Curator of the Natural Lands

Kathleen Shea



Dr. Kathleen Shea
Prof. of Biology & Curator of Natural Lands
1520 St. Olaf Ave
Northfield, MN 55057


Because of the generous gift of Don Nelson in establishing the Henry and Agnes Nelson Family Endowment for Natural Lands and Environmental Science, the position of Curator of Natural Lands was established. Professor of Biology Kathleen Shea became the college’s second Curator of Natural Lands in 2009 after Professor of Biology Gene Bakko retired. Professor Shea has taught in the Biology Department since 1985 and was on the Advisory Committee which developed the Environmental Studies Concentration and subsequent major. She has worked on projects to develop the natural lands since shortly after her arrival, starting with tree plantings and then helping to plan the restored forests, prairies and wetlands that make up the St. Olaf Natural Lands. Her research focuses on forest ecology and population structure. Recently she has worked on research projects on sustainable agriculture and variation in prairie biomass and soil nutrients, with student researchers.

The Curator of Natural Lands at St. Olaf directs habitat restoration and maintenance of the natural lands, encourages sustainable use of agricultural lands, and develops educational and recreational opportunities for the St. Olaf and broader Northfield community. Having a Curator is important because of the continual need to monitor and maintain the restored areas and to prioritize projects on the natural lands. In order to maintain biodiversity in our natural habitats, invasive species need to be managed and reduced. The natural lands enable us to examine both applied research questions on restoration and basic research questions such as how biodiversity influences ecosystem function and how forest and prairie areas can act as carbon sinks, reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.


Kathleen Shea with student naturalists Emma Cornwell, Roz Anderson, Kirsten Maier, Andrew Kaul.