There are many roles within the board but our overall goal is to oversee the operation and management of the organization. We set and execute strategic visions and goals, manage finances, plan events, handle membership and registrations, communicate with members and represent the interests of the membership.
Meetings are held at 6:30 pm virtually.
Would you like to run for the MNA board?
Tara Rogness, President / Springbrook Nature Center
I have more than 20 years (wow, that’s a long time….I guess that makes me old) in the naturalist field working in both residential and day-use programs. I started my naturalist career at Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center and have spent time working for both Wood Lake Nature Center and Springbrook Nature Center. I have been the Interpretive Program Supervisor at Springbrook for two decades, and throughout that time I have learned about all aspects of our field. Throughout my career I have been a member of MNA, even a board member for a couple of those years. I have always touted the benefits of MNA (both professionally and socially) to the staff around me. I am a hard-working naturalist who is looking for more challenges, I am driven to make a difference and look forward to serving MNA in the role of President.
Becky Pollack, Vice President / Ney Nature Center
I am currently the Executive Director of the Ney nature Center in Henderson, MN. I am a graduate of Mankato State University, Mankato with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Geography and minors in Earth Science and Geology. I began working with Ney Nature Center 10 years ago scheduling and teaching naturalist programs. My background with project based learning, love of the natural world and experience in non-profit management made for an easy transition to Executive Director. My connection to the Ney Nature Center and love of the outdoors goes back to 1995, when the deformed frogs were found by my fellow classmates from the Minnesota New Country School. As students, we worked closely with scientists, the media, and local environmentalist to bring awareness to the water quality issues that harm the frogs and other wildlife. My husband, Nick, and I have two kids, Greg (16) and Sami (13) and many family pets. Recently we have begun rasing a heritage breed of pigs (Red Wattle) in a non-confinement, pasture style setting, fulfilling my husband’s lifelong goal of being a farmer.
Born and raised in Minnesota, I’ve spent my entire career in this amazing state. I graduated from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, working at both the Bell Museum of Natural History and at the Monarch Butterfly Lab as an undergraduate researcher and lab assistant. While I’ve always been drawn to the forests and lakes of northern Minnesota, after graduating, I headed south and worked for two years as a Naturalist at Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center where my passion for the outdoors grew even more, surrounded by amazing people and the beauty of bluff country. Now, as the full time School Naturalist at the Cannon River STEM School, I enjoy the best of both worlds when it comes to formal and informal education. I work with students in grades K through 8, developing and maintaining green campus initiatives such as school-wide composting and collecting data for a variety of citizen science programs. When not working, I spend as much time as I can outside– enjoying photography, gardening and cross country skiing.
Gael Zembal (she/her) , Treasurer / Nine Mile Creek Watershed District
I am looking forward to serving my first term as treasurer on the MNA Board. Currently, I am the Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Nine Mile Creek Watershed District, where I’ve been for about 5 years. I began my career in the Naturalist Corps at Itasca State Park, then formalized my training at Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center. Following the winding path of a seasonal naturalist, I worked at a variety of interesting places, including an eco-tourist ranch in Costa Rica, Wilderness Inquiry, the Minnesota Zoo, Springbrook Nature Center, and Wargo Nature Center. I received my Bachelors degree in Environmental Science from the University of Minnesota in 2012, and my Masters in Environmental Education from Hamline in 2019. In my free time, I cultivate many eclectic interests, which include outdoorsy things like camping, kayaking, and cross country skiing, but also swing dancing, singing, reading
Katy Jacobson, Communications Coordinator/ Wargo Nature Center
Hi all! I’m a born and raised Minnesotan. I grew up in
Plymouth, Minnesota. Having a dad who was a conservation officer sparked my
love for the outdoors at an early age. I know that when I grew up, I wanted to
be outside. I spent my college years at University of Wisconsin-River Falls and
have a degree in Conservation. After college, I had no idea what I wanted to do
with my life so I applied for everything. I ended up take a chance as a
Naturalist Corps member at Fort Snelling State Park. It was there that I fell
in love; taking hikes and sharing what I knew (among other programs) was what I
wanted to do for the rest of my life. My professional path has meandered to Long Lake Conservation Center, Three Rivers Park District, Camp Fire Minnesota, Belwin Outdoor Science, Westwood Hills Nature Center, and Wargo Nature Center. In my free time, I enjoy spending time at the
family cabin, fishing, photography, and cross stitch.
