Contents tagged with volunteering
Created: 4/11/2014 Updated: 5/27/2015
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On your last visit to the Nature Museum, did you notice anyone in a green apron? I bet you saw several of these folks, actually. Maybe they brought out a live snake for you to pet, or maybe you glimpsed them through the glass pinning chrysalides outside the Butterfly Haven. Those are volunteers, and to tell you the truth, this place wouldn’t keep running without them.
Well over 300 people contribute about 13,000 volunteer hours to the Nature Museum every year –all because they love this institution and they want to help further our mission. We try to find small ways to thank them throughout the year, but every April we pull out all the stops and throw a recognition dinner to express our deep appreciation for all they do for us.
We give service pins to those who have stuck with us through the years. Several volunteers are celebrating their 15th anniversary with us this year. That means they’ve been volunteering since before we even opened our doors to the public back in 1999!
But it’s not just about numbers. We also honor those who go above and beyond their volunteer duties and provide truly exceptional service to the Nature Museum and our visitors, animals, and collections. This set of awards was inspired by creatures that live here at the museum.
For example, the monarch butterfly is perhaps the most recognized butterfly in the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven, not to mention the Midwest region. This striking butterfly is renowned not only for its beauty but also for its determination and tenacity as it travels over a thousand miles to find its wintering grounds in Mexico. This iconic butterfly is the perfect symbol for our Volunteer of the Year.
The box turtle will entertain and educate the largest crowds of visitors whilst reassuring the most nervous amongst them that nature does not have to be big and scary. The volunteer selected for this award finds a special individual way to reach out to all our visitors, making them feel welcome.
So without further ado, please join me in congratulating the recipients of this year’s excellence awards and service milestones.
The Rainbow Darter Award for enthusiasm: Tom Mattingly
The Corn Snake Award for dedication: Jim Nitti
The Button Quail Award for behind-the-scenes work: Alan Barney
The Metamorphosis Award for growth: Lenny Cicero
The Fox Snake Award for visitor service: Julianna Cristanti
The Box Turtle Award for visitor education: Jon Meisenbach
The Tiger Salamander Award for mission focus: Luis Melendez
The Green Tree Frog Award for eco friendliness: Valerie Sands
The Leaf Cutter Ant Award for teamwork: Dee Kenney and Doris Devine
The Monarch Award for Volunteer of the Year: Nicole Johnson
Celebrating 15 years of service:
10 years of service:
5 years of service:
Celebrating 3,000 hours of service:
2,000 hours of service:
1,500 hours of service:
1,000 hours of service:
500 hours of service:
Manager of Volunteers and Interns
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Created: 8/13/2013 Updated: 5/27/2015
Run for Science without actually running!
Like any dedicated Nature Museum supporter, you probably already know that our annual Run for Science 5K is coming up on September 21st. But if you’re anything like me, you get winded just thinking about running five thousand kilometers.
I have good news for you. You don’t actually have to run in the Run for Science to show your support! While the runners get all the glory, there are lots of folks behind the scenes who make this race possible. They’re volunteers.
Volunteers station themselves along the race route, cheering on runners and handing out much-needed cups of water. They keep runners’ bags safe at the gear check station. They make sure everyone is properly checked in and ready to run. And they do all this because they support the Nature Museum and our science education programs.
These volunteers know that working behind the scenes is equally important as the actual running of the race. Each year volunteers and runners come together to raise funds for the Nature Museum’s science education programs, and they have a blast doing it.
If you’d like to be part of the volunteer team, let me know in the comments section. We’d love to have you!
Jill DoubView Comments
Manager of Volunteers and Interns
Created: 3/8/2013 Updated: 8/10/2016
Volunteers play many different roles at the Nature Museum, but have you ever wondered what we do outside of volunteering? Check out this interview with one of our Public Interpretive Programs (PIP) Volunteers, JoAnne!
Name: JoAnne Kempf
Volunteer Position: PIP
How long have you been volunteering here?
