As evidenced by her deep passion for science education, infectious positivity, can-do spirit, and vibrant red locks, there’s a fire in Mandy Nix that shines brightly.
“I tend to go from 0 to 100 very quickly when I’m excited about something,” Nix says. That high-impact, joyful energy is concentrated in her belief that access to quality science education is a fundamental human right.
“Science literacy bolsters our communities on the most basic level of human health, citizen engagement, and community-wide empowerment,” says Nix.
“My personal mission is to open the channels between clean water rights and science literacy, fostering hands-on, intergenerational, intersectional freshwater science education that teaches us about ourselves as well as our backyard water resources.”
According to Nix, Stroud™ Water Research Center’s streamside classrooms and greenest-of-the-green facilities are the perfect stage for that magic. As our new watershed education specialist, she’ll be adding a bit of her own magic into the mix. She joined the education department in July.
Nix hails from Trout Unlimited in West Virginia, where she served as the volunteer restoration and monitoring organizer. Prior to that, she held positions at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, the North Carolina Botanical Garden, and the Mountain Trail Outdoor School.
“I’ve been lucky to teach in some of the most gorgeous outdoor classrooms, from Southern Appalachian bogs to Kodiak salmon streams to West Virginia’s mountain headwaters.”
Her bond with the natural world began in childhood on the rivers and reservoirs in her home state of North Carolina. “The woods behind my house seemed to stretch infinitely, and I spent more summer days in lake sludge than out of it. Nothing has equipped me to love and sustain water like those childhood moments of chasing whirligig beetles across the water’s surface or excavating dragonfly nymphs from the muck,” she says, adding, “Lifelong stewardship begins with early and deep connections to our backyard water resources.”
As if carried by a river’s current, Nix was led by her love of nature and innate curiosity to pursue environmental science education as a career. “Growing up, scientific realities like climate change and evolution were primarily taught to me as make-believe, but I was born with the mind of a scientist: I asked too many questions, poked at every sleeping dragon I came across, and hungered to know the names and histories of everything buzzing and sprouting in my own backyard.”
At the same time, she was born into a technological revolution that transported science into American living rooms. She devoured kid-centric and kid-empowered science shows like ZOOM! and Bill Nye the Science Guy. The more she learned, the more her interest grew. “I spent most of my late teens and early college career tripping over this vast new world of science available in a few mouse clicks.”
It came as little surprise to friends, family, and teachers when she chose to major in environmental science at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. “I began filling my free time with youth-focused environmental education, and I quickly decided I wanted to be on the forefront of advancing science literacy and, by extension, our empowerment and growth as citizens of the world. Now, in an increasingly tech-driven world, it’s exciting to see the Stroud Center using technology like EnviroDIY sensors, WikiWatershed, and the Water Quality mobile app to cultivate our love of nature rather than stopper it.”