The New Kid on the Block

Good Morning!  This is Ellen, the new educator at Severson Dells, and I just wanted to take a moment to say hello and introduce myself a little.

I am very excited to join SDNC and look forward to learning not only about SDNC, but also about this part of the country...and getting to know all of you.

I know new staff are an unknown quantity, so let me tell you a bit about myself, where I come from, and what my interests are.

I grew up in a small town central New York, so when I say I am from NY, please don't think I'm from NYC (which most people tend to do).  I am a rural girl at heart.  My family spent time in the woods hiking and picnicking; we spent summer evenings paddling on the lake and summer days learning to fish there; we had an organic vegetable garden (when "organic" was a new concept and not the trend it is today).  In my spare time, I was often outside, turning cartwheels in the lawn, climbing the aspen out back, or even exploring the pasture down the hill.

I attended SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, where I received my BS in Resource Management and Environmental & Forest Biology.  Seven years later I returned to get my MS in Environmental & Forest Biology, concentrating in Environmental Interpretation.  My master's work dealt with the relocation of house bat colonies.

I have worked as a naturalist or environmental educator in one form or another most of my career.  I started off at a great nature center right out of college, which is where I discovered that being a naturalist was exactly what I wanted to do.  From there I worked in NJ, NY and VT before landing my dream job in the Adirondack Mountains of northern NY.  I was there for over ten years when the economy tanked and our facility was closed, all staff laid off.  It was a hard time, but I landed on my feet in south central Michigan, working at a small non-profit environmental education center.  After six years, I found myself laid off once more due to financial difficulties.  Which I how I come to find myself in Illinois!

Over the years I have worked with birds of prey and zoo animals, led paddling, camping and ski trips, told stories around campfires, bushwacked swamps and bogs, taught hundreds of school children (thousands?), harvested hay, created exhibits, and have written more blogs and articles than I can remember.  I have been a quilter, a tracker, a photographer (I love macro, often stalking insects and wildflowers), an animal trainer, and a gardener (I used to grow all the veg I ate every year).  I have played with the SCA (those folks who recreate the middle ages), I have been an archer, and I have studied the medicinal uses of plants.  These days my focus is more toward reconnecting people of all ages with the outdoors, often going back to basics and using primitive skills or building fairy houses as the catch.  I have also developed a passion for habitat restoration, and I love fire.  Did I mention that I also make drums?

As you can see, I am a bit of a jack-of-all-trades.  I dabble because I find it all so very interesting, and just as I really get into something, SQIURREL!  There is always something new to learn and explore.

So, stop by and say hello!  I look forward to meeting you all and sharing ideas.