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!