Co-creating Positive Environmental Outcomes: Guest Interview Featuring KAEE Member, Mahtaab Bagherzadeh, Kentucky Division of Water
Today's member interview features one of our six state river basin coordinators, Mahtaab Bagherzadeh. As part of the Kentucky Division of Water, Mahtaab and her colleagues work to ensure clean water for all Kentuckians. Each basin coordinator has a region of focus and they work collectively on a nonpoint source program which specifically targets nonpoint source pollution (or runoff) which can originate from many, often unidentifiable, sources.
KAEE: Where do you work and what is your current role?
Mahtaab: I am Kentucky’s Division of Water Licking River Basin Coordinator. Along with six counterparts working across the Commonwealth in other major river basins, I facilitate natural resource conservation efforts within the Licking River Basin region. This region encompasses parts of Eastern, Central, and Northern Kentucky. You can see a map of all the Kentucky river basins here!
KAEE: What projects or programs are you working on that particularly inspire you?
Mahtaab: I’m currently leading a workgroup that is pursuing funding for farmer-led watershed management programs. I have a deep respect for the farming community and their unparalleled connection to our soil and water. My guiding light for this project is co-creating knowledge with farmers. Meaningful behavioral changes that lead to positive environmental outcomes come from inclusive collaboration. This work is key to positive changes, lasting environmental education and constructive conservation work.
KAEE: What goals do you have for your organization or programs within the EE field?
Mahtaab: I’d like to cultivate more space for women of color in conservation. In Kentucky, we are not well-represented, especially at higher levels of management and leadership, where our presence is much needed. KAEE has a great landing page for EE-specific DEI resources that I highly recommend to all, whether you work in the field of environmental education or not. They also have a Justice, Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion (JEDI) action team that has begun some great initiatives related to this topic.
KAEE: What is an area you feel you could use support in from this network of fellow educators?
Mahtaab: As a member of a voluntary incentive program, I have grown to learn the importance of science communication, consensus building, leadership, and strategic planning. Those are all areas that I feel I could use more resources and mentorship in.
KAEE: What is something you feel could be beneficial to share with this network?
Mahtaab: In today’s climate and internet culture, it is easy to find yourself in an echo chamber. I like to surround myself with smart people who disagree with me. It is equal parts uncomfortable, challenging, but ultimately rewarding. If this Iranian-American woman from DC can find common ground with life-long Kentuckians who have never met an Iranian, you can too!
KAEE: Share one fun fact or random tidbit about you with the group!
Mahtaab: I am a twin! My name, Mahtaab, means ‘moonlight’ in Farsi. My twin sister’s name, Setareh, means ‘star.’ We think our parents did a pretty good job naming us. :)
KAEE is one of the country’s oldest associations supporting environmental education. We are people from all walks of life, coming together to support EE.