10 years this April
Why did you choose the Nature Museum?
I was unemployed and finishing my Master’s Degree but needed something to get me out of the house. I went to VolunteerMatch.org and the Nature Museum came up as a possibility. I had actually never heard of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum but the volunteer job description intrigued me. I visited the museum to check it out and fell in love with it. It reminded me of the local museums and visitor centers we frequented on family vacations with our two sons. And it’s completely different from the office work I get paid to do.
What is your favorite thing about the Nature Museum?
Unlike the Field Museum or Science & Industry, there’s a sense of intimacy about our little museum. You can really get up close and personal with our exhibits. And I like that we focus primarily on nature in our immediate vicinity.
What is your favorite part of your volunteer position?
Wow….there’s so much. I love the teaching aspect; the look on a kid’s face when they have an “aha” moment. I love having conversations with the grown-up visitors about prairies and savannas. And I’m constantly learning something and having new experiences. It never occurred to me to hold a snake, for example, but now I eagerly handle snakes and all kinds of critters that were just not part of my world before. But mostly I look forward to spending time with my fellow volunteers. In 10 years’ time, I’ve seen a lot of volunteers come and go, but they always have something interesting to offer. And of course there are the “old timers” like me; I’ve made some very close friends.
What do you do outside of the museum?
I work! I am the Director of the Office of Governance at the American Library Association. What the heck does that mean? Well, I am basically the right-hand person to the Executive Director and the association president helping them to carry out their programs and initiatives. It’s a very demanding job that leaves me weary much of the time, which is why I volunteer – to give my mind something else to focus on.
In addition to volunteering at the Nature Museum, I have been a member of the Skokie Concert Choir for seven years (I’m a soprano), and currently serve as their board president. During the choir’s summer hiatus, I am an avid gardener committed to growing mostly native plants. In fact, I have a miniature prairie in my backyard that includes Joe Pye, milkweed, cone flowers, black-eyed Susan, zizzia, monarda, and blazing star. I have recently become quite fond of taking walks through the Somme Prairie in Northbrook, IL. This is a restoration project that was begun by the Nature Conservancy in the ‘90s. A fellow Nature Museum volunteer and I discovered this area last summer and enjoy visiting there to observe the changes throughout the seasons.
I am a season ticket-holder to the Lyric Opera. I love to cook. I knit off and on. And my kitty and I are completely hooked on Downton Abbey!
Stop by and say hello to JoAnne the next time you come for a visit!
Ashley LundgrenView Comments
Public Interpretive Programs Volunteer
Created: 1/2/2013 Updated: 8/10/2016
The following post was written by Cindy Gray, one of our animal care volunteers at the Museum.
8:15 to 8:25
Arrive at the Museum, greet the cleaning woman who lets me in as she cleans the entry, get the key to the Look-in-Lab from security, check-in at the volunteer lounge, and put on one of the volunteer aprons. Go to the Lab, greet Celeste and Jamie and get ready to start working!
8:25 to 8:40
Change the swimming water for the Leopard frog and the drinking/soaking water for the American toad in Mysteries of the Marsh, and mist the American toad tank with RO water (“RO” water is “reverse osmosis” water, water filtered to remove chlorine and other elements that may bother amphibians, water bugs, fish, and some reptiles). Feed the frog and toad, trying to drop the crickets into their tanks, not on the carpet (I read that toads blink their eyes to help swallow their food, but I had trouble picturing it until I saw the toad capture and swallow one of the crickets I fed her one day).
8:40 to 8:45
Mist the green tree frog tank near the spotted turtles to maintain the high humidity they prefer. Sometimes one of the frogs will start “singing” as I mist -- I like to think it's because they are happy for the fresh "rain".
8:45 to 9:00
Provide fresh water for the Tiger salamander, Gray tree frogs, American toad, Cricket frogs, and Fowler’s toad in the Look-in-Lab and mist their habitats. Provide Harriet the tarantula with fresh water in her bowl and crickets.
