Naturalist, Artist Ebersole Named Waubonsee “Fab 40”
Sugar Grove — Danielle Ebersole has managed to find a career where she is able to pursue her twin passions — art and nature. As administrator of the Kendall County Forest Preserve District Laws of Nature Natural History Center, she passes on her immense knowledge of the natural world and uses her outstanding artistic ability to create educational exhibits to better explain our natural surroundings. Waubonsee Community College is proud to honor her as one of the college’s “Fabulous 40” alumni.
Danielle Ebersole, administrator of the Kendall County Forest Preserve District Laws of Nature Natural History Center, passes on her immense knowledge of the natural world and uses her outstanding artistic ability to create educational exhibits to better explain our natural surroundings. She is seen here at the Natural History Center, located in the historic Kendall County Courthouse, holding one of the center’s residents.
As part of the college’s yearlong 40th anniversary celebration, Waubonsee is honoring 40 alumni and students who embody the mission, vision and values of the college. These individuals represent the diversity of Waubonsee’s students and the college district, as well as the diversity of the college’s mission as a comprehensive community college.
Growing up in central Illinois, it seemed as if Ebersole was always outside. She would develop a love of nature through her grandmother and from spending time on the family farm. “My grandmother had the most beautiful yard,” she said.
When Ebersole’s father took a job with Caterpillar, the family would move to Oswego, where she has lived ever since. She would graduate from Oswego High School, meeting her husband, Eric, there. She worked at Schaeffer Greenhouses in Montgomery. During the colder months, she would work in the design department, drawing from her artistic skills. She made extra money on the side by selling her artwork and teaching art classes.
Ebersole enrolled at Waubonsee when she was in her early-30s and raising two young sons with her husband. Their sons, Matthew and Joshua, attended the Waubonsee Day Care Center while Ebersole attended classes and earned her Associate in Science degree in biology over the next eight years.
“I remember having awesome teachers while at Waubonsee,” she said. “It was hard to continue on through school while I was married and raising my family, but [my teachers] inspired me and made a big difference in my life.”
With her love of nature, it is not surprising that Ebersole utilized the college’s diverse habitats in her classwork.
“One of the real pluses for Waubonsee is the natural areas on campus,” she said. “It was great for the science classes to be able to work right on campus in a number of different habitats. It provided great settings for the art classes as well.”
Ebersole was instrumental in the development of Waubonsee’s Nature Trail. While she was a student at the college, she opted out of a term paper in exchange for working on a plan for the nature trail as part of a class project. Two years, hard work and many miles of research later, the Waubonsee Nature Trail emerged as a testament to her dedication.
“It was a cross country trail first — we adopted that part and then chipped some parts of it ourselves to make the trail passable,” she said. “My work included researching trees, producing facts for brochures, identifying wildflowers. I also worked on developing a self-interpretative trail that outlined the natural history of different environments and habitats.”
It was at Waubonsee that Ebersole first went to Morton Arboreteum on a class field trip, and she would later go on to work there.
“Waubonsee absolutely changed my whole life and sent me in the right direction,” she said. “In some ways I had gotten lost, and Waubonsee put me on the right path.”
Ebersole worked as a guide at Morton Arboreteum in the Youth Education Department. She also taught youth art classes in Morton Aboreteum’s “budding artist” program and adult programs as well. She also worked part-time at the Red Oak Nature Center, using her artistic and scientific skills to create exhibits, including the center’s leaf room and tree trunk room.
When her sons were both in high school, Ebersole decided to go back to work full-time. She became the naturalist at the new Tekawitha Woods Nature Center, which came about through the leadership of fellow “Fabulous 40” member Arlene Shoemaker. She would work there more than five years before taking her position with the Kendall County Forest Preserve District in 1999.
At the Kendall County Forest Preserve District, Ebersole developed the Natural History Center by establishing their collections and recording their natural history. Ebersole also creates exhibits for the center and produces brochures and other publications. She teaches classes and gives historical or natural history tours at the center for area students and for the general public as well.
“I’ve worked on a number of restoration projects that include planting and collecting seeds,” she said.
Ebersole also established an art gallery at the historic Kendall County Courthouse and arranges exhibitions by area artists.
“We have tremendous local artists in the community and we love to showcase their work,” she said.
In addition to her busy work schedule, Ebersole is also a commissioner of the Oswegoland Park District Board.
“Right now, our focus is on preserving open space,” she said. “We try to help people understand how important it is for our environment and water quality — and just for everyone’s mental health. Open space allows you to relax and take in nature.”