Someone to Know: Ron Skleney

Willowbrook Wildlife Center Naturalist Ron Skleney is a nature enthusiast with a passion for the outdoors, wildlife and volunteering. Before he joined our team as a naturalist who heads up our Willowbrook raptor program, leads bird walks or even shapes children's learning about animal adaptations, he completed coursework on the environment and served as a volunteer at a local zoo. Today, he shares his birding know-how and wildlife knowledge not only at Willowbrook but also as a member 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 have been a full-time naturalist at Willowbrook Wildlife Center since 2004. Willowbrook Wildlife Center has been helping injured and orphaned wild animals since 1956 and serves a vital role in educating DuPage County residents regarding the wild animals that we share with natural areas. 

To date, what has been the best (or most interesting) part of your job at the Forest Preserve District?
The best part of my job is seeing smiles at the end of a presentation that has gone well. Living in such hectic times in an urbanized area, many people don’t have the opportunities to experience nature on a regular basis. It’s a great privilege for me to engage young and old alike and share DuPage County’s natural treasures.

What did you study in college? How do you use that knowledge in your career?
I returned to Northeastern Illinois University in my 40s to earn my degree in environmental studies. Returning to college as an older student was a great benefit to me. My gen eds were already out of the way and I could really focus on the classes that would help me in my career. Additionally, my previous volunteer experience and naturalist certificate classes gave me a solid foundation for me to get the most out of my college classes

What experience do you bring to your position with the District?
The two experiences that have helped me the most in preparing me for my role as a Willowbrook naturalist were 11 years as a Brookfield Zoo docent and participating in the Morton Arboretum’s naturalist nertificate program.

The Brookfield Zoo docent training gave me the confidence and opportunities to hone my speaking and interpretation skills. Without this excellent training, I would have never felt comfortable standing up and presenting or teaching.

Participating in the Morton Arboretum’s naturalist certificate program was the most valuable experience in that it exposed me to our local ecology and natural history. The comprehensive curriculum in plants, wildlife and ecosystems gave me an excellent foundation for my job as a naturalist. It’s not surprising considering that many of the classes were taught by Forest Preserve District of DuPage County employees. I’m honored today to call many of my former naturalist certificate instructors my current colleagues.

What is your favorite preserve?
My favorite preserve is Songbird Slough. It’s one of the largest in the northeast corner of the county but one of the least visited. I love to go there in summer to enjoy the grassland birds.

What do you like to do in your time away from work?
I love to go birdwatching and I also volunteer for the Forest Preserve District as a breeding bird monitor. We are fortunate that we have such a great diversity of birds in DuPage County.

How do you make a difference in DuPage County?
By sharing my knowledge and enthusiasm for the natural world, I have an opportunity to positively influence others. A quick example are two “fledgling” birders (sorry for the pun) who joined me on bird walks a few years ago. Since then they have gone on to become two of the top birders in the county and valued District volunteers. 

Naturalist Ron Skleney talks about the great-horned owl Tonka on the trail.
Naturalist Skleney works a net along the shore during a recent kids camp.

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

Get Adobe Reader
©2016 Forest Preserve District of DuPage County
EMPLOYMENT   |   BIDS AND PROPOSALS   |   LINKS   |   RULES AND REGULATIONS
CONTACT US   |   PRIVACY POLICY   |   TERMS OF USE   |   SITE MAP