9:00 to 9:25
Empty the water bowls for the snakes used for critter connections and provide fresh water. Sometimes right after I change her water, Coco the Fox snake takes a drink and then soaks in the fresh water. Change the paper substrate of their tanks if they have pooped. Mist with water any snakes that are shedding to help with that process. If a snake sheds overnight, take the skin out of the cage. If a snake was fed the night before, look to make sure it ate the defrosted mouse or rat.
9:20 to 10:10
Clean up after the box turtles that are used for critter connections. For the box turtles in the front window, provide fresh water, take out yesterday’s food dishes, throwing away the leftovers and putting the dish in the dishwasher, and redistribute the coconut fiber substrate. For the box turtles in the other enclosures, provide fresh water, take out yesterday’s food dishes, and change the paper if they have made a mess, in other words, everyday. When I take them out of the tanks, I put up the “slow traffic” sign that has a picture of a turtle and give the turtles worms, trying to keep an eye on them as I clean; it is surprising how fast a turtle can wander away and wedge herself into a small hiding space.
10:10 to 10:40
Tend the nursery for the Abedus (ferocious water beetles), providing them with clean water and crickets. The females lay dozens of eggs on the males’ backs, and we remove the males to small containers filled with water to protect the babies when they hatch. The young pass through numerous stages before they are big enough to go into the tank in the window so floating in the water are “exuvia,” the shed exoskeletons they have outgrown (a fun word I only learned after volunteering at the Museum.)
10:40 to 10:50
Provide hermit crabs with fresh fruit, fresh RO water, and clean salt water; clean and mist habitat.
10:50 to 11:25
Chat with the PIP volunteers (Public Interpretive Program volunteers) when they come in to get a snake or turtle for critter connections and to feed the frogs and toads for the public feeding. Make salad bowls for the turtles: greens, veggies, corn (their favorite if we have it), and berries or other fruit, topped with crushed egg shells for calcium, mealworms dusted with vitamin powder, and nightcrawlers.
11:25 to 11:40
Tidy up, give the rats corn on the cob, and say good bye to Celeste and Jamie. Check-out in the volunteer lounge, take off the apron, and return the key to security.
Not every day is the same. One day, I flooded the lab by accidentally opening the valve for the water snake tank and not noticing until I heard water splashing on the floor. Everyone was very nice about it and told me everyone floods the lab at least once! (The snakes were undisturbed.) Usually, the breaks from routine are more interesting: Harriet looking spiffier after her molt, new interns, the tiny leopard frog that was a tadpole the week before, or the hatchling Red-eared sliders and Painted turtles the horticulturists found in the garden last spring.
Cindy GrayView Comments
Animal Care Volunteer
Created: 12/18/2012 Updated: 8/10/2016
It’s Sunday afternoon and I have helped a group of second graders spot the queen of our leaf-cutter ant colony, held two fox snakes, acted as a perch for a bunch of newly hatched butterflies not quite ready to fly, and fed no less than three box turtles. What do you do on your day off? I am a Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum Public Interpretive Programs Volunteer, or just PIPster for short.
I'm also a biology student working my way through school and busier than one of our rooftop honeybees. With work, school, and taking care of my canary, Ladybird, my week can be a little hectic. Yet, I have made it a priority to volunteer for the Nature Museum every Sunday.
I began volunteering here last spring after meeting a few past volunteers who couldn’t say enough good things about the Museum. As a newer student to biology, I had been searching for a way to get more experience to compliment my interest in local wildlife -- something more than a laboratory internship or research assistantship. Boy, did I hit the jackpot.
Working as a PIP volunteer truly compliments the material I am learning in the classroom, but provides more of a hands-on perspective. Instead of reading about the territorial nature of red-winged blackbirds during the breeding season, I get to witness firsthand what happens when my coworkers venture too close to a nest while exploring the prairie (think Alfred Hitchcock).
