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Monthly Tree Ambassador

February 2020
Dr. Sean Hoban, Tree Conservation Biologist

Dr. Sean Hoban standing with his bike by a tulip tree near the entrance of the Administration Building

What is your favorite season at the Arboretum and why?

Sean had to ponder before naming spring as his favorite season.  As a scientist, Sean enjoys searching for and finding the first ephemeral flowers (trout lily, spring beauty, trillium) in the woods, some of which will only last for a couple of weeks.  But, other flowers will then appear after the first round has disappeared, and this happens several times during the start of spring.  Sean has really developed an affinity for magnolias as well, and he eagerly waits each day for them to bloom and become aromatic.  Spring has a lot happening and a lot to look forward to, and Sean finds that rejuvenating. 


What is the best part of your job?

It is hard for Sean to pick just one aspect, so he broke it out into two answers.  As it relates to his position, Sean is able to be intellectually curious about tree science, but it is not just about the facts.  Sean’s work is designed to have an impact, and every day he tries to answer the question, “How can we better protect our trees?” This goal inspires Sean and keeps him going every day.  As it relates to working at the Arboretum, Sean feels the people are amazing, scientists and other staff alike.  Sean can say hello and have a conversation with everyone.  Staff are aware of what is going on around the Arboretum, whether it is an exhibit or a tree planting, and everyone has the same excitement and passion for trees and takes notice of what is going on whether it is out in the collections or in the natural areas. 
 

Do you have a favorite location on the grounds or a favorite tree?

Sean’s favorite location can be found on a bike ride in the East Woods, at the furthest point near Big Rock Visitor Station.  At that spot, Sean feels that he is deep in a woods, even in suburbia.  At that spot, he cannot hear or see roads, and he is impressed by the large tree trunks that one would see in a remote forest or woods.  At that point, everything is quiet and Sean says to himself, “This is the woods.  And this is the best job ever.”  His favorite tree is a Tulip tree that is at the entrance of the Research Building that he passes every day.  This gigantic tree is over 100 years old, and will likely live another 150 years.  Sean enjoys the orange-yellow flowers in spring and the yellow leaves in fall; there is no other tree like it.  And a new sapling has even sprung up right next to the existing tree.  
 

What do you want visitors to know about The Morton Arboretum and the mission?

The Morton Arboretum is mission driven; not just a park.  The Arboretum has one of the world’s largest and most scientifically useful collections of trees, and scientists come from all over the world to study our collections.  The 200,000 catalogued plants from 4000 species are representative of global tree diversity, and our world class scientists work in and among these trees, and are always making discoveries. 
 

When thinking of the Arboretum’s Employee Core Values, which one resonates with you and why?

Core values are important in all organizations, but when it comes to Keep Learning, Sean feels strongly about the fact that the Arboretum gives all employees the opportunity to do so.  There is always new information to communicate, and new individuals to communicate to, so staff need to keep adapting to that new knowledge.  As a scientist, it is naturally Sean’s passion to learn, but he sees it in all of the staff. 
 

What’s an insider tip that you’d like to share with visitors?

Due to many years of collecting and curating, the Arboretum has six nationally accredited collections (oak, maple, crabapple, linden, magnolia, and elm), so visitors are not just seeing “elms,” they are seeing 50 to 100 different species of them.  Sean encourages our visitors to go in these collections to see how different and weird each tree is, noting all the different leaf forms and the huge variety of shapes and sizes in each collection. 
 

Share an interesting fun fact about you:

Sean bikes to work every day in every weather condition, unless it is unsafe to do so.  Biking is a passionate hobby, and while a lot of individuals bike to work, they will drop off in winter or in the heat of the summer.  Sean does it partially for exercise, partly because he shares a car with his spouse, but also because he is a conservationist.  Biking to work is a small but important contribution to the planet, and the time outdoors also helps prepare him for the day ahead, and then relaxes him at the end of the day.
 
If you’d like to learn more about Sean and/or tree science at the Arboretum, Sean does science communication on Twitter @seanmhoban
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January 2020
Zachary (Zack) Fisher, Horticulturist I

Zack Fisher, smiling, standing in front of a stack of books in the Sterling Morton Library

What is your favorite season at the Arboretum and why?

It’s no surprise that a staff member who primarily works outdoors would respond that fall is his favorite season.  Zack feels the weather is perfect during the autumn months, and he enjoys seeing the changing colors of the trees.  He does enjoy the bonfires in the winter when working on the winter clearing, and he also likes summer when the grounds are busier, but ultimately, fall would get his vote.   

What is the best part of your job?

Without question, Zack believes that the best part of his job is working in such a beautiful place as the Arboretum.  He has met some amazing people, and he appreciates the camaraderie of his Living Collections crew.  His primary area of responsibility is in the China collection, and he doesn’t interact with too many visitors each day, so for Zack, having such great co-workers is important to his satisfaction in his job.
 

Do you have a favorite location on the grounds or a favorite tree?

Zack’s favorite area is the Spruce Plot near P11 on the East Side.  It makes for a beautiful hike in the summer.  As far as a favorite tree, Zack finds a bald cypress in his area to be particularly intriguing.  
 

What do you want visitors to know about The Morton Arboretum and the mission?

One aspect that Zack believes visitors may not be aware of is the number of rare plants that we have in the collections, many of which are not on the main trails.  The Arboretum’s curator participates in many seed collection expeditions in the United States and other countries, and those plants are then placed in our collections once they have had time to grow.  
 

When thinking of the Arboretum’s Employee Core Values, which one resonates with you and why?

Zack ‘Keeps Learning’ because it keeps his job interesting.  He is always learning about new plants that he comes in contact with every day, and he values learning about them by reading the tree tags or gaining more information about them online.
 

What’s an insider tip that you’d like to share with visitors?

The Sterling Morton Library is often overlooked, and Zack has enjoyed taking advantage of all the library has to offer.  He has spent many a lunch hour in the May Watts Reading Garden, and using the resources of the library.There are many plant books that one would not find anywhere else.
 

Share an interesting fun fact about you:

At age 18, Zack decided to teach himself how to play the piano.  Zack’s brother had been playing for years, and one day, Zack just decided he would give it a go, and has been playing ever since.  He is drawn to classical music, and is a big fan of Chopin.