Monthly Tree Ambassador

March 2019

Ashley Donisch, Graphic Designer

Ashley Donisch smiling, standing in Little Arturs' mouth, one of the Trolls on the West Side

What is your favorite season at the Arboretum and why?

That’s an easy question for Ashley to answer.  Definitely the fall for the color, but also due in part to some of the events.  Many of the fall color activities have become a tradition for Ashley and her friends.  One friend has a birthday that they celebrate at the Craft Beer Fest every year, and the 5K run was the first race that Ashley ever ran, and what got her into running in the first place.  The 5K has become a staple for her and for a friend who runs marathons.
 

What is the best part of your job?

Overall, Ashley feels that her ability to work with a lot of departments and learn all about their projects is the best part of her job.  She is able to work with staff in events, exhibits, and science.  She also learned about the Chicago Region Trees Initiative master plan that extends to 2050.  In fact, Ashley learned so much about the plan that she could almost recite the entire plan by heart! She also loves seeing the product of her work; for example, seeing a Troll Hunt billboard and knowing that she designed it.  She also designed the interpretation panels and the program and map for Troll Hunt, and she enjoys going to see the trolls in their natural environment.
 

Do you have a favorite location on the grounds or a favorite tree?

By P14 on the East Side, on an open hill by the maple and beech collection, there is a sugar maple that has two trunks.  That tree were an iconic fall image that was used in promotional materials when Ashley first joined the Arboretum.  When Ashley saw the tree in person, she thought it was beautiful in every season, not just fall.  She also likes the hiking trails near Willoway Brook.  It’s an underrated location that has a cool spillway with a bench.  
 

What do you want our visitors to know about The Morton Arboretum and our mission?

Ashley immediately thinks science!  Most visitors don’t realize that they are supporting our work just by visiting.  Visitors don’t see our scientists traveling overseas and making these connections with other gardens.  Even Ashley didn’t know all the work the Arboretum was doing until she started going to the internal training opportunities, Know Your Arboretum.  
 

When thinking of our Employee Core Values, which one resonates with you and why?

The value that states “Work Together” resonates the most with Ashley for sure.  She feels that some of the best work that she or her department has done has come out of collaborating with each other and with other departments.  She values receiving input on her work that she may not have even thought to try.  When staff works together, the best work happens, and it’s fun! Ashley’s work space is in a basement, so she enjoys seeing other people!
 

What’s an insider tip that you’d like to share with visitors?

Short and simple: Ashley loves the Arboretum Club at the Ginkgo Restaurant.  She encourages visitors to give it a try.  It is really good!
 

Share an interesting fun fact about you:

Ashley considers her hobby a little nerdy, but she has been doing cosplay for two years.  Cosplay is costuming for comic cons.  Ashley makes wigs, armor, props, weapons, and designs lighting.  Her characters are mostly Star Wars and Marvel characters.  Ashley competed last year in the biggest global cosplay competition held here in Chicago.  Over 400 applicants applied to compete, and only 30 were selected.  Even though Ashley didn’t place, she felt just being accepted to compete was a win in her books.  As a result, her work was published in a cosplay magazine.  Ashley is going to another convention at the end of March, and she has been spending her free time and late nights working on her designs.  

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February 2019
Nancy Porte, Visitor Services Operations Supervisor

Nancy Porte, smiling, and leaning out of the Gatehouse holding a visitor map

What is your favorite season at the Arboretum and why?

Nancy likes every season so it’s hard for her to pick just one.  In the past, she wouldn’t have said winter was one of her favorite seasons, but at the Arboretum, winter is beautiful because it’s quiet, calm, and peaceful. Spring would probably be her number one season though.  Spring brings new hope, tons of colors, and lots of blooms.  Nancy has found that she appreciates seasons in a new way since she started working here.  She also appreciates trees more. 
 

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of Nancy’s job is the people, both visitors and staff .  She finds that everyone is overwhelmingly positive and inspirational.  In her role, Nancy sees people of all different ages and walks of life, coming here in all sorts of crazy weather conditions.  These are the people that embrace life; they are an active  population and they inspire her.  Nancy is also inspired by our volunteers in their many varied roles. 
 

Do you have a favorite location on the grounds or a favorite tree?

Much like her favorite season, it changes all the time.  At the top of her list is the tulip tree, which she never knew about before working here.  The leaves have beautiful shapes that look just like tulips.  And in June, the tree produces a creamy lime blossom with sherbet-colored center.  It’s a nice surprise when most of the other trees have stopped blooming.  Two of the most prominent tulip trees are in Arbor Court, adjacent to the Maze Garden, and at the top of Joy Path.  She discovered the one on Joy Path in 2004 when the new Visitor Center was being built and provisional facilities were on the West Side near Thornhill, as she would walk down that path often during the day. 
 