Working for the Museum has also solidified my desire to pursue a career in the wildlife rehabilitation field. Beginning my studies as a biologist, the most important thing that fueled me was my desire to affect this planet in a positive way through some kind of conservation effort; I just wasn’t sure how I could make that a reality. Saving all of the Bengal tigers in Nepal is a bit daunting for a 20 year old in Illinois to contemplate, you know?
When I began talking to my fellow volunteers and really dove into what the Nature Museum is about -- preserving and protecting native Illinois wildlife while giving the public an opportunity for an authentic connection to nature -- that is when I found that concentrating on a local level is much more approachable to someone like me, and probably you as well.
That is why I volunteer for the Nature Museum every Sunday. I get to introduce people to an amphibian they never even knew existed, let alone knew was in their backyard. I get to see the absolute wonder mixed with terror on a kindergartener’s face as they feel the scales on a snake for the first time. Volunteering as a PIPster is an amazing opportunity I wouldn’t have had in any other city, because there is no city that has a nature museum quite like ours here in Chicago.
If you come across a volunteer in a green shirt the next time you’re visiting the museum, don’t hesitate to ask us questions! We’ll be sure to have an answer. I’ll see you on Sunday!View Comments
Public Interpretive Programs Volunteer
Created: 11/6/2012 Updated: 8/10/2016
1. You’ll become a nerd. This is a good thing! In this day and age, nerds reign supreme. Volunteering allows you to immerse yourself in a cause and learn everything there is to know about it. Here at the Museum, our volunteers are always delving deeper into their interests. We have all kinds of nerds – types you never knew existed. Butterfly nerds. Vermicompost nerds. Taxidermy nerds, for goodness sake. They’re all here, and our lunchtime discussions are often just an opportunity to see who can out-nerd the others.
2. People will find you intriguing. Those cocktail parties you always dreaded? Now you’ll have cute stories, fun facts, and sage philosophies on life to fill the awkward pauses. It’s endearing when someone gives their time to a cause they believe in without the expectation of a paycheck. Who knows, it may even score you a phone number or two.
3. Mom and Dad will be proud. So you didn’t become a doctor or a lawyer like they always dreamed. Next time they call, tell them you’re volunteering for a Nature Museum. They’ll be dying to get off the phone so they can call their friends to brag.
4. Your network will broaden and deepen. You’ll meet friends with similar interests. You’ll meet experts in the field. You may even meet someone who will hire you one day. They say that most people get jobs through personal connections. Volunteering is a genuine and effective way to cultivate those connections.
5. You’ll start to fill the void. You know the one I’m talking about. After work or school, when you come home, flip on the tv, and just zone out. What if, instead, you spent time talking to kids about nature and science? You could teach them, for example, that a turtle’s shell is made of the same stuff our fingernails are made from. It will blow their little minds and spark a lifetime of scientific curiosity. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in a three-hour volunteer gig. And it’s not just about the kids either. It’s about you, and how you make the most out of the time you have.
6. Food and praise will be lavished upon you. This is not an exaggeration. Volunteers are major contributors to an organization’s bottom line. Here at the Museum, volunteers put in over 10,000 hours each year. In purely financial terms, that time equates to a little over $250,000. That’s huge! It’s the least we can do to keep the snack drawer stocked and the thank-yous flowing. And every April, we gather for a delicious catered dinner and awards ceremony. Seriously - how thrilled would you be to win something called the Tiger Salamander Award?!
7. Social change will start to happen. When you volunteer, you help your community. Not just in the obvious quantifiable ways – like you taught 82 kids how to recycle, or you fed 14 turtles a salad. There’s something immeasurable, but very real, that happens in a community when its members are engaged. Others see the volunteer efforts and feel glad. They start to do a little volunteer work of their own. And pretty soon, things are getting done that we never thought we had the resources to do. Warm fuzzies (and vibrant communities) all over the place!
Feel the urge to volunteer yet?View Comments
Manager of Volunteers and Interns