Waszgis Receives SNR Staff Recognition Award for Fall 2023

Larkin Powell, Director of the School of Natural Resources; Michele Waszgis, Geological Research Specialist; Matt Joeckel,  Director, Conservation and Survey Division
Larkin Powell, Director of the School of Natural Resources; Michele Waszgis, Geological Research Specialist; Matt Joeckel, Director, Conservation and Survey Division

Michele Waszgis, a Geological Research Specialist with the Conservation and Survey Division of the School of Natural Resources, received the Fall 2023 Staff Recognition Award.

Her nominators said:
Exceptional service and dedication to SNR:
Michele is the curator of the CSD geological sample repository, which encompasses 5 facilities totaling nearly 29,000 sq. ft. of sample storage space, labs, and historical records. She is in responsible charge of maintaining, preserving, and providing access to rock, sediment, and soil samples from ~100 years of drilling in Nebraska. The estimated replacement value of these holdings is $16 billion (based on unit-cost in today’s dollars).

Prior to Michele’s arrival as a permanent staff member in 2016, the repository had fallen into a state of disrepair and neglect. Enter Michele. Since 2016 she has singlehandedly made the repository the pride of our unit. She has organized, cleaned, equipped, and preserved our repository holdings through hard-work, determination, creativity, and innovation. She has secured five grants as a PI totaling $232,304 to preserve samples and make facility improvements. She has gone above and beyond her job responsibilities, maintaining a positive and cheerful attitude at every turn. She does so without selfish motives.

Creativity and innovation on the job:
Many of the tasks Michele has undertaken require substantial person power. Michele solves big, labor-intensive problems using simple creativity. An example of such creativity happened when she was approached by several external scientists about analyzing some volcanic ash samples from our repository. Normally Michele would charge a small fee for our facility use, but in this case, she decided to get creative. The valuable volcanic ash samples were being stored in aging sample containers and were in danger of being lost to deterioration. So, she told the researchers she would waive the fee if they would help place the ash samples in new, freshly labeled containers during their lab analysis. They gladly agreed, and as a team, Michele and the three researchers (two faculty members and one student) managed to preserve dozens of volcanic ash samples in archival storage containers, saving them from further damage and making them accessible for future research.

Demonstrates initiative within the functions of his/her position:
CSD’s sample repository at Mead is our largest facility, with 17,600 sq. ft. of storage space. Prior to Michele’s arrival, samples and cores were being improperly stored due to lack of proper racking and they were in danger of being lost. However, demand for use of the facility was increasing due to research requests. Michele took the initiative to acquire 4 large pallet racks with 3 tiers and 11 bays each, providing significant increase in our storage capacity. Furthermore, she took the initiative to contact UNL facilities and negotiate the installation of WiFi in the facility at no charge. She also had new LED lighting installed throughout the space, increasing the lighting conditions for inspection of cores, and installed new tables and replaced an electrical panel. Michele made similar improvements to our lab space in 107 Nebraska Hall. Furthermore, she managed to move our sample processing from Hardin Hall to Nebraska Hall so that these activities could be more streamlined and efficient.

Ability to interact with faculty, staff, students, and clientele:
Much of Michele’s work happens behind the scenes. She does not seek the spotlight and her work is done to benefit others, not herself. Michele seeks out opportunities to interact and collaborate with others from within SNR and outside the University. She regularly interacts with industry professionals and researchers from other Universities who request access to our samples, records, and facilities. She averages 1 – 2 of such requests every 2 weeks. Each request consumes hours to days of her time, but she meets each request with a sense of responsibility. Because many requests for sample access involve destructive analysis, she has to make important decisions about sample volume and preservation. Michele represents SNR positively in her weekly interactions with these clientele and has increased our reputation in the process.

The recipient receives a plaque and $350 stipend.

More details at: https://snr.unl.edu/aboutus/who/people/staff-member.aspx?pid=2172