1. When he isn’t working, he enjoys learning about history in his spare time.
2. He enjoys art, and even does a bit of painting himself.
3. As a kid, his room was always full of pet lizards, turtles and other animals that he caught.
4. His father and brother are both aquatic biologists, and his mother was a science teacher.
5. He has been scuba diving in several rivers in Mississippi during his career as a biologist.
With a passion for biology, conservation and learning, Charles Knight serves as director of the Mississippi Natural Science Museum in Jackson, which is tucked within LeFleur’s Bluff State Park.
The museum overlooks a 300-acre natural landscape, an open-air amphitheater and 2.5 miles of nature trails. Inside, there are more than 200 living species in the 100,000-gallon aquarium network.
Guests may also explore the 73,000 square feet of permanent and temporary exhibits which include deer, waterfowl, fossils and Mississippi’s endangered species.
Knight recalls visiting the museum as a kid, which is what sparked his interest in working there.
“I loved it, and I couldn’t think of a better place to work,” he said.
He studied aquatic biology, and earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology while studying at Ole Miss, Southeastern Louisiana University and the University of Arkansas.
When he completed his education, he took a job at the Mississippi Natural Science Museum as an aquatic biologist, and later accepted the position of director. He has worked at the museum for a total of 27 years, with approximately eight years as the director.
As for his interest in pursuing a career in this field, Knight points to his family. His father and brother are also aquatic biologists and his mother was a science teacher.
“I grew up with it,” he said. “From the time I was really little, my dad would do field work and I would go with him as long as I can remember.”
With more than one million scientific specimens available at the museum, Knight said many were collected for scientific study.
“I love the diversity of all of the plants and animals, and I love to identify different animals. I just took an interest in that,” Knight said. “I also really enjoyed the public part of it, just bringing that science to others in a fun and entertaining way. I really like the way they work together.”
As part of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, Knight said the idea of the museum is to conserve wildlife in the state while also serving as an attraction.
“That’s our primary focus, preservation,” Knight said. “In order to accomplish that, we are actually an attraction and a place for people to come and have fun. And hopefully, while they’re there they are learning, they’re inspired to conserve all the natural things we have in Mississippi.
We consider ourselves a fun place to go.”
“Everything that we have there is from Mississippi,” Knight added.
The museum offers annual events, such as Nature Fest and the Christmas event Snow Much Fun, to engage the community. They also provide various educational programs, traveling educators and live animal programs throughout the year.
“I hope that they go away happy and having learned something new,” Knight said. “I really like the idea of people coming together here with family and friends. And also that they are inspired to learn more and inspired to conserve.”