Executive Director: Becky Pollack

It is my pleasure to work at the Ney Nature Center. My connection to this park goes back to 1995, when the deformed frogs were found here by my fellow classmates form the Minnesota New Country School.

Before graduating from Mankato State University, Mankato with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Geography and minors in Earth Science and Geology, I was excited to take the position of Director here at the Ney Nature Center. My background with project based learning and love of the natural world as well as experience in nonprofit management made for an easy transition to Executive Director.

My husband, Nick and I, faithfully care for our two kids, Greg and Sami and our many pets: Sunny, a miniature horse, Flora & Fauna, two miniature goats, Eleanor our Chocolate Lab, and two bunnies, Lion & Snicker Doodle.

The Ney Nature Center is a remarkable place, full of history, geology and other natural world wonders. I enjoy greeting and sharing the phenology of the park with anyone that stops by.

  • Favorite Minnesota Animal: Northern Leopard Frog
  • Favorite Season: Spring
  • Favorite Outdoor Activity: Photography
  • Favorite Part of NNC: History of the Park’s Land
  • Favorite Rock/Mineral: Sioux Quartzite
  • Favorite Flower: Rattlesnake Master

Resource Manager: Alex Colling

Hello! My name is Alex Colling, I am excited to be working as the Resource Manager here at Ney Nature Center. I graduated from South Dakota State University in 2019 with a B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences. I have experience in almost every facet of natural resource management; from range plant identification to Electrofishing to Large mammal capture.

In my free time, I enjoy almost any activity under the sun. I am an avid cyclist, fisherman, and chef.  I also enjoy kayaking, rock climbing, frisbee golf, broomball, and volleyball. Fun fact about me; I have two taxidermy squirrels (one Eastern Grey squirrel and one Eastern Fox squirrel) that I mounted myself. If you have any questions about what’s going on in the park, want to learn more about different land management techniques, or want to know how to stuff a squirrel, stop and say hi!

  • Favorite Minnesota Animal: North American Beaver
  • Favorite Season: Spring
  • Favorite Outdoor Activity: Getting lost
  • Favorite Part of NNC: Ravine Stream
  • Favorite Rock/Mineral: Azurite
  • Favorite Flower: Southern Magnolia

YES! Coordinator: Deb Groebner

Before joining YES! in fall 2019, Deb worked for over 20 years as an educator in both formal and recreational learning settings. She applies her background in environmental interpretation, biology education, systems thinking, and human dimensions of natural resources to communicate creatively about science and nature. She earned her BS in Natural Resource Management (environmental education/interpretation emphasis) and MS in Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, both from UW-Stevens Point. Deb and her husband Rob live in rural North Mankato on a bluff overlooking the beautiful Minnesota River Valley. In her spare time, she paints molten beeswax on a wood panel and then fuses the layers together with a heat gun or torch, a technique called encaustic painting.

  • Favorite Minnesota Animal: Southern flying squirrel
  • Favorite Season: Spring
  • Favorite Outdoor Activity: Hiking
  • Favorite Part of NNC: It’s quiet and peaceful!
  • Favorite Rock/Mineral: Banded iron formations
  • Favorite Flower: Wild Bergamot

Programs Coordinator: Eva Clelland

Hi there! My name is Eva and I am the Programs Coordinator here at Ney. I graduated from Drake University with a B.A. in Environmental Science and have worked at the Des Moines Botanical Garden and Nevada Outdoor School in environmental education positions since then. I grew up in Saint Paul attending all kinds of summer camps and found my love for the outdoors doing canoeing and backpacking trips with YMCA Camp Menogyn in northern Minnesota.

On my days off, you can find me walking the lakes in Minneapolis where I live, or searching for new houseplants to add to my growing collection. I feel very lucky to have being outside as part of my job description and look forward to helping coordinate your educational program at Ney! Let me know how I can help!