Becky Picha, Conference Co-Coordinator / Ney Nature Center
beckypicha at gmail.com
Hello all! In 2018, I graduated from Minnesota State University, Mankato with a B.S. in environmental science and a minor in natural resource management. I have worked at lots of different fun seasonal jobs, as I have served an AmeriCorps term while working at a rural Soil Water Conservation District, worked at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, taught summer camps and environmental education at Springbrook Nature Center, and most recently I worked as a program & marketing coordinator at Ney Nature Center. Since COVID-19, I have found myself in a corporate job, however in my free time, I love snuggling up with my dog and cat, exploring the outdoors and learning the names of new plants I come across, and discovering new adventures.
Mary Burch, Conference Co-Coordinator/ Westwood Hills Nature Center
Rachel Giemza (she/her), Professional Workshop Coordinator / Springbrook Nature Center
As a more or less native Minnesotan, being outside and exploring was my favorite activity growing up. I graduated from North Dakota State University in 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Zoology with an emphasis in Fisheries, Wildlife, Ecology and Behavior, as well as some teaching credits. I’ve been a naturalist for about 6 years starting at Baker Outdoor Learning Center which really started my love of being a naturalist. I spent three seasons at The Lowry Nature Center doing a wide variety of programs and gaining passion for being a naturalist. I’ve also worked at the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board working with mostly preschool kiddos leaving to work, at Wood Lake Nature Center during the pandemic, and most recently Springbrook Nature Center. All these different experiences have shown that our field is diverse and there’s such variety to the different programs we can do, that they don’t have to have the traditional format. I’ve been honored with working with some truly amazing people and educators, who inspire me to continue to think outside the box and never stop learning. My goal as the Professional Workshop Coordinator is to facilitate learning opportunities and promote discussions on how to change and keep our field as naturalists growing. In my downtime, I enjoy hiking, gardening, playing dungeons and dragons, reading, and crocheting, hanging out with my roommates’ cats, Finley and Juniper as well as my leopard gecko Yarrow.
Emily A. Meyer, Member-At-Large / Vacker Sign Inc.
I’ve always been a bit of a
nature nerd. During my undergrad years, I found myself drawn to the sciences,
but hating the laboratory. I wanted to be outside, sharing what I was
discovering with people, in a way they could understand. Being a naturalist
seemed, well, natural. While I've worked at several parks over the past five
years, I've found myself in a naturalist-adjacent job: as a contracted
illustrator and content creator/writer for Vacker Sign, a Minnesota-based parks
and trails sign company. Art has always been a huge component in my teaching,
and I am excited to have the chance to truly combine my two loves: nature
education and illustration. I am also passionate about discussing emotions and
empathetic relationships and work closely with diversity and equity
initiatives. When I'm not playing outside or making art, I enjoy playing video
games, snuggling my cat Beedle, and taking photos.
Erica Northwick, Member-At-Large
I’m originally form Arden Hills, MN but my family moved to Iowa when I was a kid. I attended Iowa State University and that’s where I discovered I wanted to be a naturalist. Thanks to my major, I learned about the profession and could take the classes needed to help me become one. I have a B.S. in Animal Ecology with the subcategories of Interpretation and Wildlife Care. I’m currently working on getting a Master’s in Natural Sciences and Environmental Education from Hamline University. I’ve been a naturalist for about 3 years now and there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing. Right now, I live in southern Bloomington and work seasonal positons. My favorite things about being a naturalist are learning new things and working with wildlife.