Staff

 


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

 

Program and Marketing Coordinator: Becky Picha

Hello! My name is Becky Picha and I am so excited to be working with the Ney Nature Center! I grew up in New Prague, so I am excited to be back near my hometown. In 2018, I graduated from Minnesota State University, Mankato with a B.S. in environmental science and a minor in resource management.  I have a wide variety of work experiences, as I have served an AmeriCorps term while working at a local SWCD, have worked in a federally owned national wildlife refuge, have taught summer camps, and taught environmental education.

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, reading in my hammock, and watching cheesy horror movies with my fiancé. Stop by and say hi! (Bonus: I will never not be inclined to show people pictures of my cat or dog doing cute things if you want a little extra cuteness in your life…)

  • Favorite Minnesota Animal: Common Loon
  • Favorite Season: Fall
  • Favorite Outdoor Activity: Hiking
  • Favorite Part of NNC: The cool geology of the river valley!
  • Favorite Rock/Mineral:  Celestite
  • Favorite Flower: Liatris aspera (rough blazing star)

 

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

We are excited to welcome Deb Groebner to the Ney Nature Center and YES! team as the new Southern YES! Coordinator!

She is “inspired by the courage of young environmental leaders like Autumn Peltier and Greta Thunberg. I am excited to apply my experience and creativity toward helping kids grow skills, knowledge, relationships, and confidence needed to embrace their own version of environmental stewardship! I look forward to working with YES! teams, other students, coaches, and partner organizations across southern Minnesota!”

Before joining YES!, Deb worked for over 20 years as an educator in both formal and recreational learning settings. She and husband Rob love living in North Mankato and in her spare time, Deb practices and teaches encaustic painting, a technique that involves fusing layers of melted beeswax to a wooden board with heat.

 

Mike

Resource Manager: Mike Giesen

I am very excited to be joining the staff here at the Ney Nature Center. For over twenty years I had worked in management and retail logistics with K-Mart before retiring. After spending some time relaxing in retirement I decided it was time to find an opportunity to occupy my days and that is when I happened across the Ney Nature Center.

My wife and I live in Belle Plaine and I grew up in Green Isle. Few people know it, but while in high school I attended the all-state choir competition. Singing has taken the backburner as an adult and in its place stirred my love for nature and the outdoors. Most weekends in the summer you will find me hitting the bike trails or sitting in a boat, waiting for the day’s big catch. When I am not biking or boating, I enjoy spending time with my grandchildren, working in my wood shop and eating chicken wild rice casserole. I can’t wait to learn more about the park, especially the trail systems since there is so much to see and explore. I look forward to trying new things, as there is such a variety of work I will be doing here at the park. If you are out on the trails and see me working on a project, stop and say hi; I love striking up conversation and making new friends.

  • Favorite Minnesota Animal: White tail deer
  • Favorite Season: Spring
  • Favorite Outdoor Activity: Bicycling
  • Favorite Part of NNC: Trail System
  • Favorite Rock/Mineral: Petoskey Stone
  • Favorite Flower: Lady Slipper

 

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

 

 

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