Monthly Tree Ambassador

Get to know staff and learn what it’s like to be a tree champion at The Morton Arboretum.

Content Detail

John Garrison

Education Program Guide

What is your favorite season at the Arboretum and why?

Without a doubt, fall is John’s favorite season anywhere he goes. As the summer heat rises, John gets used to the green trees and colors of summer, but when fall hits and the temperature drops, and he sees the change of colors, it is all very inspiring for him.

What is the best part of your job?

John’s primary job is to work with school-age kids ranging from kindergarten to high school. Even after many years of teaching, the best part of his job is working with kids. He appreciates the opportunity to get them excited about nature and trees and just being outdoors in general. John also conducts some family programs and he enjoys that interaction as well, seeing entire families excited about being at the Arboretum, taking in information, and learning.

Do you have a favorite location on the grounds or a favorite tree?

John is partial to many locations because his job has him exploring many areas of the Arboretum, but the Schulenberg Prairie in the fall is a favorite spot, especially when he is leading a school program. Many students haven’t had a chance to experience a prairie, and they think it is just a bunch of weeds.

John enjoys talking about plants that students haven’t had a lot of exposure to and educating them on this important ecosystem. His favorite tree is definitely the bur oak. John thinks oaks in general are beautiful trees, but he especially appreciates the hardiness of the bur oak.

What do you want guests to know about The Morton Arboretum and its mission? 

John takes every opportunity he can to tell his students, teacher groups, and families that there is more to the Arboretum outside of the Visitor Center or Illumination. He encourages them to get out and visit the entire Arboretum. By doing so, he brings to light that the Arboretum is a research facility, and promoting the health and importance of trees is really the goal and core to the Arboretum’s mission. He hopes that guests take away from their visit all the wonderful things, like Illumination, but that they also understand the bigger picture; that the Arboretum is really invested in the health of trees and the planet in general.

When thinking of the Arboretum’s Employee Core Values, which one resonates with you and why?

While all of them have significance, John feels strongly about the Employee Core Value to Make the Arboretum Exceptional, because he sees that attitude with everyone he comes across, no matter the department in which they work. He sees a place of high-quality staff members, very interested in what they are doing and supportive of the Arboretum’s mission. John refers to the Arboretum as “top-notch.”

What’s an insider tip that you’d like to share with guests?

Most guests tend to focus in and around the main visitor area. John recommends going under the bridge and hitting the trails on the West Side and seeing the great woodlands, Lake Marmo, and the prairie. The West Side isn’t visited as much as it could be. By working over there, John sees so many things that are special and unique to the Arboretum.

Share an interesting fun fact about you:

When most people meet John, they may find that he mostly listens and may come across a little shy, but particularly when he’s teaching, John is very outgoing and has a great sense of humor that everyone may not always see. He incorporates humor into his teaching to tell stories to put a group at ease. This may be the reason that John’s wife refers to him as a charming little boy. John strives to keep a youthful attitude and considers himself a lifelong learner.

Sue Paist

ArbNet Coordinator

What is your favorite season at the Arboretum and why?

After careful thought, Sue settled on spring as her favorite season. This selection comes from having such long winters in Illinois and looking with excitement for the beauty that will appear after dreary northern winters. She looks forward to the spring blooms and seeing the Arboretum changing each week as a new species shows off. One week the magnolias may be in bloom, and the next week the redbuds will bloom. One can drive the grounds and see a different Arboretum each week because the spring blooms don’t often appear at the same time.

Spring is also her favorite season due in part to the Arbor Day Plant Sale, which is what led Sue to become a member many years ago. Sue is an avid gardener, and when a friend told her about the Plant Sale, she had to check it out. She soon became a member so she could get early access to the annual sale! 

What is the best part of your job?

Without a doubt, the best part of Sue’s job is working with like-minded people who have a deep appreciation for trees all over the world. She finds like-minded people who appreciate her as colleagues at the Arboretum and in her local contacts. By far the best part of her job is to work with a diverse group of people all over the world that have one thing in common: a passion for trees. This passion comes out in every interaction she has with individuals across the globe, whether it’s by phone or sometimes even visiting these distant places as an ambassador for ArbNet.      

Do you have a favorite location on the grounds or a favorite tree?

When Sue visits the Spruce Plot on the East Side, it reminds her of time she used to spend in Minnesota. This area brings her back to her love of the north woods. No matter the time of year, the area is peaceful and beautiful. 

What do you want guests to know about The Morton Arboretum and its mission? 

As the saying goes, Sue emphasizes that the Arboretum is so much more than a walk in the woods. Many don’t even know what an arboretum is; they may know what a botanic garden is, but many don’t understand that the Arboretum is a museum of woody plants. And to that end, most individuals don’t know the cutting-edge research that staff scientists are working on both here and worldwide. In addition, The Morton Arboretum has a robust Education Department with many resources for kids and adults, which was also an attraction to Sue as a new member and what prompted her to look for ways to be involved at the Arboretum on an even greater level.

