Each year the Curator of Natural Lands chooses several 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.
Organizing tree plantings and other restoration activities on campus.
Creating environment educational opportunities for the community.
Maintaining a social media presence to interest and engage the larger student body
- Visit our Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/stolafnaturallands/
- Visit our Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/stolafnaturallands/
The Student Naturalists for the 2023-2024 year are: Charles Cole (’24), Ceili Demarais (’24), Lilly Pihart (’26), Ronnie Rackers (’24), and Maya Silver (’25)
Charles Cole (he/him): I spent the first half of my life right here in Northfield! As a young child, my family and I would often go looking for and catching frogs, toads, snakes, and caterpillars. I have kept fish as pets since that age too. As I got older, I discovered the fascinating wonders of animal cognition. I also have always loved taking long walks through forests. I was homeschooled for most of my childhood and preadolescence due to learning disabilities. After my family and I moved to Orono I began the project of cataloging every living species in my family’s property. When I returned to Northfield to go to St. Olaf, I declared a major in Biology. At St. Olaf, I worked as a Natural Lands Technician during my Junior year. My love and fascination with the natural world is still as strong as ever, and now I am ready to give back what I have learned to the world!
Ceili Demarais (she/her): Hello! I am a senior Biology and Environmental Studies major from Winona, MN. Growing up in the driftless area of southeastern MN I developed a love for the outdoors from a young age, especially anything surrounding large bodies of water and paddling! I have been able to expand my love of the outdoors over the past few summers working for the St. Olaf Natural Lands and falling in love with tall grass prairie ecosystems, and also working for the non-profit Wilderness Inquiry (WI) in outdoor accessibility. This past summer with WI I was a sea kayak guide in the Apostle Islands, leading individuals of various backgrounds and abilities on back-country camping trips in Lake Superior. My hope is to find a career that combines my love for outdoor accessibility and prairie ecosystem research, getting more people excited about the plants in their own backyard. At St. Olaf, you will often find me wandering the natural lands or conversing with my fellow students who I recently spent 4 months abroad with in Australia and New Zealand as part of the environmental studies study abroad program! I am beyond excited to get back into our beloved Natural Lands for my final year at Olaf and share my passion for our plant relatives with other students and the Northfield community.
Lilly Pihart (she/her): I am a sophomore double major in studio art and environmental studies from Hopkins, Minnesota. I’ve always had a passion for environmental conservation and the great outdoors, and I love blending nature into my artwork. I consider myself a dedicated plant enthusiast and devoted plant parent who finds joy in nurturing my plants and garden. Beyond that, I thrive on outdoor activities like camping, hiking, fishing, stargazing, and immersing myself in the captivating world of wildlife. I’ve been lucky to have a family that shares my passion for adventure, and we’ve been exploring National and State Parks for as long as I can remember. I look forward to working in the Natural Lands this year and am excited to meet some new people!
Ruby Rackers (she/her): I’m a senior environmental studies major. I grew up in Fall City, Washington, where I had easy access to the Cascade mountains, so I had no trouble finding a place for hiking, camping, skiing, and snowboarding. The first word I ever said was “flower” and after constantly asking about bugs, birds, and just about everything else alive, no one is surprised I’m on this path. One thing I didn’t expect to pick up at St. Olaf was dancing, but as I’m finishing my college experience, I have found myself as one of the co-presidents of the Ballroom Club. During the summer of 2022, I was able to live in a Minnesota landscape a bit more similar to home. Although the North Woods were exactly home, Coe College’s Wilderness Field Station will always hold in special place in my heart, no matter how many mosquito bites I got. After living off the grid and going on canoe trips there for two months, I’ve started to more deeply appreciate the quiet of being in the middle of nowhere, which is somewhere I’ve always managed to be. My most recent summer was a bit less interesting. Despite being mostly consumed by my work as a bookstore barista, I found the time to write, read, and sew a dress.
Maya Silver (she/her): I’m a junior studying Biology, Math, and Race and Ethnic Studies. I grew up right near the Minnesota River Valley and love spending time outdoors hiking, paddling, and camping. Outdoor education and science communication are a big part of my passions, and I love being a naturalist on campus. I’ve worked for the Conservation Corps of MN & IA and the DNR leading outdoor trips for beginners working toward making the outdoors more accessible and inclusive. I’ve also worked at the International Wolf Center doing observational behavioral studies on the wolf pups, and I spent this past summer working for the Shark Bay Dolphin Research Project in Western Australia doing fieldwork with the Monkey Mia dolphins. I’m excited to continue to share what I can about wildlife, science, and conservation with St. Olaf, and connect more people with the Natural Lands! I’ll be in Alaska for the fall semester working and studying in Kachemak Bay, but I’m excited to return to the Hill in the spring. Outside of being a naturalist, you can find me in choir, playing volleyball, in the scene shop, organizing activities for OUTS, or out in the Natural Lands.
For more information on the Student Naturalist position at St. Olaf College, contact Director of Natural Lands Charles Umbanhowar (email@example.com).