The curator of natural lands directs habitat restoration and maintenance of St. Olaf’s Natural Lands, encourages sustainable use of agricultural lands, and develops educational and recreational opportunities for the St. Olaf and broader Northfield communities. The curator also continuously monitors and maintains the restored areas and prioritizes projects on the Natural Lands and — in order to maintain biodiversity —manages invasive species.
In 2009 Professor Kathleen Shea became the college’s second curator after Professor of Biology Gene Bakko retired. Professor Shea has taught in the Biology Department since 1985 and was on the Advisory Committee that 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 plant evolutionary ecology, restoration and community ecology, sustainable agriculture, and conservation through independent projects with students.
The curator of natural lands position was established because of a generous gift of Don Nelson in establishing the Henry and Agnes Nelson Family Endowment for Natural Lands and Environmental Science.