When thinking of the Arboretum’s Employee Core Values, which one resonates with you and why?

“Work(ing) Together” is so important, as Sue notes that we could not do what we do without everyone working together. This value rang true during a recent ArbNet Conference that Sue coordinated and managed. She relied on the contributions of many different staff members and departments throughout the Arboretum that enabled the conference to be a huge success. Sue sees true team efforts coming together to collaborate on all facets of Arboretum operations and initiatives. 

What’s an insider tip that you’d like to share with guests?

Plain and simple, Sue encourages more guests to visit the West Side. She calls it a hidden gem, especially on high visitation days, Dog Days, or Tails on the Trails because there aren’t as many four-legged friends traversing the amazing trails on the West Side. Plus, the West Side has a beautiful fragrance garden and gorgeous lakes, not to mention the trees.  

Share an interesting fun fact about yourself:

Sue has her own jewelry collection called the Survivor Collection. When a friend was diagnosed with breast cancer, Sue created the collection and designed pieces around a cancer survivor’s diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. Sue even made a television appearance on The Shopping Channel in Canada to promote her work. 

 

Chris Jensen

Buildings Mechanic Lead

What is your favorite season at the Arboretum and why?

Like many staff members, Chris likes fall at the Arboretum because of the changing colors and cooler weather. Fall is a nice time to be outdoors, and in general, Chris just feels especially good during this season.

What is the best part of your job?

Chris’s job provides for a lot of variety. In his role, he works with a lot of different people and equipment. While he doesn’t interact with the public quite as much, Chris enjoys interacting with staff members. The variety of events, projects, and activities provide for a different experience each day.

Do you have a favorite location on the grounds or a favorite tree?

The East Woods is a favorite destination for Chris. He finds the area to be more peaceful and private, away from the core areas, which are more crowded. In this space, Chris enjoys stepping away from his daily tasks and just enjoying a quiet walk in the woods.

What do you want guests to know about The Morton Arboretum and its mission? 

For people who live in crowded areas, The Morton Arboretum is a place to come and enjoy nature. The Arboretum is a one-of-a-kind place; there are not many things like it around this area. In such a suburban environment, if people get tired of dealing with traffic, they can come here for more serenity. There is beauty in nature, and, at the Arboretum, guests can appreciate that. As the saying goes, “We’re more than a walk in the woods.”

When thinking of the Arboretum’s Employee Core Values, which one resonates with you and why?

Without hesitation, Chris believes that the Employee Core Value to Take Ownership is most important. In his experience, when people own something, they take better care of it and appreciate it more. Chris firmly believes that if everyone took ownership of things, the world would be a better place, not just at the Arboretum.

What’s an insider tip that you’d like to share with guests?

Come on Wednesdays because it’s a discount admission day. Chris is all about the economics of any situation! If guests plan to come in October, come during the week. Trees are still changing colors on the weekdays, and there are smaller lines and crowds!

Share an interesting fun fact about you:

In his younger days, Chris used to race stock cars. Now he is an avid fan and follower of Nascar races. His interest has taken him to see races in Daytona, Phoenix, Richmond, Michigan, Milwaukee, Homestead, and of course, the Chicagoland Speedway, just to name a few. If he cannot attend, he will still watch the event on TV.

Sara Glas

CRM and Database Administrator

What is your favorite season at the Arboretum and why?

While Sara hasn’t had the opportunity to work on-site regularly since coming aboard in September 2020, she and her boyfriend have been coming to the Arboretum every Sunday over the last few months. As of now, her favorite season is summer, for, with the recent warm temperatures, she has found coolness deep in the tree-covered wooded areas.

After spending some time in the shade, Sara will step back out into the sun, and realizing that it’s still hot, retreat back into the cover of the trees. This has been her go-to place during the pandemic and a perfect way to be outside. It’s a great place where she can be away from artificial cooling by an air conditioner. 

What is the best part of your job?

Much of Sara’s job as a CRM and Database Administrator involves working with others to help them learn a new system, while at the same time providing troubleshooting and enhancements for existing users. She loves helping people and listening to their questions or issues so she can arrive at an answer that will make their jobs easier or faster.      

Do you have a favorite location on the grounds or a favorite tree?

Sara doesn’t have a favorite tree at the Arboretum just yet, but the wooded area in the East Woods, specifically on the Main Trail Loops 3 and 4, is her favorite destination at this time. She enjoys being in any area on the grounds where she sees trees in all directions when she stops to look around. She imagines this is what it was like to be a pioneer and envisions people riding horses along forested paths. Being among the trees transports Sara back to a different time. 

