Ann Wasser, The Ultimate Nature Lover

The Ultimate Nature Lover

To say Ann Wasser has a love for the outdoors is a drastic understatement. As the director of Severson Dells Nature Center in Rockford, Wasser is not the type of person who likes to be behind a desk.

“I enjoy teaching outside and getting people outside and trying to find creative ways to help more people fall in love with nature so they can care about it and protect it, because it needs more help now that maybe ever before,” she says.

Wasser left California in 2016 to become the director of Severson Dells. She has nearly two decades of experience and knowledge in informal science education, including as the director of education at Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, in Pacific Grove, Calif., the role she held before coming to Rockford.

“This has been a wonderful place to land and an amazing community with a ton of stuff to do outside,” she says.

During the cold months, Wasser spends her days planning warm-weather programs, like field trips and summer camps. Since her office is just outside of Rockford, she gets out in the community and connects with various organizations.

“Nature weaves its way through everything, so we work with arts organizations, health organizations and community development organizations,” she says.

The nature center and its staff provide environmental and educational programs for students and residents. Severson Dells is a host site for volunteers in AmeriCorps, and the nature center is a driving force behind 815 Outside, which encourages people to utilize more than 20,000 acres of preserves, parks and paths in northern Illinois. Wasser’s latest efforts with 815 Outside have helped to expand the 815 Outside Parks Prescription program, which encourages health care providers to prescribe time outside for their patients as part of an overall wellness plan.

When she’s not enjoying the outdoors, Wasser spends time working on the Association of Nature Center Administrators board, which supports and promotes top management practices for nature and environmental learning centers across the county. She’s also on the board of Common Tides, a nonprofit that leads marine science education and stewardship sailing opportunities in the Caribbean.
She can also be found working in her garden, in her woodshop or backpacking out west.

“It’s important that people understand the role that nature plays in our lives, because whether you’re a nature lover or not, the environment provides so many ecosystem services that impact our ability to grow food and improve our environmental health,” she says. “I love science and nature, and I want people to understand why they are important.”

Source: “25 Most Interesting People.” Northwest Quarterly. The Annual 2023,  page 125.

Articles in this series are by various writers: Chris Linden, Lindsey Lukas, Jim Taylor, Steven Bonifazi, Paul Anthony Arco, Stephanie N. Grimoldby, Paula Hendrickson, and Jermaine Pigee.

Photography by Samantha Behling.

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Severson Dells Nature Center

named after engineer Harry Severson, former owner of property. Deer Lodge was built in 1952. Severson became President of Barber-Colman in 1952.  Severson died in 1957, his widow donated lodge and 369 acres to Winnebago County Forest Preserve

Source: Northwest Quarterly Magazine Summer 2008 Vol. 5 No. 2