Student Naturalists

Each year the Curator of Natural Lands chooses several junior or senior students who are familiar with the environment around campus and the Northfield area to be the college student naturalists. Student Naturalists are responsible for the following:

  • Organizing and leading field trips related to the natural environment in the area.
  • Creating and maintaining an information board detailing seasonal happening and natural events on campus such as tree plantings and phenology.
  • Writing letters and articles to the Manitou Messenger and other publications to educate students and staff about the different aspects of the environment and local natural history.
  • Organizing tree plantings and other restoration activities on campus.
  • Creating environment educational opportunities for the community.

The Student Naturalists for the 2015-16 school year are Karly Boll, Katie Myhre (Spring only), Leah Steinson, Nick Wahl, Sam Weaver, Emilee Martell, Tom Knee (Fall only).

SONY DSCKarly Boll – I am a senior biology major from Mound, MN. I grew up on Lake Minnetonka, so my passion for nature and wildlife began at an early age. I spent most of my days digging in the dirt and wading in the lake, so I always knew that I would want to study biology in college. I am currently pursuing a career in regenerative medicine and stem cell research, however after a trip to Costa Rica to study tropical ecology and sustainable land use, I discovered a passion for preservation and responsible land use. I hope to be an advocate for sustainability throughout my life and I aim to fulfill this goal here at St. Olaf through my position as a student naturalist by educating students, children, and community members about taking personal initiative in maintaining sustainable practices and learning how to enjoy and appreciate the natural world around us.

myhrekateKatie Myhre -I am a senior double-majoring in biology and environmental studies. Growing up in rural northern Minnesota instilled in me an affection for natural spaces and curiosity about the many ecosystems within them. From picking princess pine for making wreaths with my grandma during the winter to canoeing down the river in my backyard, I have appreciated how unique Minnesota is in its incredible range of spaces and activities for those who love the outdoors. Though I grew up in an area characterized by slightly different scenery than the Natural Lands, it didn’t take me long to fall in love with the beautiful landscapes in Northfield. I am excited to serve as a Naturalist this coming year and learn along the way about the ecosystems within the Natural Lands and beyond, as well as sharing my own experiences with others. After spending a summer working for the invasive species program for the Minnesota DNR, I have learned that at the heart of conservation efforts there is a deep affection for our beloved natural spaces in Minnesota. Their protection relies on our connections with these natural spaces, and I’m excited to further my own connection as well as facilitate the opportunity for other students and community members to do the same. We invite you to follow your curiosities with us this year and join us in protecting the land we are so lucky to have been passed down!

leahstenson Leah Steinson – I am a senior studying biology, interested in pursuing medicine. Growing up in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, I had endless opportunities for exploring the outdoors with friends. This hobby grew into a deep passion throughout the years, leading backpacking trips in northwestern Montana, studying tropical ecology and sustainable land use in Costa Rica, and spending a semester in New Zealand. I am especially interested in how humans and the environment can have a positive impact on each other. Although I am not pursuing environmental science for my career, I believe a relationship with the environment is of the utmost importance for good mental and physical health, and conservation of the land can lead to greater health for the planet as a whole. I am especially excited to lead field trips for elementary school students.

nickwahlNick Wahl – I am a senior biology and environmental studies major from Hopkins, Minnesota. Like most people, I was fascinated with nature as a kid. Perhaps it is the intrinsic idea of physical exploration or wonder which captivates young people. Whatever the reason, I was enthralled like any future natural scientist. My interest in the environment was catalyzed in high school by my incredible AP Environmental Science teacher, Mr. Sammler. His quirkiness and energy was intoxicating and really opened me to the academic world of ecology. In high school I participated in Envirothon, a misunderstood club of studying and taking quizzes on Minnesota ecology. It was a blast, trust me. In the summer of 2015 I worked with the Minnesota Sea Grant as an aquatic invasive species intern in which I helped spread outreach in northern Minnesota. At St. Olaf I participate in activities that maintain the Natural Lands such as performing buckthorn pulls and controlled prairie burns. I am excited to continue this work as a student naturalist while exploring and sharing the wonder of the natural lands with the St. Olaf community.

WeaverNaturalistPhoto (1)Sam Weaver – I am a senior Biology and Environmental Studies double major from Anoka, Minnesota. I have always loved exploring the outdoors, and my passion for nature has been fostered having a backyard frequented by ducks, geese, deer, foxes, and all sorts of critters. During a semester abroad in Australia, I found myself surrounded by plants and animals unlike anything I had seen before, and the opportunity to go out and study those ecosystems every day sparked my interests in conservation and research. As more and more land is set aside for human use and consumption, preservation of natural spaces will become increasingly important, and setting aside spaces like our Natural Lands is important for animals and people alike. As a student naturalist, I look forward to learning more about the native flora and fauna as well as actively maintaining and restoring the ecosystems on campus. I also hope to introduce my fellow Oles to all the great landscapes and wildlife the Natural Lands has to offer, and to instill a passion for the environment and conservation in as many people as possible. Hopefully I can promote environmental stewardship through educating the community and by engaging fellow students in the beauty of the St. Olaf Natural Lands.

emileemartellEmilee Martell – I am a junior, double majoring in English and environmental studies. My hometown of Somerset, Wisconsin, is located just a few miles away from the beautiful St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, and I’ve been enamored with the river for as long as I can remember. I spent my childhood playing on summer sandbars, hiking the bluffs in autumn, and snowshoeing through Wisconsin winters. I was lucky enough to spend this past summer on my beloved river as well, as an intern with the National Park Service. It’s no surprise that my favorite part of St. Olaf’s natural lands is the charming Heath Creek, though of course our woodlands, wetlands, and prairies are delightful as well. Nature and wildness, whether that means a sparrow flitting around the quad or an osprey diving into the St. Croix, fills me with joy. It’s how I find serenity in the midst of a hectic life. The world can be crazy, and when problems large and small begin to pile up, it’s easy to get discouraged. But places like the St. Olaf Natural Lands restore my faith in the good work that we humans are capable of doing, and I come out of them with hope and high spirits. As a student naturalist, I’d like to bring that joy to the St. Olaf campus, the Northfield community, and the world at large.

KneeTom Knee –  I am a junior biology and environmental studies double major. I grew up in England before moving to Montana and spent hours outside exploring fields and hills followed by prairies and mountains. Prior to coming to St. Olaf I had a passion for biology and environmental issues. During the past summer I did research in the St. Olaf Natural and Agricultural lands which helped me learn a lot more about this area. My past interests and new knowledge pushed me to pursue a position as a student naturalist. I believe more people should know and have the opportunity to experience the wilderness as it has shaped me and provided many great memories and I hope it will continue to for the rest of my life.




Kathleen Shea with student naturalists Emma Cornwell, Roz Anderson, Kirsten Maier, and Andrew Kaul, Fall 2012.

For more information on the student naturalist position at St. Olaf College, contact Dr. Kathleen Shea (