Someone to Know: District Ecologist Dan Thompson

District ecologist Dan Thompson has been working on growing the populations of endangered wildlife in DuPage County for many years. He especially enjoys working on the endangered Blanding’s turtle population and helping new generations hatch. He encourages residents to get out and experience the natural world’s simplicity and beauty. It’s more important now than ever for people to connect with nature to get a break from today’s tech-intensive society, he said.

What are some of your responsibilities as a Forest Preserve District ecologist?
My area of work is with wildlife. Much of the work is to monitor and survey local populations. We have a nice variety of wildlife in the county. Many species are thriving, yet some are more sensitive and struggling to survive. Most of the endangered and threatened species we have are at risk mainly due to changes in the landscape we humans have altered. Since we have created this imbalance, we should also be the ones who strive to correct this. I do spend a fair amount of time working to improve life and population numbers for some of these imperiled species. There is a tremendous amount of satisfaction in bringing a species back from the edge of extinction. However, most of this success will need to stand the test of time and require future generations to care as much as we do now.

What would you like DuPage County residents and forest preserve visitors to know about our natural areas and resources?
I would love for our residents to get out and experience the wonderful preserves we are so fortunate to have here in DuPage County. I see a frightening trend in suburbia where we as a society are becoming more detached from our natural world. Adults and children are spending less time outdoors especially in natural areas and therefore are losing their connection, understanding and appreciation for preservation and conservation. Spending time outdoors — especially in a forest preserve — can really be a rejuvenating experience both physically and mentally.

What is your favorite preserve?
I personally find it difficult to pick a favorite preserve. So many of our preserves have their own uniqueness that makes them special. I recommend visiting a number of different preserves to get a sense of their unique attributes. Everyone has their own preferences — some preserves will generate a special connection with certain individuals while others are drawn to different preserves. You can only make these connections by experiencing them firsthand. 

What is your favorite forest preserve animal? Why?
Just like the preserves it would be difficult to pick a favorite animal. I find all creatures to be quite fascinating The more you learn about them the more interesting they become. I must admit I am quite partial to the Blanding’s turtle, an endangered species in Illinois. I have been working with populations in DuPage County for quite some time now, and our efforts to save this species in DuPage County have been very rewarding. It is very special to see a turtle that you hatched and raised survive to adulthood and produce a new generation of turtles. Every year we are seeing more accounts of this and the population numbers are increasing.   

What inspires you in nature? Why do you like to share that with others?
I have been drawn to nature ever since I was a young child. It is very fascinating to me to see the delicate balance and the intricate way things are interconnected. I find nearly any experience I have with nature inspiring. Simple things such as a prairie in bloom, the sound of coyotes or an owl calling, a beautiful sunset, watching a hummingbird nectar, the smell of the air after a storm, the changing seasons all provide me with a special experience and feeling I can’t get anywhere else. This is our roots, and it’s very easy in our modern society to feel that we are not a part of or connected to this natural world. I want everyone to get out and experience nature and try to find some connection. This will help build better stewardship for the future. Immersing yourself in nature is a great stress relief from the fast pace of life today. The preserves have something to offer everyone, whether you are looking for mental serenity or physical rejuvenation.

Someone to Know: Volunteer Bob Young

Bob Young combines his love for nature and the water with volunteering for the District.

Someone to Know: Kline Creek Farm Volunteer Linda Frey

Linda Frey is a domestic arts interpreter for Kline Creek Farm, where she gets to bring history to life for visitors.

Someone to Know: Keith McClow

Keith McClow brings history to life as heritage education manager for the District.

Someone to Know: Dan Hebreard

District ranger loves sharing his passion for nature with visitors.

Someone to Know: Wayne Zaininger

As site manager for Danada Equestrian Center in Wheaton and St. James Farm in Warrenville, Zaininger's work is centered on horses and the people who care for them.

Someone to Know: District Ecologist Dan Thompson

District ecologist has the perfect job to feed his love of nature and wildlife.

Someone to Know: Fullersburg Woods Volunteer Joan Schultheis

Retired teacher taps her love of nature at Fullersburg Woods Nature Education Center.

Someone to Know: Wayne Hill

Wayne Hill gets to step back in time in his role as heritage interpreter at Kline Creek Farm, an 1890s living history farm in West Chicago.

Someone to Know: Mark Dyer

Mayslake Community Outreach Specialist Mark Dyer wears many hats while helping ensure the numerous nature and cultural programs run smoothly at the Oak Brook estate.

Someone to Know: Austin Kopp

Golf Services Supervisor Austin Kopp makes sure every trip to the District's three golf course is on par with customer's expectations.

Someone to Know: Leigh Korreck

Willowbrook naturalist Leigh Korreck loves being able to connect people to nature and help them learn how to live in harmony with native wildlife in DuPage County.

Someone to Know: Dennis Buck

How would you like stepping back into a different century every day at work? That's what Kline Creek Farm heritage interpreter Dennis Buck does each day.

Someone to Know: Kim Riehm

From taking calls to reserving a picnic shelter to answering questions about forest preserves, no two days are alike for Visitors Services staff assistant Kim Riehm. And she wouldn't have it any other way.

Someone to Know: Cindy Hedges

Cindy Hedges is all about connecting people to nature in her role as stewardship program coordinator. She also oversees the District's volunteer monitoring programs and the Native Plant Nursery at Blackwell Forest Preserve.

Someone to Know: Kendra Strubhart

As Mayslake's heritage interpreter, Kendra Strubhart is responsible for programming at the historic Oak Brook mansion.

Someone to Know: Mayslake Photo Instructor Chris Aquino

When he's not teaching cinema studies at Wheaton Warrenville South High School, he's helping folks hone their photography skills at Mayslake Peabody Estate.

Someone to Know: Mayslake Photo Instructor Fred Drury

Award-winning photographer Fred Drury brings his 50-plus years of photography expertise to you through his photography classes at Mayslake Peabody Estate.

Someone to Know: Mayslake Photo Instructor Hank Erdmann

Hank Erdmann specializes in nature photography, especially in the midwest. His primary areas of interest include midwestern prairies and hardwood forests.

Someone to Know: Mayslake Photo Instructor Will Clay

Will Clay's photography has been published in nine books and numerous natioanl publications, and now he brings his photographic expertise to you through his photography classes at Mayslake Peabody Estate.

Someone to Know: Eric Poggenburg

No two days are alike for ranger Eric Poggenburg, who enjoys connecting to nature even on his days off.

Someone to Know: Dr. Jennifer Nevis

Willowbrook staff veterinarian fuels her passion for animals and mentoring.

Someone to Know: Nikki Dahlin

District naturalist Nikki Dahlin's love of bugs may have started by accident, but it's been fueled by passion.

Someone to Know: David Sima

Senior ranger David Sima leads programs that teach skills for enjoying the great outdoors.

Someone to Know: Stephanie Touzalin

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

Someone to Know: Ron Skleney

Naturalist Ron Skleney loves birds and heads up our raptor program at Willowbrook Wildlife Center.

Someone to Know: Natural Resources and Grounds Management Crews

Our crews manage invasive and nonnative vegetation over the coldest months of the year.

Someone to Know: Chris Gingrich

Get to know Education Outreach Specialist Chris Gingrich.

Someone to Know: Marty Jandura

Ranger Marty Jandura is an avid fisherman and offers up some fishing tips.

Someone to Know

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