Staff and Board

Julie Uram, Executive Director (she/her)

Julie Uram joined Nature At The Confluence in Spring 2022 as our full-time Executive Director. She studied Environmental Sustainability and Sociology at Drake University, where she also completed a Master of Arts in Communication focused in Public Affairs and Advocacy. Julie was born and raised in Rockford, Illinois and became passionate about helping her community connect with nature while serving as the 815 Outside AmeriCorps member at Severson Dells Nature Center. She also spent time assisting the Community Science programs in partnership with the Forest Preserves of Winnebago County. Most recently she worked as the Communications and Development Manager at Farmers Rising where she coordinated marketing and fundraising efforts.

Julie is honored by the opportunity to work with the community to restore such special piece of land. She is particularly grateful to work with local youth and school groups and to spend time outdoors every day. Julie’s favorite part about this area, and what keeps her here, is the people. She is dedicated to increasing equity and accessibility in the environmental education field and ensuring that Nature at the Confluence is a welcoming and safe place for all community members. In her free time, Julie enjoys dancing, biking, and playing underwater hockey. 


Nature At The Confluence Board

Andre De Kok- President (he/him)

  • Career: Retired Science Teacher, current bartender and club volleyball coach
  • Reason for joining our board: I kayak frequently on Turtle Creek and love the history behind the Confluence and the reasons for reclaiming and preserving it.
  • Favorite thing about South Beloit: The diversity of the area and the willingness of the community to try to solve our issues. I also appreciate the historical and geographical characteristics of Beloit.
  • Other involvement: I work for VC United Volleyball Club out of Loves Park and love tending bar at Duesterbeck’s Brewing Company!!



Therese Oldenburg – Treasurer 

  • Career:  I have my own marketing business, Firepoint Media, that has allowed me to help small businesses and nonprofits thrive and grow.
  • Reason for joining our board: I was the founding executive director of Nature At The Confluence and retired in 2022. Being a board member allows me to still be involved and contribute to the growth of the organization.
  • Favorite thing about South Beloit: I love how the South Beloit community works hard to proudly keep their own identity. It has been so rewarding to work with the citizens to bring the land at the confluence to life and to witness how they’ve connected to this beautiful space.
  • Other involvement: I love having a positive impact on our local waterways by being on the board of the Rock River Trail and coordinating Friends of Turtle Creek.   


Alicia Peterson

  • Career: Owner-operator at the M&M Dari Ripple in South Beloit
  • Reason for joining our board: I love nature. I enjoy walking, hiking and exploring. I’m excited to learn more about the surrounding area and the history of the land.
  • Favorite thing about South Beloit: The community, I love listening to all the stories that my customers share about past times. Every day during the summer I’m able to step outside and view the happiness of families spending time together.
  • Other involvement: Supporting the Stateline Boys and Girls Club



Rob Clark (he/him)

  • Career: Professor of Mathematics for 30 years, 27 of those at Rock Valley College in Rockford, Illinois. Retired from teaching in June 2020.
  • Reason for joining our board: I  have always enjoyed nature and natural places. In addition to visiting Nature At The Confluence with my family numerous times since its inception, we also spend a lot of time in the Forest Preserves of Winnebago County as well as various preserves held by the Natural Land Institute. We live near NLI’s 721-acre Nygren Wetland Preserve, and I have been a volunteer there for over 20 years. When Therese Oldenburg asked me if I would be interested in joining the board, I jumped at the chance to be more involved with this wonderful organization. My goal is to help it grow and flourish.
  • Favorite thing about South Beloit: Nature At The Confluence, of course! Not just the beautiful building and grounds, either. The name comes from its location at the confluence of Turtle Creek and the Rock River. As a kayaker, I have thoroughly enjoyed paddling and exploring both! This confluence is, by the way, just about the half-way point of the 320-mile Rock River.
  • Other involvement: In addition to being a volunteer at Nygren Wetland Preserve for the last two decades, I also became a member of NLI’s Board of Trustees shortly before I joined NATC’s board. During the summers, I volunteer with Severson Dells’ Canoe Convoy program, and occasionally help out with their Blazing Paddles youth canoe camp. As a lifelong nature photography enthusiast, I’m spending some of my time (throughout 2022) hiking in and photographing all 44 of the Forest Preserves of Winnebago County to help celebrate their 100th anniversary. In general, I’d rather be outside in nature than anywhere else.


Deb McCann 

  • Career: Retired primary (kindergarten and first grade) teacher from the School District of Beloit
  • Reason she joined our board: Deb joined our board in 2021 after learning of the opportunity from Therese Oldenburg. She says this beautiful location and its connection to Native American culture influenced her decision to become involved at the board level.
  • Favorite thing about South Beloit: For Deb, living in the stateline area since 1975 has created a true love and appreciation for this community. Beloit has so much to offer and residents who truly love their city. Nature at the Confluence is a wonderful way to tie the communities of Beloit and South Beloit together, being right on the border, and is a fantastic resource for both.
  • Other involvement: Deb is active on the CASA board and served for many years as an advocate for children in the court system. She volunteers weekly at Even Start through the Beloit Public Library’s ABC Playgroup Program. She also works with third grade classes through the library’s Bookleggers program. She teaches first grade Faith Formation classes weekly at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church. She enjoys volunteering at Beloit Memorial Hospital in the gift shop. She holds membership in a variety of social, civic and philanthropic organizations, including East End, Intermediate Women and PEO.


Pam Garland-Gjestson (she/her)

  • Career: Director of Operations and Community Relations at Visit Beloit 
  • Reason for joining our board: I was inspired by my children. Bug hunting with my daughter and exploring plants with my son reminded me how important it is to stay connected to nature, and most importantly, I want to teach my children that.
  • Favorite thing about South Beloit: The people. I grew up in Beloit and chose to stay here because of the community. Also, Beloit has great locally-owned restaurants and beautiful parks!
  • Other involvement: Previously volunteered with the Humane Society and Big Brothers/Big Sisters.



Jessie Crow Mermel (she/her)

  • Career: Field Organizer for Friends of Illinois Nature Preserves and Educator at Farmers Rising
  • Reason for joining our board: First and foremost, I love nature and believe that everyone deserves to have a connection with the natural world. Urban nature centers like NATC are vitally important places because they allow easy accessibility for people to restore their connection to the land. Moreover, I deeply appreciate that after many years of abuse by industry, the confluence is being healed and restored through stewardship by Nature at the Confluence. I’m excited to be a part of that stewardship and welcoming a diversity of people to fall in love with this beautiful place! 
  • Favorite thing about South Beloit: Aside from Nature at the Confluence, I love our two local food grocery and gift stores: Bountiful Beloit and Bushel and Peck’s!
  • Other involvement:  I volunteer often with Natural Land Institute, Severson Dells Nature Center, and Angelic Organics Learning Center. I’ve been very involved with the initiative to Save Bell Bowl Prairie.



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