What do you want guests to know about The Morton Arboretum and its mission? 

The Arboretum is often used as a destination or as a place for a day outing, but Sara wants people to know that there are many additional activities going on behind the scenes, which our guests may not be aware of. From Education classes to services offered at the Plant Clinic, to research taking place in the Center for Tree Science, the Arboretum is a hub of activities. Although the natural beauty of the grounds is an enormous draw, Sara hopes people learn more about the full range of activities The Arboretum is undertaking to preserve and protect trees (and nature) locally and globally.

When thinking of the Arboretum’s Employee Core Values, which one resonates with you and why?

“Keep Learning” is an important core value for Sara, especially as a newer staff member. There is much to learn about in a place this varied in people and activities; from the expansive grounds, to the many different departments, to the fascinating research taking place- the Arboretum offers much more than meets the eye.

While much of this is separated from Sara’s day-to-day work, she appreciates that there are opportunities such as adult education courses or ‘lunch and learn’ sessions to gain knowledge about different aspects of the Arboretum. These opportunities have opened Sara’s eyes to just how much trees impact our daily lives and the future of the planet.

What’s an insider tip that you’d like to share with visitors?

Sara plays parking lot roulette; she selects a different lot each week during her visit and walks to whatever is near that parking lot. She encourages visitors to do the same. Her advice is to not park in one of the main lots as the default during each visit. The remote parking areas are rarely full and generally have spaces available. The first couple of times that Sara strayed away from the main parking area, she felt as if she was doing something wrong! But taking the road to less-traveled areas of the Arboretum has been an enjoyable way to learn the grounds and orient herself. Anecdotally, Sara admits to having never been on the West Side before becoming employed at the Arboretum, so her advice comes from experience! 

Share an interesting fun fact about you:

Sara adopted a pet rabbit from the DuPage County Humane Society a couple of years ago and it roams freely around the house as a regular pet would. Sara jokes that she is just renting a room with Kiwi, the pet rabbit. Kiwi has been a great companion during quarantine. She is also training her to become a ‘jumping champion’ by setting up small obstacle courses throughout the house for Kiwi to learn and master.

 

Jessica Anderson

Major and Planned Giving Officer

What is your favorite season at the Arboretum and why?

Jessica has been a member for seven years, but an employee only since December 2020. As an employee, her favorite season has been summer. But as a member, her favorite season is fall, because she loves seeing the leaves change. She realized not long before joining the Arboretum that every family Christmas card photo since moving to Illinois in 2014 has been taken near the Oak Collection. While they don’t always sit still for a photo, the kids seem to love playing in the colorful leaves as much as she enjoys watching them. 

What is the best part of your job?

Through her role, Jessica meets Arboretum members and individuals that support the Arboretum in a variety of ways, including through major gifts or by including the Arboretum in their will or estate plans. She loves learning what inspires them to support the Arboretum. That is the best part of her job: learning the story of how they became involved with The Morton Arboretum and why they continue supporting our work.     

Do you have a favorite location on the grounds or a favorite tree?

Still a relatively new staff member, Jessica has not homed in on a favorite tree yet. She has been fortunate to tour the grounds with staff members who know a great deal more about trees than she does, so she is taking in all of that information before deciding which tree gets her vote. Her favorite location, though, would be the Oak Collection, as it is the destination for her family’s annual photo session.

 

What do you want guests to know about The Morton Arboretum and its mission? 

The Morton Arboretum is an amazing place to hike and explore, but the science and the conservation taking place behind the scenes are also incredibly important. Jessica didn’t fully understand how much science and conservation work was taking place until she started working here. Her appreciation for all that the Arboretum has to offer has grown significantly in that time.

When thinking of the Arboretum’s Employee Core Values, which one resonates with you and why?

The one that Jessica is really enjoying now is “Keep Learning.” She understands that the more she can learn about the Arboretum the better she will be at her job. She has enjoyed taking classes through Arborversity, the employee online learning program. She is currently taking a class about the prairie and sharing aspects of it with her kids. She has also enjoyed taking donors out on tours with members of the Horticulture staff and learning about the Arboretum’s history, its many different trees, and its landscapes. Jessica feels fortunate to work with wonderful colleagues who are so willing to share their passion for trees, plants, and the Arboretum with her and others.

What’s an insider tip that you’d like to share with visitors?

Jessica encourages our visitors to take a tram ride or to take a class. There is so much knowledge to be shared and so many ways to learn it. She recently took a tram ride with her daughters and when it was over, one of her girls shared that it was the most relaxing thing she had done in a while! The tram ride is unique each time based on the driver, so she is looking forward to her next adventure aboard the Acorn Express.

