Wes Braker -I am a senior biology and Japanese major. I grew up in suburban Wisconsin, where I had the opportunity as a child to spend seemingly endless hours running around outside. Through various outdoor oriented school programs and spending time at my mom’s office at The Nature Conservancy I found a love for being in and learning about the natural world around us. During the summer, I have found refuge by being a wilderness trip guide for teenagers with YMCA Camp Widjiwagan out of Ely, MN. This last summer I was an REU student with the Echinacea Project in Western Minnesota using purple cone flowers to studying the ecological implications of prairie fragmentation. Next year I plan to attend graduate school and pursue research in plant community ecology. I am excited to connect the St. Olaf and Northfield communities using the natural lands and teach others about the natural world.
Julia Ebert – I am a senior Environmental Studies major with a Management concentration. I grew up in western Colorado where I spent most of my childhood exploring and learning about the outdoors, so it’s been exciting to live in Minnesota and become familiar with a very different ecosystem than the high desert I grew up in. I was homeschooled until high school and much of my education was based on hands-on experience and observation in National Parks and on public lands. While camping and exploring throughout the US with my family, I fell in love with the rich diversity and expansive beauty of the United States’ wild places. Mountain biking, snowboarding, camping, hiking and rafting are some of the activities that make me feel the most alive and joyful, and it’s terrifying to see the spaces that these activities can be done in destroyed and degraded. I worked at a State Wildlife Area in Colorado this last summer, where I learned a lot about how (and how not) to maintain balanced ecosystems, and was surprised at how little most people notice when they’re outside. I believe with all my heart that if people take the time to observe how incredible the natural world is, they will inevitably want to protect it. I’m thrilled to be working with the other student naturalists to encourage Oles and the Northfield community to notice the wonder of nature.
Andrew Hallberg – I am a senior biology major from Minneapolis, Minnesota. I have been enraptured by the outdoors and the natural world for as long as I can remember with some of my most vivid childhood memories involved with searching for alligators in Florida swamps and watching baby loons hatch at my cabin in northern Minnesota. This interest has followed me into my collegiate studies where I am now interested in ecology and zoology with sights on grad school after graduation. This past summer I worked and lived in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert in New Mexico researching the effects of drought on woody plant encroachment in semi-arid ecosystems. My interest in the St. Olaf Natural Lands really blossomed after taking a vertebrate biology class where I developed a passion for birding. If you’re ever walking through the Natural Lands and see someone intently surveying the trees with a pair of binoculars, there’s a good chance that’s me! I’ve also done research in the Natural Lands looking at the effects (or lack thereof) of pocket gophers in prairie ecosystems as well as counting chicks and eggs in the many boxes along the bluebird trail. The St. Olaf Natural Lands are very special to me and I can’t wait to share my enthusiasm for them with others as a student naturalist!
Robby Holmes – I’m a senior Biology major with an environmental studies concentration. Growing up just outside Chicago, I didn’t have great opportunities to explore the outdoors, but since coming to Minnesota for school, I’ve taken every opportunity I could find to get outside, explore, and learn. Two summers ago I worked at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center and helped kids learn about trees, fish, and stewardship of the land. This past summer I did research on a forest restoration project in the Natural Lands. The Natural Lands may not be the most wild or jaw-dropping landscape in Minnesota, but it is an excellent example of restoration and is managed by brilliant and passionate people. If you take the time to walk around, you’ll find that there is always more to learn.
Kirsten Koerth – I am a junior majoring in Environmental Studies and Biology. I grew up in Montana and spent much of my childhood working and playing outside with my family. I spent the last summer doing research on part of St. Olaf’s restored forest and on sustainable agricultural practices. I had the incredible opportunity of learning about the trees, prairie plants, and birds of the area through my research position, which has only made me care more for the Natural Lands. Although I often miss the grandness of Montana’s mountains and the serenity of its wide plains, I have fallen in love with the forests and prairies of Minnesota. I can’t wait to learn more about the Natural Lands, and share that knowledge with others as a student naturalist!
Nic Partington – I am a junior studying biology with a concentration in environmental studies. I grew up in central Minnesota, where I was able to spend much of my summers on some of Minnesota’s beautiful lakes. Growing up around lakes and going on summer camping trips throughout the state has given me an appreciation for the outdoors that I will carry for the rest of my life. This past summer I was an intern for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources where I spent more time on lakes surveying fish populations. In the future I hope to continue spending time outdoors and work in a field that blends biology and the environment. I have enjoyed exploring the natural areas that St. Olaf has to offer and I look forward to spending more time in them as a student naturalist this year.
Annika Fredrickson – I am a senior biology and mathematics major with a concentration in statistics. I am from Minnesota, where I gained a love of the outdoors while playing in the woods around my house. As a child, I would catch (and release) every slimy, scaly, furry, or feathered creature I could find. This curiosity about the living things around me has only grown deeper as I have experienced the natural world around St. Olaf. My love of nature has motivated me to be an active hunter and fisher, to begin birding, to volunteer on burn crews for prairie management, and to participate in frog and toad surveys. I hope to continue to study and enjoy the ecosystems around me, and to impart a passion for nature to others as a student naturalist.