  • Favorite Minnesota Animal: Barn Owl
  • Favorite Season: Fall
  • Favorite Outdoor Activity: Camping
  • Favorite Part of NNC: The people!
  • Favorite Rock/Mineral: Becky is teaching me more about rocks, so stay tuned, maybe I will find a favorite soon…
  • Favorite Flower: Pale Purple Coneflower

Mayo House Interpreter & Naturalist: Beth Beuch

My name is Beth Beuch, and I recently came on board as Mayo House Interpreter and Naturalist.  I grew up on a farm just West of Henderson and am super excited to be able to fulfill my passion for environmental education so close to home! I love to be outdoors hiking, taking pictures, working in my garden, and doing whatever I can to enjoy what nature has to offer.  One of the goals I have set for myself is to visit and hike through all of the State Parks in Minnesota.  I’m about halfway there and having a great time doing it!

I graduated from NDSU with a Bachelor of Science degree in wildlife ecology and from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Master’s in Library and Information Science.  I spent the first twenty-five or so years of my career moving around the country, teaching at nature centers and state and national parks, and then came back to Minnesota to work as both a naturalist and a librarian at various places.  I have spent a few years as a volunteer here at the nature center, teaching classes and watching it grow.  I love everything this place has to offer and I’m excited to see what we have planned for the future!

  • Favorite Minnesota Animal: Beaver
  • Favorite Season: Spring
  • Favorite Outdoor Activity: Photography
  • Favorite Part of NNC: Vernal ponds
  • Favorite Rock/Mineral: Amethyst
  • Favorite Flower: Blue Flag Iris

Outdoor Educator & Historic Interpreter: Christopher Johnson

Christopher began his work as an Outdoor Educator and Historic Interpreter at the Ney Nature Center in June of 2017. He has two awesome children, lives in Henderson, and also works at the Minnesota New Country School.

  • Favorite Minnesota Animal: Moose and Black Bear
  • Favorite Season: Winter
  • Favorite Outdoor Activity: Frisbee Golf
  • Favorite Part of NNC: The Trail System
  • Favorite Rock/Mineral: Quartz
  • Favorite Flower: Columbine

Administrative Assistant: Julia Hopper

Hello! My name is Julia (she/her) and I am the Administrative Assistant at the Ney Nature Center. I graduated from Minnesota State University, Mankato with a B.S. in Recreation, Parks, and Leisure Services, and an emphasis in Resource Management.

I enjoy spending my time exploring the outdoors by hiking, paddle-boarding, canoeing, hammocking, and also indoor rock-climbing. I also enjoy spending time with my loved ones (especially my cat, Dennis), watching my younger brother play college baseball, listening to music and podcasts, and creating art.

I am very grateful to be working at an amazing place with such lovely people. You can find me in the office at the nature center and I look forward to connecting with fellow nature-lovers in the area!

  • Favorite Minnesota Animal: Raccoon
  • Favorite Season: Fall
  • Favorite Outdoor Activity: Paddle-boarding
  • Favorite Part of NNC: The wildlife
  • Favorite Rock/Mineral: Quartz
  • Favorite Flower: Sunflower or rose

Naturalist: Sam Retz

Hi! My name is Sam and I am one of the naturalists here at Ney. I graduated from Bethany Lutheran College in 2021 with a B.A. in Biology. I grew up in Boyceville Wisconsin on a dairy farm with my parents and sisters. I have always loved being outside no matter what the activity and am very happy to be able to share my love for the outdoors with others.

Some of my favorite activities outside include hunting, hiking, biking and sailing. No matter what the activity is though, I will always take the opportunity to look at plants and insects that I find. Ask me anything about plants or animals that you find in (or outside) the park!

  • Favorite Minnesota Animal: Black Bear
  • Favorite Season: Fall
  • Favorite Outdoor Activity: Sailing
  • Favorite Part of NNC: The ravine
  • Favorite Rock/Mineral: Shale
  • Favorite Flower: American Columbine