Share an interesting fun fact about you:

Jessica is included on the 40th-anniversary edition of the Sound of Music DVD. An avid Sound of Music fan, Jessica attended a sing-along showing of the movie at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. Dressed up like silver white winters that melt into spring with a friend, they were interviewed about their costumes while attending the showing, and it just happened to make the “special features” section of the 40th anniversary DVD edition when it was released a short time later. Jessica has also dressed up as brown paper packages tied up with string. Halloween costume contests have no shot with Jessica in the competition!

Angelique Stacy

Marketing Specialist

What’s your favorite season at the Arboretum and why?

Having just joined the staff in the Marketing and Communications Department in August 2020, Angelique has managed to experience the Arboretum during all four seasons, and so far, she has found her favorite to be fall. She may be biased because her birthday is also in the fall, but she appreciates the bursts of large-scale color this season brings to the Arboretum.

It’s during fall that Angelique feels we can best see the impacts of an entire year of rain, drought, and other conditions. She also appreciates that the season allows her the option to get warm and toasty rather than forcing her to endure the heat of summer because she has the choice to be warm and toasty instead of being forced to be warm and toasty during those hot summer days. Angelique is also a big fan of Halloween and takes any opportunity she can to dress in costume.

What is the best part of your job?

As a marketer, the best part of Angelique’s job is seeing things that she’s touched in the marketplace driving visitor experiences at The Morton Arboretum. She recognizes that she is trying to influence people to come through the gates, even if they weren’t planning on doing so, and she enjoys looking for creative ways to remind them that the Arboretum is a wonderful living tree museum. Angelique feels a sense of pride when she tells people where she works and they respond that they saw a billboard or some form of media advertising, knowing she was a part of that message. She also recognizes that it’s not just advertising about an event or exhibit, but also about the benefits of being a truly unique greenspace.

Angelique has become a walking promotional brochure of all of the Arboretum’s features, events, and services. She regularly directs friends to the Plant Clinic with plant questions, updates her community on exhibitions like Human+Nature, and provides basic tree health tips after volunteering at a local Chicago Region Trees Initiative tree planting and volunteering at the Arbor Day Plant Sale.     

Do you have a favorite location on the grounds or a favorite tree?

Tuliptrees remind Angelique of her childhood as there was one in the backyard of her childhood home. She learned a lot about tuliptrees when she was preparing the spring Bloom Report to be distributed on different media channels earlier this year, and she realized that she didn’t know the tree she loved so much was even called a tuliptree. Angelique sees it as both a tree and flower wrapped into one, and she appreciates its beautiful bloom and fragrant smell. 

What do you want visitors to know about The Morton Arboretum and the mission? 

There are both current and future considerations to the Arboretum’s many efforts. Maintaining a healthy collection of trees and plants for generations to come is so vital and yet something we tend to take for granted. Often, we just think about trees as a given in our environment. Thinking about them in a more multigenerational way allows us to see the bigger picture about their longevity and what they give to our communities and world.

It may sound cliché, but can you imagine a life without trees? Or that future generations may not be able to enjoy trees? Angelique believes it’s important for our visitors to know that we protect and maintain trees that our great-grandparents may have enjoyed for the last century and longer. Beyond providing a beautiful place full of lush color the Arboretum is working on ensuring that future generations will also reap the many benefits of trees.

When thinking of the Arboretum’s Employee Core Values, which one resonates with you and why?

Angelique says it’s impossible to work at the Arboretum and not continually keep learning. In fact, she gave three such examples in this interview of how she has kept learning when she wasn’t specifically seeking it out. She sees that employees can actively keep learning by taking classes or learning new skills for their positions, but the Arboretum is also just a natural learning environment. Though she is not a botanist, Angelique has learned related skills and information every day, even recently learning how to plant a tree!

What’s an insider tip that you’d like to share with visitors?

When visiting the newest exhibition, Human+Nature, Angelique thinks the best views are those from 20 to 25 feet back from the sculptures. While it’s natural to want to explore the exhibit up close, Angelique suggests then stepping back and looking at the landscape that was specifically chosen for each sculpture. The sculpture enhances the landscape and vice versa. The experience is different with each sculpture.

Share an interesting fun fact about yourself:

For a long time, Angelique wanted to be an astronaut, even attending space camp in Huntsville, Alabama. To this day, she still has the jumpsuit and helmet from space camp. In the long run, Angelique turned away from her aeronautic dreams and decided to focus her career on words and effective messaging; she’s been carving out a successful career in marketing ever since.

 

Edelyn Reyes

Administrative Assistant, Visitor Programs

What is your favorite season at the Arboretum and why?