What do you want our visitors to know about The Morton Arboretum and our mission?

At first glance, the Arboretum is so much bigger than what you think it is.  Most visitors are not aware of the comprehensive work we do.  If visitors come here for recreation, they don’t necessarily know or see the behind-the-scenes work that happens locally and globally to further tree science.  Nancy knew that this place was beautiful, but once she started working here, she realized the Arboretum’s bigger purpose.
 

What is an insider tip that you’d like to share with visitors?

Nancy highly recommends loading the membership app on your phone so your membership card is always with you.  It’s easy to forget or misplace your membership card, but you hardly ever forget your phone!  It’s useful not only for admission at the Gatehouse, but to obtain discounts in The Arboretum Store, on tram tour rides, or for ticketed events such as Breakfast with the Bunny, Mother’s Day Brunch, and of course, Illumination. 
 

Share an interesting fun fact about you:

Nancy considers herself a better-than-average pool player.  She learned as a kid on a seven- foot table in her basement.  As a female, she often surprises others who want to take her on in a friendly game.  When Nancy met her husband, there was an instant attraction because he, too, is a pool shark.  Another interesting fact is that Curious George has been Nancy’s favorite animated character since childhood, and she had the opportunity to be Curious George in costume for a recent Arbor Day tree planting.  Nancy enjoys expressing her creative and dramatic side outside of her normal duties; you just never know where you might run into Nancy in costume! 

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January 2019
Laura Kamedulski, Coordinator of Youth and Family Programs

Laura Kamedulski standing by entrance to Children's Garden

 

What is your favorite season at the Arboretum and why?

Laura loves being asked that question!  For her, summer is her favorite season because of the energy and fun activities in the Children’s Garden, where much of her work is based.  And, she doesn’t have to wear a coat!  While she enjoys spring for blooms and fall for the colors, she notices the many shades of green that appear throughout our growing season.
 

What is the best part of your job?

Seeing her audience connecting with her or with the subject matter she is presenting is extremely gratifying for Laura.  When she sees kids spellbound by the story she is reading, she knows she is cultivating a connection with nature.  She likes seeing families enjoying their time together and relaxing during the family tram rides aboard the Acorn Express.  The same holds true as she leads Forest Therapy Walks for adults: seeing them tune in and letting things go for a few hours.  Laura also works closely with the Youth Volunteers in the Children’s Garden, and she feels a sense of pride when they graduate each year, seeing how much they have grown in their skills and confidence, knowing that she had a hand in connecting them to the Arboretum.      
 

Do you have a favorite location on the grounds or a favorite tree?

Laura’s favorite destinations are the elevated spots in the Arboretum, where she can look down and see a bigger view. Seeing the vistas from places like Frost Hill, Thornhill, or her newest location, atop the berm where Joe the Guardian stands watch, allows her a broader picture of the Arboretum.  Other favorite locations include P11 by the bluebells, and the Evergreen Lookout in the Children’s Garden.  As a Forest Therapy guide, Laura has also been connecting more with trees, and she has developed a fondness for the bur oak, persimmon, and miyabe maple.  
 

What do you want our visitors to know about The Morton Arboretum and our mission?

Like many staff members, Laura wants our visitors to know that we have a team of scientists working on advancing tree health on many different fronts.   She  also encourages visitors to notice things in nature.  Nature always has something new to notice. Using the senses is a very rewarding experience, along with slowing down and being in the frame of mind to appreciate nature and the Arboretum’s role in that.
 

What is an insider tip that you’d like to share with visitors?

When the Children’s Garden closes at the end of the day, Laura often finds herself offering tips to visitors on what else they can do.  She often suggests hiking from certain parking lots.  P29 is one of her go-to suggestions, so visitors can find the troll hideout. She recommends the prairie even in the winter, when the beauty is seen in curled and polka-dot prairie dock leaves.  
 

Share an interesting fun fact about you:

Laura is part of the Maxwell Street Foundation, a historic preservation group that worked to preserve the Maxwell Street Market neighborhood on Chicago's Near West Side.  Laura and the foundation lobbied the city and the University of Illinois at Chicago to save and relocate some of the buildings, which can be seen on the 700 block of Maxwell Street.  Laura became involved in this project through her interest in urban history. She appreciated the Maxwell Street Market as a public place with a friendly spirit and unique energy through its people, shopping, food, and music.
 
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