By David Floyd
JOHNSON CITY — As a baby, Connie Deegan was at all times outdoors.
“Most children can consider one or two issues that they had been completely into,” Deegan stated. “Of the 4 youngsters in my household, I used to be simply the Outdoors Child.”
She was continually observing her pure environment, and for her, it was at all times about discovering connections: What animal eats this bug, and what does this bug eat? What animal digs this gap, and the way does it do it?
“I needed to know all that stuff,” she stated.
Deegan, who now works within the Johnson Metropolis Parks and Recreation Division as the character program coordinator, has turned that incandescent curiosity right into a profitable profession as an educator.
She was not too long ago named Conservation Educator of the 12 months on the Tennessee Wildlife Federation’s 56th annual Conservation Achievement Awards, making her one in every of 15 people and firms honored.
Deegan stated it’s good for that recognition to go to a metropolis naturalist.
“There’s actually good expertise on many ranges with regards to nature-based leisure,” she stated, however many awards are inclined to go to state parks or nonprofits.
“And I like the truth that on some stage that it brings recognition to Northeast Tennessee and Johnson Metropolis, however I actually like the truth that it’s an training award,” Deegan stated.
In her position for town, Deegan teaches and develops classes for quite a lot of wildlife lessons and summer season camps. She additionally speaks to organizations across the neighborhood, together with church teams, Woman Scout troops and extra. Moreover, Deegan is concerned in path upkeep and helps handle the well being of metropolis parks.
As a naturalist and herpetologist, town stated in a press launch, Deegan has impressed hundreds of individuals to take an curiosity within the nice outdoor. Herpetology is the research of amphibians and reptiles, and like her normal love of nature, Deegan’s fascination with cold-blooded critters started at a younger age.
When she was in first grade, Deegan didn’t have the talents essential to catch a frog, so she would as an alternative come dwelling with water striders and snails.
She finally graduated to larger animals like frogs and toads, however the watershed second for her was flipping a rock and stumbling upon two snakes.
“That began it,” Deegan stated. “I’ve at all times been into snakes. I’m not a snake fanatic. I don’t drive round with a snake wrapped round my neck, however I’ve at all times appreciated them and so they have at all times been my space of curiosity.”
After that, she wasn’t as taken with toads or frogs. Through the summer season after fourth grade, she managed to catch 36 snakes, a report that she’s by no means crushed. She would spend plenty of time, and far of the cash she earned babysitting, shopping for properties for the snakes she caught, finding out them and looking for out what they ate.
Deegan has stored snakes as pets for years, together with a corn snake that lived to be nearly 22 years previous.
Deegan didn’t like highschool, however that each one modified when she went to varsity. As an alternative of getting to take sure lessons, Deegan instantly had the liberty to focus on the subjects that her, specifically science.
“After I obtained to varsity, I used to be reaffirmed that that is one thing I’m good at,” she stated, “and never solely that … that is one thing that’s fairly essential.”
More and more, Deegan seems like persons are changing into extra attuned to the significance of preserving the pure world.
“Within the final like 5 years, I’ve sensed a shift. I’ve sensed individuals actually desirous to study.”
In her lifetime, Deegan has seen the inhabitants of the world skyrocket from 3.5 billion individuals to 7.5 billion. It takes a ton of individuals making tiny variations that ends in consequential change, she famous.
“It ought to make sense to anybody that perhaps we have to do issues slightly in another way as a result of it’s all related,” Deegan stated, “and I believe persons are beginning to really feel that method.”