It was a toss-up between spring or fall for Edelyn, but after thinking hard on it, she decided her vote was for fall. The Morton Arboretum has a tagline that says, “We own this season,” and Edelyn believes fall at the Arboretum lives up to that each year. When she comes to the Arboretum in the fall, colors are bursting everywhere from yellow to gold, to rust, to burgundy, especially in the Maple Collection in the East Woods. The landscape is so breathtaking that Edelyn has taken many pictures of the various locations. As a Lisle resident, the Arboretum is her place to go. She says there is something about fall that transforms the Arboretum into a magical, hauntingly beautiful place to be, particularly in the East Woods. 

What is the best part of your job?

Edelyn thoroughly enjoys working for Visitor Programs. She refers to it as an umbrella that has a variety of different departments and people. In her job, she wears all different hats. Her role includes myriad responsibilities; one minute she is crunching numbers for attendance, and the next she is assisting Facility Rental with event tracking, or dealing with photo permits while also serving as the liaison for bike, ski, and snowshoe rental. She really enjoys working with her Friday super stuffer volunteers, who spend every Friday with Edelyn collating event calendars and maps that are distributed at the gate.

During this past year, Edelyn also had the opportunity to help out at the Information Desk in the Visitor Center, which she found to be a nice change of pace. She enjoys that one day is not the same as the last, and appreciates the great teamwork throughout the entire staff. She tips her hat to all of them.     

Do you have a favorite location on the grounds or a favorite tree?

Unfortunately, Edelyn’s favorite trees are no longer at the Arboretum. Her favorite location is the conifer collection, and on that path, there were two Tanyosho pines that had to be removed. The conifer collection was her favorite destination even before she became an employee of The Morton Arboretum. It is one of the places that stays green year-round and brings her back to her childhood. The fresh pine scent reminds her of where she would go for summer vacation in the mountains. The fragrance of the trees has a relaxing and calming effect on her. 

What do you want visitors to know about The Morton Arboretum and the mission? 

The Arboretum attracts a lot of visitors due to our exhibits, but we’re not just about exhibits or special events. It’s more than just the 1,700 acres; it transcends and goes beyond that. The Arboretum is truly making the world a better place to live. Edelyn recalls a time when she went to Educare in the city of Chicago to plant trees around Arbor Day. The Arboretum’s actions are changing the tree canopy and landscape of the city, making it a greener, healthier, and more beautiful place.

When thinking of the Arboretum’s Employee Core Values, which one resonates with you and why?

Edelyn believes that staff always puts their best foot forward, so in that regard, “Making the Arboretum Exceptional” specifically resonates with her. In Visitor Programs, their goal is to give the best customer service possible. They are both the face and the voice of The Morton Arboretum, as members of their team also answer the incoming calls. As front-line staff, it is imperative that they give the best possible service. In one such example, Edelyn was proud to say that she was able to convert visitors to members on several occasions after giving them a brief tour of the Arboretum. Making the Arboretum Exceptional equates to always giving the best she can give.

What’s an insider tip that you’d like to share with visitors?

If you would like to feel as if the Arboretum is your own private garden, plan to visit at the latest possible time. As the Arboretum winds down, it feels like a private space just for you. In the fall, many visitors go to the East Woods or Lake Marmo on the West Side to capture the beautiful colors, but if you trek just a bit further up to Sterling Pond, the sights feel more as if they are painting-like scenery. Sterling Pond captures the true colors of fall, but away from the crowds. 

Share an interesting fun fact about you:

Edelyn comes from a family of arts and music; her grandmother was a lead star in musicals, and she has many singers and sketch artists in her family. Edelyn expresses her creativity through music and dance; she has taught piano for beginners and is also a trained ballerina. When Edelyn was in high school, she danced for Imelda Marcos, former first lady of the Philippines, during a private audience performance for the inauguration of their Folk Arts Theater.

 

Robb Telfer

Adult Learning Programs Assistant

What is your favorite season at the Arboretum and why?

Like many Arboretum staff members, Robb has favorite aspects of every season. During the fall, Rob likes to fill his pockets with acorns so he can grow trees at home or find somewhere else for them to be planted. He also admits that he sneaks into the paw-paw groves to eat the fruit that he calls the Indiana banana.

Robb enjoys summer on the prairie and cites winter as the prime time for doing habitat restoration because it’s easy to see the tangible difference your efforts are making. When it comes down to it though, Robb’s favorite season is spring.

After winter, he is so starved for flowers that when he begins to see spring take shape in the woodlands and notices the spring ephemerals emerge, he is drunk on their beauty. Robb notes that one of the best things about the Arboretum is that it is always different from day to day. A spot you visited yesterday will be different the next day. A new flower may be blossoming, you may see a new bug, or spot a new bird you may never have seen.

What is the best part of your job?

Robb appreciates the opportunity to be immersed in the beauty of the Arboretum and being absorbed in ideas and personalities. Over the past year, Robb has monitored over 50 Zoom classes through his role in adult education and, as a result, he now knows how to compost better, knows more about spring flowers, and understands why people do yoga. He states that learning happens just by being at the Arboretum. A new experience or idea will happen, you don’t have to plan for it.

