When I think of a river, I think of powerful grace, of serene strength, of quiet assurance. When I think of a river, I think of tranquil turbulence, of unhurried persistence. When I think of a river, I think of Jennifer Hammer.
Though she is definitely the most soft-spoken person on our staff, Jennifer has made impacts that will reverberate throughout time in her 25 years with The Conservation Foundation, and we are so excited to be celebrating this milestone year in her career. Jennifer’s work in conservation began at the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, where she was administering grants and was the technical overseer of a grant that Brook McDonald of The Conservation Foundation had received for work on the Upper DuPage River Watershed Plan. When the grant work was completed, Brook offered Jennifer a job and seeing an opportunity to get a little more hands-on and be part of the implementation of conservation projects in the region, she readily accepted. She was just the fourth full-time employee of The Conservation Foundation, now 25 years later we have 41 people on our staff!
While Jennifer has fulfilled a wide variety of roles here, water quality and land and river restoration are what I see as her true specialties. From mobilizing the volunteer DuPage River Coalition to helping form and lead the innovative DuPage River Salt Creek Workgroup, Lower DuPage Watershed Coalition, Lower Des Plaines Watershed Group, Chicago Area Waterways Chloride Workgroup and most recently the Salt Smart Collaborative, the list of important and impactful projects Jennifer has been involved in could fill volumes. Her extensive knowledge of ecological restoration has been applied to several private conservation easements that we hold, as well as the large-scale ecological restoration of the Dayton Bluffs Preserve, O’Hara Woods Nature Preserve, Winchester Glen Preserve and so many others, and every year she fills the Garden section of our Earth Day Benefit Silent Auction with native plant collections that she and her husband Ed grow in their back yard.
For the last few years, Jennifer has refocused on water quality work and put so much energy towards getting the Salt Smart Collaborative and our new Winter Chloride Watchers citizen scientist programs up and running, responding to hard data that shows chlorides are one of the biggest problems facing our local streams. Salt Smart is helping to address this known problem through methods that both minimize impact to our waterways and save money. And the best part is that they can be done by anyone! “We’re all so in the weeds of what we do every day,” says Jennifer. “But to really step back and take a look at how unique we are, in this region and across the country, in the way that we’re in direct partnership with the watershed groups, our wastewater treatment partners, and to be part of the incredibly impactful work being done has been truly exciting. And through the work we’re doing through those groups we at The Conservation Foundation are able to engage with more people, using that science to continue to engage people around chlorides and connect them with not only problems but how they can be a part of the solution.”
Whether on a person or an ecosystem, with barely a whisper Jennifer can make an impact that lasts forever. Happy 25th Anniversary, Jennifer!!
Written by Jill Johnson, Communications Manager