Someone to Know: Stephanie Touzalin

Willowbrook Wildlife Center Naturalist Stephanie Touzalin has an infectious passion for wildlife. Our patrons join her programs to learn about native animals that live in DuPage forest preserves or discover more about the center’s wildlife rehabilitation process. She is an artist, and some of her artistic work has even benefitted Willowbrook's efforts to support injured or orphaned wildlife. Touzalin shares her know-how about furred, feathered and scaled, their habitats and habits as part of our "Wild Things" team on WDCB radio.

What do you do at the Forest Preserve District? How do you see that role support the District?
I am a naturalist at the District’s Willowbrook Wildlife Center. This role supports the District as I talk with and educate hundreds of visitors and program participants yearly about the mission of Willowbrook and aspects of the District.

To date, what has been the best (or most interesting) part of your job at the Forest Preserve District?
One of the best things about my job with the District is the many wildlife releases I’ve been able to attend. We see a lot of sad cases here so witnessing a release brings everything into perspective and reminds me of our purpose here.

What did you study in college? How do you use that knowledge in your career?

I attended the Univ. of Illinois and got my degree in natural resources and environmental science with a focus on fish and wildlife conservation. I use principles from my classes all the time when exploring the preserves (especially from ornithology, it’s where I learned to birdwatch) and explaining what we do with visitors. Concepts I learned about I can now explain to others with more confidence.

What experience do you bring to your position with the District?
I began college as an art major and planned to become a painter. Once I switched my focus, I didn’t want to completely let my artistic side go. I have used my painting skills for projects for Willowbrook, mostly for fundraising events. I also interned for a summer at the Shedd Aquarium where I learned interpretive skills and gained experience in speaking with guests.

Why do you participate on the “Wild Things” recordings?
I enjoy sharing my knowledge about subjects that I think are really fascinating. Radio is a fun media to explore — very different from what I’ve had experience with in the past.

What would you like DuPage County residents and forest preserve visitors to know about our natural areas and resources?
Many think that they can’t find real wilderness in suburban Illinois but the preserves and their holdings have an astonishing amount of variety and biodiversity! There are plenty of places and resources to be found locally that will surprise residents.

What is your favorite preserve?
Waterfall Glen for the variety of habitats and species you can find there. And it is beautiful!

What’s your favorite forest preserve animal? Why?
I love the American kestrel! Their markings are beautiful and unique, and they are fierce for being so small.

What question do patrons ask you most? What is your answer?
They ask about coyotes and if they are dangerous. I enjoy explaining their natural history and (hopefully) changing mindsets about these important predators. I also go over recommendations on what to do when you see a coyote. First, enjoy the moment! Then, scare them away; it’s good for us and them.

What’s your favorite season in DuPage forest preserves? Why?
Fall. Beautiful colors and migration challenges! 

Naturalist Stephanie Touzalin introduces the barred owl Juno to patrons along the center's trail. She is often found interpreting the center's birds-of-prey.

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Wildlife enthusiast and artist Stephanie Touzalin is a naturalist at Willowbrook.

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Someone to Know

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