Do you have a favorite location on the grounds or a favorite tree?

Robb’s favorite tree is the maple-leaf oak (Quercus acerifolia), which unfortunately is not readily accessible to the public. This tree, near the berm where the troll Joe the Guardian used to be, is a rare oak tree. Robb’s mission when joining the Arboretum was to find out where he could find this kind of rare, insider information, so asked staff to show him to some of these locations. Even when you see it, you wouldn’t know it was special, it just looks like a maple tree. One really has to get close to see the variation on the leaves and to see that it has acorns too!

What do you want visitors to know about The Morton Arboretum and the mission? 

While the physical place of the Arboretum’s 1,700 acres is in Lisle, this past year has allowed so many more people to benefit from what the Arboretum has to offer without coming to the physical space. What entices people to sign up for classes is the mission and the people that believe in it, just as much as the location. Registrants are enrolling in classes because of who we are, not necessarily where we are. Many students would have never been able to attend classes before the Arboretum pivoted to offer more online courses over the past year. It demonstrates that people come together around the idea that trees are good, and that the Arboretum extends beyond the 1,700 acres.  

When thinking of the Arboretum’s Employee Core Values, which one resonates with you and why?

An employee shared a story with Robb when he was newly hired about one of the vice presidents cleaning up a disposable diaper he came across while walking in the woodlands. To Robb, that is symbolic of taking ownership, not only making the Arboretum exceptional but cleaner as well. Robb operates in the same manner in that if he sees garlic mustard, he will pull it. Or, if he sees something out of place, he will put it back. It’s these little gestures that our visitors may never know or see, but to Robb, he knows everyone is taking ownership.

What’s an insider tip that you’d like to share with visitors?

On the south side of Lake Marmo, between late March to mid-April, visitors can see the skunk cabbage making its way out of the cold (and possibly snow). This plant creates heat, so when it pokes up through the snow, it melts the area around it. 

Share an interesting, fun fact about yourself:

Robb is a performance poet and, recently, has been teaching poetry workshops every other week via Zoom. He has performed in nine different countries, in most major cities in America and Canada, in coffeehouses, universities, bars, libraries, and even arboreta!  

 

Lucien Fitzpatrick

Research Assistant I

What is your favorite season at the Arboretum and why?

After giving it some thought, Lucien decided that spring is his favorite season because he enjoys watching the trees start to bud and develop for the season. Prepandemic, Lucien enjoyed arriving for work each morning and watching the trees change and begin to open and leaf out. Lucien also favors spring because he gets to work outside again, making him happier to come to work in better weather conditions. As someone whose role takes him outside, it would be hard for Lucien to pick winter as his favorite season. He does admit that fall is nice, but it is also busy and presents some challenges for him to get into the field to do his work.

What is the best part of your job?

Lucien has the ability to do many different things on any given day, and he has a variety of ways to engage with what he likes to do. He considers that variety to be by far the best part of his job. There are both physical and mental elements of his work; some days he may be writing code and some days he may be out in the field all day digging in the dirt, sanding tree cores, or dating trees. Lucien likes ecology because it takes different disciplines and brings them all together. At the Arboretum he engages with other scientists in those specialties.

Do you have a favorite location on the grounds or a favorite tree?

While coming up with a favorite location is tricky, Lucien can say there is one certain tree that he pays attention to every time he’s in the East Woods. Unfortunately there is no tree tag or label to identify it, but this particular tree is bent sideways and growing completely horizontal and shoots are growing in straight lines up from the trunk. Lucien is fascinated watching what trees do under specific growing conditions; it’s a testament to how resilient trees can be. Lucien has an affinity for urban trees, and he has a place in his heart for any tree that is struggling to survive and is making it work. There is something very beautiful to Lucien when he sees life thriving in a difficult place.

What do you want visitors to know about The Morton Arboretum and the mission?

Before joining the staff at the Arboretum, Lucien had a perception that each department worked independently of each other. He thought that grounds staff did grounds work, scientists did science, and front-facing staff did customer service. He quickly learned, and wants to share with our visitors, how integrated all of the departments actually are and how much they work together. For example, the grounds staff collect trees that he works with; and he recently just learned about some of our members’ perspectives about what they think the research program is doing, and how he can help to illuminate the importance of the work that is taking place at the Arboretum. As a lab that is focused on climate change, Lucien is working to create a holistic experience of these many aspects of the Arboretum.

When thinking of the Arboretum’s Employee Core Values, which one resonates with you and why?

