Get to Know a Naturalist: Ben Katzen

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Ben at Harvest of the Acorn Moon

Name:  Ben Katzen

Alma Mater: University of Florida

Hometown: Downers Grove, IL

Years worked at the Forest Preserve District: 19

How and when did you become interested in being a naturalist?

In college, as a sophomore business major, I realized the importance of doing what you love. I changed my major to Forest Resources and Conservation.

What is your favorite part about being a naturalist?

Working with people from all walks of life throughout the County.

What is the most important skill you have acquired through your career?

How to effectively communicate with people of various age levels and backgrounds.

If you could take a hike anywhere in the world, where would it be?

The Canadian Rockies.

What is one item you can’t live without?

Tie between eyeglasses and shoes/boots.

Do you have any hobbies outside of work?

Car repair and electronics.

What is your favorite genre of music?

Progressive Rock.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Be yourself.

Do you have a favorite animal and/or plant species?

Wild Turkeys.

What has been your proudest moment in your career?

Having a child I taught in our preschool class come back 13 years later to be our college intern.

What is your favorite event at the Forest Preserve District?

Harvest of the Acorn Moon, our Fall festival.

What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring naturalist? 

Go on guided hikes to learn from other naturalists.

 

Get To Know A Naturalist: Josh Libman

 

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Josh presents at a program

Name: Josh Libman

Alma Mater: University of Illinois – Urbana/Champaign

Hometown: Lockport, IL

Years worked at the Forest Preserve District: 5 years

How and when did you become interested in being a naturalist?

I’ve been tuned into nature my whole life. In high school, when asked “what do you want to do with the rest of your life?”, the answer came pretty easy – park ranger!

What is your favorite part about being a naturalist?

The natural world is constantly in flux, and every day brings a new discovery. My favorite part of being a naturalist is having the opportunity to stay in touch with that.

What is the most important skill you have acquired throughout your career?

The most important skill I have acquired in my career is the ability to find an interpretive moment in any situation. Whether it’s a spider crawling across a classroom floor or a warbler singing its heart out in the forest canopy, you have to be ready for anything!

If you could take a hike anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I love travel, so hiking anywhere would do! Provence in France sounds cool!

What is one item you can’t live without?

I can’t live without chapstick.

Do you have any hobbies outside of work?

Outside of work I love to bird watch and cook. Visiting a local farmer’s market, finding fresh produce, and preparing a meal for loved ones is a solid day in my mind!

What is your favorite genre of music?

Psychobilly shoegaze crustpunk

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.

Do you have a favorite animal and/or plant species?

I don’t have a specific favorite animal, but I am partial to birds in general.

What has been your proudest moment in your career?

I am proud every time I get a special request for a guided hike.

What is your favorite event at the Forest Preserve District?

My favorite event is a program called Kane County Certified Naturalists. It really feels like we’re empowering adults to make informed, ecologically sound decisions.

What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring naturalist?

Advice for a future naturalist: start with humble beginnings and work your way up! Volunteering can lead to an internship, which can turn into a position. The naturalist community is full of interesting people, get out there and make some connections!