Note from Executive Director Therese Oldenburg ~ Nicole Lyford joined Nature At The Confluence staff in June 2020 in the midst of all the unknowns that this year would bring. She came to us through the AmeriCorps program in partnership with Severson Dells Nature Center. AmeriCorps Members receive a living allowance, and upon completion of service, an education award to help pay for college, or to repay student loans. She joined me, and our other intern Elizabeth Allen, to form our summer team. They worked so hard to keep our building and property clean, sanitized and safe for visitors, as we had more visitors than ever before. It’s such a pleasure to see how our intern’s experiences at Nature At The Confluence impacts them so positively.  I invite you to view the video “Nature At The Confluence: 2020 See How We Connected” at the end of this article to see all that was accomplished in 2020!

My summer as an AmeriCorps Member at Nature At The Confluence
By Nicole Lyford – November, 2020

I graduated from Carroll University in May of 2020 with a degree in Biology, and minors in Biochemistry and Natural Resource management. As we were in the middle of the pandemic, I wasn’t quite sure what to do at first, and decided to become an AmeriCorps member to get some experience and help out in my own community. AmeriCorps is a civil service program supported by the U.S. government and allows people from high school and up, to volunteer at different sites in their own communities. I spent my summer at Nature at the Confluence Environmental Learning Center in South Beloit, IL.

On the environmental side of things, I helped in restoration and trash removal of Kelley Creek and Turtle creek. I had tons of fun on hot summer days getting into the creek with Elizabeth and Therese and pulling out bottles, cans, plastic bags, tires, and much more trash. I also helped maintain hiking trails by collecting trash, marking stumps and trimming brush. One of the best moments of the summer was getting to make a brand new trail, The Doreen Dalman Woodland Trail. Elizabeth and I started it by ourselves and it was just so cool to see it go from a wall of trees and shrubs to actually becoming a path. I also worked in the prairie and trails, pulling invasive garlic mustard, spotted knapweed, and thistle.

Other highlights of my summer were the Live Monarch Butterfly exhibit and the Learning Gardens. Getting to watch over the tiny monarch caterpillars as they grow and transform is an experience I will always treasure and hope to continue next summer on my own! I was also able to help with the fantastic vegetable garden at the Confluence. Watching these tiny seeds I had planted actually sprout and grow into different veggies and greens was just so amazing! Prior to this experience, I had never raised Monarchs or even managed a garden personally, but I learned how to do both! And not only did I get to learn so much, but I also got to share these things with visitors and show them all that NATC has to offer.

In September, I was also able to volunteer at one of Nature At The Confluence’s partner organizations,  “Hoo” Haven Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center.  It was the cherry on top of my summer! I was able to work with, and see, so many animals up close and know that I was helping a great cause.

Overall, I am so grateful that I got to spend so much time outdoors, in nature and with animals these past several months. It brought me a lot of peace during stressful times. Thank you, Therese and Elizabeth, for such a wonderful time!