When Lucien came to the Arboretum, he did so without much direct experience as a Research Assistant; his background was more in field work. It wasn’t until later in his career that he realized he wanted to get into this kind of science. So, for him, the Employee Core Value to Work Together has been important in creating a space in which he was not only encouraged, but expected, to ask any staff member or colleague what they were doing and why. Work(ing) Together creates a culture of staff being ready and available for any question that arises and to provide a thorough and real answer. This has been important for him in his growth as a scientist. As Lucien notes, scientists like to ask questions, and the Employee Core Values gives him the freedom to do just that.

What’s an insider tip that you’d like to share with visitors?

When in a forest space, take dedicated moments to stop. Going for a walk in the woods is easy, but taking the time to really stop and experience the woods is another thing. Kids are naturally good at doing that, sometimes to the detriment of a good hearty walk. The tree Lucien mentioned in the East Woods is somewhat hidden, and he only noticed it because he was taking a break from his work and took in the sights around him. He has found that what is beautiful about trees and forests are the things he notices when pausing and staring in one direction for 10 or 15 seconds. We become accustomed to just seeing trees in general when we are in the forest. Lucien reminds visitors that it’s good to physically stop and look up.

Share an interesting fun fact about you:

Lucien is an avid ultimate frisbee player, having played all through college and even post-graduation. Prior to the pandemic, Lucien played in a league and hopes to return to that in the coming months. He describes ultimate frisbee as his preferred way to be outside, other than in the woods!

Kris Bachtell

Vice President of Collections and Facilities

What is your favorite season at the Arboretum and why?

Even though Chicago is known as the Windy City, Kris is not necessarily a fan of wind, and as such, his favorite season is fall, not just for the fall color and mild temperatures, but also because fall is typically not a windy season. Recent weather in the area substantiates Kris’s claims!

What is the best part of your job?

Not surprising, the best part of Kris’s job, as well as the best part about working at The Morton Arboretum, is his ability to learn more about plants every day. Because his role involves both grounds and strategic responsibilities, he has to work harder to stay in tune with the plants in the collection than he used to. He is observant of his environment, which still presents frequent opportunities for him to learn.

Do you have a favorite location on the grounds or a favorite tree?

Asking the vice president of collections and facilities his favorite location or favorite tree is like asking a chef what their favorite food might be. While there are many, Kris noted a few of his top choices. One location is in the Maple Collection near an old building foundation on a little knoll that provides a great vista point. Another favorite is the Conifer Collection, often referred to as the pinetum. Some of Kris’s favorite views though are in the Korea Collection when looking north from the south over the large detention basin. This view is particularly nice when the mature Sargent’s cherries are in flower, as well as the view east from the bridge near Sterling Pond in fall. As far as trees go, one favorite of Kris’s is a Miyabe maple at the base of Joy Path that is the original source tree for the State Street clonal selection. And in staying true with one of his favorite collections, there is a large hybrid pine in the pinetum that he finds majestic.

What do you want visitors to know about The Morton Arboretum and the mission?

Kris encourages visitors to appreciate the Arboretum for what the open space provides. The Morton Arboretum can be so many different things to a lot of different people. Visitors may appreciate it for the gardens or plants, the natural areas, and even the wildlife.

When thinking of the Arboretum’s Employee Core Values, which one resonates with you and why?

When The Morton Arboretum unveiled the Employee Core Values in 2019, Kris was tapped to speak on the value to Keep Learning. As a lifelong learner, Kris knows to keep his eyes and ears open, because even as he nears 40 years of employment at the Arboretum this November, he appreciates that he can learn something every day just by observing and seeing. Kris understands and has respect for what nature can do and appreciates that it is one of the great things about his profession.

What’s an insider tip that you’d like to share with visitors?

While it may be harder to do these days with technology at our fingertips, Kris’s inside tip is a simple one; turn yourself ‘off’ and enjoy a walk in nature. For some little known facts, Barney Mills Road goes through the Heritage Trail on the East Side, and it used to lead to a sawmill that was down on the river. And for visitors near Lake Marmo, it’s interesting to note that Native American camps existed there prior to development of the area.

Share an interesting fun fact about you:

Kris’s interest in trees was spurred by his first-grade teacher, Mrs. Clayton, who every Friday would lead his class on a hike in the Thorn Creek Woods near Chicago Heights, mainly on a bird watching expedition, but it opened the door for Kris’s future career path. He visited The Morton Arboretum for the first time in eighth grade, when his brother-in-law was a graduate student working on white oak root systems and their symbiotic relationship with soil fungi with Dr. George Ware, the Arboretum’s former director of research. As a child, Kris would find himself climbing through the woods for hours, playing baseball in a prairie/oak savannah, and sledding in the Thorn Creek Woods, where it all started. In fact, Kris collected seeds from the redbuds in those woods and brought them to the Arboretum’s collections for study, preservation, and propagation. Kris was truly bred to be a tree champion.

