the next day.
When I’m not teaching children, I put on teacher workshops, participate in professional meetings to share our agency’s message and what we can offer the public, and organize/work at our youth camps.
At times I also work with our biologists during their field work.
Working fishing rodeos, special events like the Great Delta Bear Affair, Native American Days, and The Hummingbird Festival are special days for me, also.
ANY FUNNY WORK STORIES?
Well, with animals and kids you just never know what you are going to get!
Many of the kids were pre-k age and I had the turtles sitting in containers on a table so they were too high for the kids. So, I set the containers with the box turtles on the ground. Ashley was watching them, letting the kids touch the turtles, and answering general questions.
I had my alligator out and was talking to other children about it … when I heard “Look, she laid an egg!”. I looked over, Ashley and I made eye contact, and the next second … “oh look, he’s eating the egg!”. Then, “so is she!”.
The children starting asking questions all at once, Ashley turned to me and said “they’re all yours, Mom!”.
WOULD YOU SHARE A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND?
I grew up on a small dairy farm near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Although my whole family worked hard on the farm – milking and taking care of the animals, crops, and garden – we also played hard hunting, hiking, ice skating, hiking, and many other outdoor activities.
My mom introduced me to bird watching and my dad shared with me his knowledge of trees. Both shared their passion for the outdoors and our responsibility for it.
While other teenagers were going to the movies, I was camping out, hiking the Appalachian Trail, collecting insects, or practicing my survival skills. I can still vividly remember following a set of fox tracks in the snow for hours – learning what and where he went and what he did.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS CAREER?
My initial goal was to be a Conservation Officer, so I worked toward and received an Associate’s Degree in Wildlife Technology from Penn State.
I didn’t get into the Officer Program (that’s another story) so went to Slippery Rock State College and received a Bachelor’s degree in Recreation Resource Management.
I worked with The Nature Conservancy as an educator and trail maintenance manager. Then, I decided I wanted to work more directly with animals by being a Wildlife Biologist. I moved to Montana, was accepted to the University of Montana, and got a bachelor’s in Wildlife Management.
Finally, I came to Mississippi State University for my Master’s in Waterfowl Ecology.
After retiring from private industry as a wildlife biologist, duck hunting guide, and forest manager, I decided I wanted to give back by sharing my experiences with others. When this job became available I knew it was just the right platform for me.
HOW DOES YOUR JOB CONTRIBUTE TO CONSERVATION?
I feel I can contribute to conservation in this job by sharing my knowledge, experiences, and enthusiasm with the people of Mississippi as well as visitors to our state.
I hope I can influence some children to consider careers in conservation. However, no matter what field people choose, they will have an effect on our environment. I feel I can help give them an interest and commitment to conserving our natural resources.
ANY ADVICE FOR A STUDENT INTERESTED IN A BIOLOGY OR MUSEUM CAREER?
Come to our camps, visit the museum, volunteer with us and other agencies even if it’s just a day at a time or a complete internship. Be willing to travel. Consider youth organizations like 4-H, Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts. Get outdoors and join clubs and organizations involved in natural resources. And read, read, read!