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.
  • Maintaining a social media presence to interest and engage the larger student body
  • Organizing tree plantings and other restoration activities on campus.
  • Creating environment educational opportunities for the community.

The Student Naturalists for the 2018-19 year are Ella Doud (’20), Rachel Gessner (’19), Henry Henson (’20), Claire Hinther (’19), Kirsten Koerth (’19), Andrew Larson (’19), and Nic Partington (’19).

Ella Doud- I am a junior environmental studies and biology double major, and am working towards getting my teaching license. I studied abroad with the Environmental Studies in Australia and New Zealand program last spring. This past summer I stayed in New Zealand and worked on a few organic farms and did some independent travel. I am from Fort Collins, Colorado where my mom, my older brother, our two crazy dogs, my beloved cat, and peculiar chickens still live. In my free time, I like ballroom dancing, particularly swing. I also enjoy hiking and canoeing, both short day trips and longer excursions. I think nature is one of the neatest things there is and I am looking forward to sharing that with St. Olaf and Northfield!




Rachel Gessner- I am a senior biology student with two concentrations in environmental studies and biomolecular science. Growing up in suburban Minnesota, my childhood was interwoven with the outdoors; whether it was chasing after toads, sledding down snowy hills, or diving into lakes, I have been building a fondness for nature. As I continue to grow and learn, I have begun to incorporate my love and passion to protect the natural world into my professional and academic life. This objective led me to spend the past two summers in Golden, Colorado at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory working to develop a competitive biofuel. While I was focused on the microscopic, I saw large-scale progress towards sustainability. Above all, I learned that the world is as big as it is small, and every bit of it holds beauty. I’m looking forward to learning more about the ecosystem surrounding St. Olaf, and sharing my knowledge to kindle a love for the outdoors in others.


Henry Henson- I am a junior biology and environmental studies major from St. Paul, Minnesota. As a child of two veterinarians, I grew up running around the vet hospital and developed an affinity for critters from a young age. When I wasn’t there, I spent my free time climbing trees and running through parks with my siblings. In addition, many of our vacations consisted of backpacking in various national parks or swimming and canoeing in the Great Lakes. My love for the nature deepened when, in high school, I attended Conserve School, an environmental boarding school in northern Wisconsin. Here I decided that biology and environmental science were the subjects that I wanted to study in college. Since then, I have worked for the City of Arden Hills Parks Department, Environment Minnesota, and most recently, CURI doing research on historic climate change. After arriving at St. Olaf I have enjoyed the natural lands in all four of its seasons. I love walks and running in the fall where I get to see the changing colors, Nordic skiing in the winter, tapping maple trees in the spring, and experiencing the glory of summer in Northfield. I am excited to work with the great natural lands team in order to share this wonderful place with others and help them connect with it as I have.

Claire Hinther- I am a senior environmental studies and political science double major with a concentration in women’s and gender studies. I grew up in Missoula, Montana and spent my childhood hiking in Glacier National Park, swimming in the Bitterroot and Clarkfork Rivers, biking old logging roads, and downhill and cross country skiing in our beautiful mountains. For the past two summers, I have been conducting nitrogen abatement research in partnership with a local sustainable farmer and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Our goal is to test strategies for reducing pollution from agricultural runoff while advocating for conservation farming practices such as no-till farming. In the future, I plan to leave the Midwest for some much-needed time in the mountains before attending graduate school for environmental science. I am excited to combine my lifelong love of nature with my newfound passion for environmental education as a student naturalist!

Kirsten Koerth- I am a senior 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 summer after my junior year doing a research project in a section of the restored forest in the natural lands, and on sustainable agriculture. This summer I worked with Professor Shea and another student and professor at Carleton on a project that is laying the groundwork for future agriculture research projects. These past few summers as well as my work as a naturalist have really helped me decide that I want to continue doing research and working out in the field in the future! This will be my second year as a naturalist, so I am excited to continue organizing fun events and working in my favorite place on campus, the natural lands! Although I often miss the grandness of Montana’s mountains, I have fallen in love with the forests and prairies of Minnesota. I can’t wait to continue learning about the plants and animals of southeastern Minnesota and sharing that knowledge with others as a student naturalist!

Andrew Larson- I’m a senior biology and studio art major. I grew up in the suburbs of Minneapolis, and have always been drawn to the outdoors. I’m happiest marveling at (and asking questions about) the beautiful and complex world of living things. Forest or prairie, there’s always something interesting to learn. I have been lucky enough to travel to a number of national parks with my family, which ignited my love of the outdoors. More recently, I participated in several very long canoe expeditions through wilderness areas in Ontario, and down rivers on the tundra in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. I spent the past two summers leading wilderness trips for YMCA Camp Widjiwagan, teaching kids about camping, teamwork, and the landscapes that we spend time in. This year as a student naturalist I’m looking forward to learning a lot about the ecosystems around St. Olaf, and to sharing my excitement about them with others

Nic Partington- I am a senior studying biology and statistics. I grew up in central Minnesota, where I was lucky 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 did research on marine fish ecology and enjoyed experiencing a different type of aquatic ecosystem. In the future I hope to continue spending time outdoors and to work in a field that blends biology and the environment. I have enjoyed working and spending time in the St. Olaf Natural Lands the past few years and I look forward to continuing to enjoy these lands and to share them with the St. Olaf community.

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

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 (sheak@stolaf.edu).