Anne Klos

Human Resources Manager

What is your favorite season at the Arboretum and why?

Anne has waited a long time to be able to answer that question, so she could use the phrase “Fall of them!” While Anne has always loved fall, but since she has been working at The Morton Arboretum, she has a new appreciation for winter and the serenity of being outside during this underappreciated season.

What is the best part of your job?

Partnering with colleagues, not only within the Human Resources Department, but also with managers especially as we work together to make the Arboretum the best workplace it can be for staff. While Anne likes trees, she likes working with the humans, thus keeping the human in human resources.

Do you have a favorite location on the grounds or a favorite tree?

It’s very difficult for Anne to select just one. The Spruce Plot is definitely on the top of her list, but in particular, there is a Norway spruce at top of Frost Hill on the Northern Illinois Trail near P3 that seems to be reaching out its branches to hug her. It gives Anne the feeling that instead of her being a tree hugger, the tree is hugging her.

What do you want visitors to know about The Morton Arboretum and the mission?

While it’s likely been said before, Anne wants people to know that the Arboretum has so many experts in their respective fields, and the staff and visitors can learn from them. It’s likely that the general population doesn’t know how much research is truly taking place; many think we’re just a walk in the woods.

When thinking of the Arboretum’s Employee Core Values, which one resonates with you and why?

Without a doubt, Anne especially relates with the Employee Core Value to make the Arboretum exceptional, because the level at which the Arboretum operates is so high. Maybe at other places in the world, good is acceptable, but the Arboretum is always striving for and providing that higher level of exceptionality. The Arboretum is a good fit for Anne because she tends to set high standards for herself, as well.

What’s an insider tip that you’d like to share with visitors?

As a walking enthusiast, Anne recommends that visitors come early to walk the grounds. Each day before Anne settled into her office, she would take a morning stride around the grounds. While others may be looking for the peaceful settings in this early hour, Anne likes seeing the Arboretum come to life. Anne feels that this is when all the magic is happening; the horticulturists are making the Arboretum look exceptional, and the humming of the blowers and equipment is soothing to her.

Share an interesting fun fact about you:

Using her psychology degree, Anne has self-diagnosed herself as addicted to nature. She can’t go a day without being outside, even in these frigid temperatures. Don’t get her wrong though, she also loves being outside in warmer climates, especially at the beach. Family is very important to her, and pre-COVID she enjoyed spending time with extended family and convening for weekly family dinners. She looks forward to gathering with her family again in the hopefully near future.

Patricia (Patty) Arend

Development Coordinator, Operations

What is your favorite season at the Arboretum and why?

Patty likes them all, because she likes change, but if she had to pick just one, it would be spring. Patty enjoys the additional sunlight and the longer days, and spring provides more energy for her than the other seasons. As an avid walker though, winter is one of her favorite times to hike at the Arboretum, enjoying the peace that winter brings.

What is the best part of your job?

Patty’s role is making sure money from memberships and donations to the Arboretum is reported accurately, working closely with the staff in the Business Office. Patty appreciates that on a daily basis she gets to see how many loyal and generous donors and members the Arboretum has. Patty feels good to be working at a place of which she is proud.

Do you have a favorite location on the grounds or a favorite tree?

Her favorite location is really more of a route that encompasses her favorite walking path starting at P8 on the East Side, going through the Spruce Plot and heading over to the East Woods to walk the Woodland Trail. There is a flagstone bench in the Spruce Plot where she will often find words made of pine cones or leaves.

What do you want visitors to know about The Morton Arboretum and the mission?

Patty feels there is always more that she can learn about the Arboretum and its mission. In particular, she would like visitors to understand that it’s not just a pretty place to come and be with nature. The research work being done at the Arboretum is valuable, and everyone can play a part to plant and protect trees. There is more to the Arboretum than just great events, such as Illumination.

When thinking of the Arboretum’s Employee Core Values, which one resonates with you and why?

Patty was part of the committee that was key in helping to shape the Employee Core Values as we know them today, so she has intimate knowledge behind their meaning. Which one specifically resonates with her though does change from time to time, depending on her role at the time. Right now, keep learning is top of mind as the Development team is migrating to a new Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) system. Patty is being challenged to learn the new system and new ways to do things. All of the values are important, but right now, she is focused on keeping learning.

What’s an insider tip that you’d like to share with visitors?

Come to the Arboretum early! Patty has been there at times when she has not seen another individual except for the gatehouse staff member. In those early hours, a person can feel like you have the place to yourself and you are the only person there on 1,700 acres.

Share an interesting fun fact about you:

As a walking enthusiast, Patty decided that she was going to walk all of the Arboretum’s wood-chipped trails in 2020, which she completed in December. This year, she’s decided that she is going to walk all of the trails in all four seasons. Good luck Patty!