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 2013-14 school year are Nora Flynn, Sonja Helgeson, Hannah Marti, Kate Seybold, and Ellen Squires.

flynnnNora Flynn - I am a junior majoring in biology and I am especially interested in biotechnology. While studying abroad in New Zealand in the spring of 2013, I had the opportunity to take a plant biotechnology class that has peaked my interest in the methods used affect plant growth and development. Having grown up in Northfield, Minnesota, the St. Olaf Natural Lands and Carleton Arboretum were my playground, a space for make-believe adventures and exploring from a very early age. Now the Natural Lands have become a place for quiet refuge and environmental learning. I spend my summers leading wilderness trips in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area of Northern Minnesota and Quetico in Canada for Camp Widjiwagan. It is a fantastic way to foster a relationship between young people and their environment. I strongly believe that any motivation to preserve the environment stems from personal experiences and connections to natural places. As a student naturalist, I hope to enable these kinds of relationships between the St. Olaf and Northfield communities and our Natural Lands.

helgesonSonja Helgeson - My passion for the outdoors began as a child climbing along the rocky shores of Lake Superior in the far northeast corner of our state. I grew up in a northwest suburb of Minneapolis and came to St. Olaf intending to be a physics major. That only lasted a week when I realized I was in love with my introduction to environmental studies class. Now as a junior biology and environmental studies double major, I couldn’t be more excited to share my knowledge of the Natural Lands with the St. Olaf and Northfield communities. I’ve come to know and appreciate its prairies, forests, and wetlands more intimately through biology and environmental studies classes, summer research with Professor Shea, by attending student naturalist events, and through my own explorations of the lands as a refuge from the busyness of college life. The Natural Lands are critical as a reminder of Minnesota’s natural heritage and as a safe-haven for native species as more land is converted to urban and agricultural uses. After St. Olaf I aspire to pursue a career in conservation biology with a focus on ornithology.

martiHannah Marti - I am a senior biology major with a passion for ecology and evolutionary biology research. I am especially interested in the evolution of social organization in ant colonies as a way to understand different forms of intelligence and evolutionary success. As I’ve grown into my interest in biological sciences at St. Olaf, I have also strongly felt the value of connections between people and the natural world, and connections among people in natural spaces. Having the Natural Lands as a wild place in St. Olaf’s backyard is a wonderful way to foster these connections and to increase awareness about the environmental issues our generation faces. I am proud to be able to study, restore and share the Natural Lands this year as a student naturalist.


seyboldKate Seybold - I am a junior biology and environmental studies double major. Though my greatest interest lies in sustainable food production and local food systems, I believe we all have a responsibility to be stewards for our planet and our home in every way possible. Growing up in North Central Wisconsin, I was raised with a respect and admiration for Mother Nature. I can remember family camping trips on Lake Superior, long walks with my forester-grandpa, cross-country ski trips out East, and many summer nights spent under the stars at Camp Wise Spirits. I grew up appreciating the environment around me, thanking the Earth for what it generously provides us.  Looking back, it seems natural that I pursued environmental studies and biology in college, but back then I simply followed the path of what intrigued and impassioned me, what seemed most meaningful and critical for our future. Since arriving at St. Olaf, my love for the outdoors has swelled to an even deeper appreciation and fascination for the natural world around us. With that said, I am thrilled to be a student naturalist! I look forward to sharing my passion for the beautiful environment surrounding our campus, passing on my knowledge of biology and environmental science, learning from my peers, and fostering a strong community around sustainability and environmental awareness.

squireseEllen Squires - I am a senior from Andover, MN majoring in biology and environmental studies. My love affair with the outdoors started early, when I was a young kid catching and studying bees on my dad’s sedum plants. After a childhood filled with hiking, biking, and family camping trips, my early interest in nature has developed into a full-blown obsession. I still enjoy the outdoors recreationally, through running, bird watching, and kayaking, but I also enjoy studying it in an academic context. The experiences I’ve had at St. Olaf as a biology and environmental science major, from bird banding at Weaver Dunes to a semester abroad in Australia, have only cemented my desire to protect the natural environment that I love. I am immensely grateful for the St. Olaf Natural Lands, and I have taken every opportunity I can to enjoy them during my first three years as an Ole. Whether it’s watching mallards cruise around Bakko Pond or taking in a summer sunset amidst the blooming prairie grasses, the Natural Lands are full of beauty and ecological complexity, and I’m excited to share them with the student body and the Northfield community.


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