St. Olaf College | News

Discovering a passion for conservation in St. Olaf’s backyard

Nisha Albert ‘19 understands that learning at St. Olaf College doesn’t always happen in the classroom. 

During her sophomore year, Albert jumped at the opportunity to spend a semester with the St. Olaf faculty-led Environmental Science in Australia and New Zealand program. There, she bonded with 20 other Oles and learned about ecology through hands-on experiences — everything from running her own research experiments to exploring ecosystems she’d never seen before. 

Her study abroad experience solidified her interest in conservation work and inspired her to declare a biology major with an environmental studies concentration. Eager to gain more experience in the field, Albert returned to St. Olaf that summer to work in the Natural Lands — a job she continued throughout the school year. As a Natural Lands technician, she took on a range of responsibilities. 

“You might be pulling garlic mustard or collecting native seeds or maybe you’re going to do a prairie burn,” she says. “It’s whatever the weather and season allow, so it’s a new adventure everyday.”

Diving into this field experience led Albert to a deeper understanding about the ecological systems right in St. Olaf’s backyard.

“During my first year at St. Olaf, I went on walks and I thought the Natural Lands were beautiful, but learning about the different species — what they do, where they belong, and how to take care of them — brought a new understanding to a place I already loved,” she says.

Albert hopes to continue similar work in her career path. “This experience really sparked an interest in getting my hands dirty on the conservation side of science.”