Home Page > Uncategorized > Staff Spotlight: Sabrina Cummings, Conservation Biologist / Southwest MS Outreach Educator

Sabrina’s passion for nature and for educating children about the importance of conserving the natural world around us makes her an integral part of the museum’s team.

Get to know Sabrina in the interview below.

WHAT’S YOUR WORKDAY LIKE?

My day is never the same day twice.  I can be on the Gulf Coast teaching about marine algae to 3rd graders one day, in Hattiesburg the next day teaching about endangered species to 10-12th graders, and the next day be somewhere doing a farm safety day teaching about snakes to 5thgraders.  

It would seem like summers would be quiet due to school being out of session, but it is actually a super busy time for us.  

We host teacher workshops, summer camps, and events at the museum.

Libraries are also in full swing with summer reading and I present there often, too. 

ANY FUNNY WORK STORIES?

Well, I’ve thought about this question a good bit.  One of my favorite stories would have to be this one because – with kids – don’t ask the question, unless you want the “truth”.  

I was presenting a program on Mississippi Animals where we discuss the diversity of animals in the state and their awesome adaptations and how to identify them.

I held up a pelt or other artifact and ask, “Who is or what is this?”

Like I said, if you don’t want the truth, or their concept of the truth, don’t ask.

At this point in my presentation, I held up a piece of beaver pelt. It just happens to have been cut in the shape of an oval. I ask, “Who is or what is this?” and smiling ear to ear, excited to know the answer, a little boy, shouted, “A TOILET SEAT COVER!”.

Laughter quickly ensued.  I went directly into ‘Mom mode” to save his esteem and said, “Well, it would make a nice seat cover on a cold morning, but he’s actually a beaver. Since the fur is so warm, they were used for blankets and coats by Native Americans and pioneers”.  

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND & EDUCATION

I am married to my boyfriend of 33 years. We have four incredible children who are in all stages of their lives. We also have two of the most incredible granddaughters (Littles) ever. 

I grew up right here in Mississippi and actually still live in the same community.  My parents, children and I all graduated from the same high school, West Jones High – Go Mustangs!  

I have always loved science.  In high school, I was allowed to assist my biology teacher during my off period. My favorite thing to do at the time was feed her snakes and help with dissection. I thought it was funny that everyone else seemed “grossed out”.  I was just fascinated.  

I was a non-traditional student in college but I attended Jones College and The University of Southern Mississippi and became a 3rd generation teacher with a Bachelor’s degree in Education. I decided not to go directly to work after college and stay home with my children. 

After they were in school, I began teaching high school biology.  It was good, but I decided after teaching for several years that I wanted to pursue a different avenue.   

I returned to college at USM and completed my Master’s degree in Environmental Biology.  Once finished, I spent some time teaching at William Carey University and Jones College.  

My love of the outdoors and research was reignited during my Master’s training, so I decided to move out of teaching and join an environmental engineering group, FTN Associates, as a field biologist. It was amazing.  Research is still one of my favorite parts of science.  

After leaving the firm, I was hired in 2015 as the museum’s Southwest Outreach Educator.  It is by far the best job of all! Every step I’ve taken thus far has led me here and prepared me for this job.  

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS CAREER?

My love of science, and in particular nature, has always been a driving force in my life. 

 From the awe-inspiring detail of a dragonfly wing to the process of photosynthesis bringing us the oxygen we breathe, and to the amazing way genetics and adaptations play a role in the survival of a species, one never runs out of things to discover.

I want to pass that love and passion on to others.

HOW DOES YOUR JOB CONTRIBUTE TO CONSERVATION?

Education is the key and is the power of change.  

I teach mostly children and young adults in our outreach program and they are so open and their wonderment is easily captured.  

Children see the good in nature and are fascinated by the world around them. If we capture that love at an early age, it is easily transferred into adulthood.  

Children are the best teachers, so teaching the importance of conservation and protection of the world around us to them insures that the world and nature will be in safe hands for years to come. 

ANY ADVICE FOR A STUDENT INTERESTED IN A BIOLOGY OR MUSEUM CAREER?

Never give up.  Even though I came to my career in a non-traditional way, I am still here.  

If it is your dream, then keep moving toward it. Don’t worry about detours.  Sometimes they are lessons we need to have in order to make our dream even better than we had ever thought it be!