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 at various locations throughout the Twin Cities Metro.
January 12, Springbrook Nature Center
December 9, Virtual
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/ Westwood Hills Nature Center & 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 path then went north to Long Lake
Conservation Center during the school year and back to the cities and Three
Rivers Park District during the summer. I became a naturalist fellow with Camp
Fire Minnesota in the fall of 2015 and have transitioned into a new role as
Outdoor Programs Coordinator. In my free time, I enjoy spending time at the
family cabin, fishing and photography.
Eric Vehe, Professional Development Workshop Coordinator / Wargo Nature Center
Mary Morris, Conference Coordinator / Baker Outdoor Learning Center
My path to MNA is probably as twisty as most. But unlike some, I didn’t always know I wanted to be a naturalist. After starting out college as a French/Norwegian double major, I eventually realized that French wasn’t my jam. I knew that a solo Norwegian major might be a tough sell to the parents, thus I found my way to Environmental Studies, which led me to an internship at Wood Lake Nature Center. One summer of pond-dipping, taxidermy, and toad-catching later– I was hooked. After several naturalist fellowships, I paused to spend some time in Norway, learning how Norwegians do nature. It was awesome! But in trying to decide whether to stay or come home, I felt the call– the call of the Minnesota naturalist community. I needed to be part of this group of ingenious, silly, caring people, who spend so much time and energy getting others excited about nature; so I came home. I’m excited to join the ranks and play an active role with the Minnesota Naturalists’ Association over the next few years!
Becky Picha, Conference Co-Coordinator
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.
Cody Rossetti, Member-at-Large / Wargo Nature Center
Hello! I am currently a naturalist with Wargo Nature Center where I teach programs for children, adults, and families. Additionally, I have 5 years of interpretive experience from working at Tamarack Nature Center, the International Wolf Center, and Barrier Island Education Program. Besides education, I have also worked as a field biologist studying birds and crayfish, though not at the same time, and as an administrator organizing international internships. I look forward to joining in the board for the next two years and helping grow MNA as resource for Minnesota environmental educators and naturalists, as a forum for discussion and learning between professionals, and as an organization that advances environmental education in Minnesota.
Emily Meyer, Member-At-Large / ISD 15
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. Now after two seasons as a naturalist with Three Rivers Park District, I am sure that this field is where I will dedicate my life. Because of that, I want to be deeply involved within the naturalist community. I pride myself on being organized, driven, willing to help, and a great team member. I hope to gain valuable insight into the naturalist community by supporting and networking with other naturalists around the state. My hope is that the MNA board grows in influence, allows members to feel they have a voice in this community, and keeps the community strong, united and organized.
Erica Northwick, Member-At-Large / Baker Near Wilderness Settlement, Three Rivers
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.