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Spotlight on the Natural Lands’ student technicians

The St. Olaf Natural Lands provide a flourishing space for the community to interact with nature.
The St. Olaf Natural Lands provide a flourishing space for the community to interact with nature.

St. Olaf has a natural sanctuary right in its backyard. Comprising 350 acres of woods, prairies, wetlands, and trails, the Natural Lands provides a unique space for learning and recreation on campus. Members of the St. Olaf community use the Natural Lands to exercise and refresh, while students can use the space to conduct research in biology and environmental studies.

But maintaining the Natural Lands as the beautiful space we know and love requires a lot of work, and we owe our thanks to the student land technicians who take care of this campus resource. Working closely with Natural Lands Manager Nic Nelson, these students make time within their busy schedules to perform important maintenance tasks that preserve and restore the natural environment, such as removing invasive species, identifying and collecting seeds from plants, and participating in controlled prairie burns. Working as land technicians allows these students to gain hands-on experience performing important maintenance and restoration work in the environment, and this role prepares them for future careers beyond the Hill.

Here, we feature student technicians and share their reflections on their work in the Natural Lands and with the campus community.

Portrait of student technician Alexis Wiegert in front of mountains.
Alexis Wiegert ’20

Alexis Wiegert ’20 I’ve met and gotten to know so many amazing people through this job that I know I would have never otherwise had the opportunity to know. We are definitely serious about the work we do, but we all always take time to make sure that we laugh and have fun as we do that work.

Portrait of student technician David Howard in front of a flowering bush.
David Howard ’21

David Howard ’21I’d love for students to know that the Natural Lands are a giant work in progress. Just about every aspect isn’t something that just magically appeared — it’s taken years of work to create and maintain the area.

Portrait of student technician Braden Pohl in a Natural Lands field.
Braden Pohl ’21

Braden Pohl ’21Working as a lands tech gives you tangible, dramatic results that make the work feel worthwhile. More than any other job I’ve had, I feel like my time as a natural lands technician is meaningful and has a lasting impact. On top of that, I love learning about the local plants and the many ways to manage natural areas.

Portrait of student technician Megan Kartheiser at the beach in front of the ocean.
Megan Kartheiser ’22

Megan Kartheiser ’22I’ve learned so much about sustaining and diversifying prairie and forests. I’ve gotten to learn the different techniques to try to control invasive species in order to allow the native plants to thrive.

Portrait of student technician Harris Kramer near trees.
Harris Kramer ’22

Harris Kramer ’22The Natural Lands is a great place to experience and learn about native Minnesotan wilderness and I would highly encourage everyone to take some time to explore what it has to offer. Through my work, I hope to provide a place where people can escape the worries of life for a bit and learn about how fascinating and beautiful nature is.

Portrait of Natural Lands student technician Corinna Snow outside with trees and snow.
Corinna Snow ’23

Corinna Snow ’23The Natural Lands is a key learning tool at St. Olaf. I have learned a lot about natural biology and so have many other students in select classes. I have seen flags in the woods identifying trees for a biology class and it was exciting to see other students learning the same things as me but in a different setting on campus.