“The true meaning of life is to plant trees
under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” 
–Nelson Henderson
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National Volunteer Week 2020 runs April 19th through April 26th. Even though volunteer efforts are largely on pause right now, we want to thank you for all that you do for the Forest Preserves of Cook County. Your efforts make the preserves healthier, cleaner, safer, more welcoming and just a better place for all who visit them. We appreciate you!

April  2020


People of the Preserves 


“One day I was out taking photos at Wolf Road Prairie and saw that they had a volunteer group out there called Save the Prairie Society. So I started volunteering with them and I really enjoyed it. I checked out the opportunity calendar of the Forest Preserves’ website and got involved at Thatcher Woods, Bemis North, Bemis South, and McCormick Woods. I try to get out once every weekend. It’s pretty fun.  

“I’m used to being at a desk all day long so it’s nice to get out on the weekend and move around. I like photographing wildflowers and so another motivation for getting out is getting familiar with all these different sites. I'll come out to volunteer one week, and maybe come back the following week just to take photos. So it’s kind of like scouting around, too. “ 


"After I retired, I went through the Master Naturalist program and that introduced me to what goes on out here in the preserves. I live in Riverside so I’m right in the middle of a whole lot of nature, but didn't have time to get involved when I was working. I would get up in the morning, get on the train, get down to the loop and get home late at night. Once I started volunteering, I found it was a lot like being a kid in scouts! People like George Birmingham who have been doing this for a quarter century know a whole lot about nature and happily share their knowledge.  

"I go to a few different sites and see the same combination of people showing up at all of them. Most of my time out here is spent chain sawing. Somebody else will be herbiciding. It’s an interesting little team, and if everyone shows up, we get a lot done. Most of the people here at Ted Stone are regulars and I like that there’s a lot of camaraderie. At this particular site, cooking is a big deal. Today we're having corned beef and cabbage."  

Did you enjoy meeting these volunteers? Take a look back at the folks we've featured in People of the Preserves by visiting the Volunteer News page on our website. Please note, these interviews were conducted long before the COVID-19 pandemic and the Governor's Stay at Home order. 

You’ve Heard of Bird Nerds, But Have You Heard of Bug Geeks?

By Negin Almassi
Naturalist, Sagawau Environmental Learning Center

Naturalists at Sagawau Environmental Learning Center maintain a diverse collection of arthropods for research and educational purposes, dating back to 1960s specimens from retired naturalist Yvonne Woulfe. As you can imagine, preserving and growing this scientific collection requires work, patience, and a good sense of humor. That is where the Collections Volunteers come in!

Whitney Kwok is a Forest Preserve super-volunteer, monitoring dragonflies and participating in stewardship workdays on a regular basis. She first learned how to pin insects in an entomology course at University of Illinois. At Sagawau, she has been elevating it to an art-form. If you watch Whitney work on a beetle, for example, she delicately pulls each leg of the beetle to position it perfectly, securing each with a pin. When the specimen dries, it is a lot easier to identify the insect to family because each tarsus (foot) is readily seen under the microscope, which is key for beetles.

When the pinned insects dry, the next step is to identify them. Last summer, Michigan State University Entomology major Michael Kalwajtys spent his summer in his home state assisting naturalists with dragonfly field work and with identifying pinned insects. Michael then created labels for the species name, locality, and date for each insect. This label will stay with the specimen forever more, for future generations of scientists. Michael has been applying his experience from the Forest Preserves to his work an undergraduate research assistant at MSU, studying plant-insect interactions. 

All this data needs to be managed in a way that can be searched, of course! Forest Preserve superstar volunteer Kathy Branigan just stepped up to help manage all aspects of the collection. While COVID-19 means no one can come in to pin insects at the moment, Kathy is currently entering data in the database from home and practicing her identification skills. When she isn’t assisting Sagawau naturalists, Kathy can be seen with the Palos Restoration Project volunteers, monitoring butterflies, frogs, and plants of concern, or on Trail Watch patrol.

Working with these lovely people allows me to share my passion with fellow Bug Geeks. These volunteers are helping create a scientific research and educational collection for many generations to come.

Please note that due to the COVID-19 pandemic our Nature Centers are closed through May 11th and like other volunteer opportunities, the Collections Volunteer opportunity is suspended at this time. 

Flowers by Fidencio

Fidencio Marbella, one of this month's "People of the Preserves", has an incredible talent for bringing you up close and personal to some of the FPCC's best nature through the lens of his camera. For this issue, he shares a few of his favorite spring wildflowers. Can you identify all three? If you have an FPCC calendar at home, you can see some of Fidencio's other work including the winning April photo, “Springtime Oak Leaves”.
Top: Hoary Puccoon, Wolf Road Prairie Middle: Yellow Trout Lily, Thatcher Woods Bottom: Trillium, Thatcher Woods

Stirring Hope

Wendy Paulson, Chair of the Bobolink Foundation and FPCC volunteer, recently penned an opinion piece for the Washington Post about how even in the darkest times, nature can lift us up. 

Photo by Kris Dapra
Share your story!
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