About the Nature Center

Quarry Hill Nature Center is seated in the City of Rochester's Quarry Hill Park. The 329 acre park features 8+ miles of paved and hiking trails, a pond, and a historical sandstone cave carved in 1882. In the winter months, cross country skis and snowshoes are available for rent to use in the park. The Friends of Quarry Hill Nature Center staff the nature center building which houses live animals and  an admission free Exploration Hall. Year-round classes, day camps, trips, and recreation activities are  offered by the Friends of Quarry Hill Nature Center professional staff. Please visit the Programs & Events section for more information.

QHNC Staff

Click below to learn more about the QHNC staff.

Pam Meyer
Pam Meyer
Still adding to her childhood agate collection.

Executive Director
I grew up in Plymouth, MN where I got an early start in science spending endless hours agate hunting in my neighbors river rock driveway and summers exploring neighborhood ponds for crayfish and turtles. Being outdoors was an ethic, a way of life in our family. We even had a neighborhood club of kids known as Boundary Waters Club! 

Pursuing my passion for nature and science lead me to the University of Minnesota-Duluth where I received a degree in Earth and Space Sciences and Environmental and Outdoor Education with a minor in Geology. I also hold a current Minnesota teaching license for sciences grades 5-12. I consider myself very lucky to have been able to teach in a diversity of nature and science centers from LA County Outdoor School of Science in Malibu to Massachusetts Audubon's Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary on Martha's Vineyard to all the way up north at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Finland, MN. I've been coast to coast and still feel Quarry Hill stands  unparalleled in its field with a fantastic staff and awesome natural resources right in town!

Favorite Animal: Monarch butterfly because their life cycle and annual migration is fascinating.

Favorite Minnesota State Park: Any of the parks along the North Shore of Lake Superior because I can agate hunt there!

If I could be a tree, I'd be a Weeping Willow because I love how graceful their branches are when they blow in the breeze.

Brooke Hilger
Brooke Hilger
Jenna Daire
Jenna Daire
It’s not a buffalo!

Teacher & Naturalist

I grew up near the National Forests of Central Montana where I developed a love of all things outdoors. My childhood vacations were spent camping, hiking, and fishing in and around mountain country. As I have grown, I have found that I prefer to keep my feet on land and hike an area to better explore it, but I appreciate the beauty of our Minnesota lakes, rivers and streams.  I have a goal of visiting all of our National Parks, and I am over a third of the way there! Earning Junior Ranger badges, participating in ranger programs and experiencing some of our nations most treasured areas is always a thrill.

I joined the Quarry Hill staff in 2000 and have filled many roles in my time at Quarry Hill.  I especially enjoy teaching young children and being a part of events like Fall Festival and Creatures of the Night.

Favorite Animal: Bison, because they are an integral part of the history of North America, massively beautiful, and their scientific name is Bison Bison.

Favorite MN State Park: Temperance River - my family has camped there annually for years. We enjoy the trip up the north shore and the beautiful setting that the park provides for tent camping.

Hobbies: Volunteering in the community and canning fruits and veggies. A current favorite recipe is Ginger Pear Lime preserves!


Samantha Peterson
Samantha Peterson
Does the most convincing barred owl call you've ever heard.

Naturalist/Animal Care

I grew up in Northeast Minneapolis, not far from the river. My first connections with the natural world were formed while wading in the waters of the Mississippi, searching for interesting rocks and turtles, staring up into the sky at the great blue herons and geese flying overhead, and playing among the tangles of wild grapes and driftwood. It was all such a contrast to the big city just ashore and it engraved in my mind how interconnected the human world and natural world really are.

As I grew older, it became my goal to help people form their own connections with the natural resources that surround them.

I received a B.S. in Environmental Science/ Environmental Education and Communication with a minor in Fisheries and Wildlife from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. In the years following graduation, I have worked as a mushroom cultivator and forager, an environmental educator for urban teens, an instructor for camping workshops, a sawyer, a prescribed burn technician, an ecological research assistant, and most recently, a naturalist. Of all of these positions, those that involved an environmental education component have been the most rewarding.

Since joining the Quarry Hill team in 2014, I have been welcomed into the community where I have had the opportunity to teach students from all over Minnesota about our natural resources, coordinate care for our large family of animal ambassadors, and share our bird banding research with the public. In my free time I enjoy learning about food sovereignty, foraging, practicing mindfulness, exploring parks and nature with my dog, and playing roller derby for our local team here in Rochester.

Favorite Animal: Right now I'm favoring the leeches that carry their young on their ventral surface because most people would not expect creatures like leeches to exhibit parental care and that is really sweet.

Hobbies: Collecting wild edible plants and mushrooms and feasting on the free and delicious bounty in nature!

If I could be a tree, I'd be a Buckthorn because then I'd feel like I'm never at risk of extinction, that I am more clever than the other trees, and that I am surrounded by my relatives.


Natalie Arend
Natalie Arend
Makes a gallon of Maple Syrup from her own backyard trees every year!

Being a Minnesota Native and living most of my life here I learned at a young age to make the best out of all the seasons and weather conditions. I grew to prefer to spend lots of time outdoors playing in and making crafts out of nature. My grandparents also owned a small cabin on a lake in SE MN where we spent most of our summer weekends tubing, fishing and having bonfires. In the winter months when I wasn’t playing hockey I was bundling up to play in the snow!

I pursued and completed my college degree in Biology with a minor in Captive Wildlife Management from the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point. My dream was to become a zookeeper, but after taking a summer internship at the MN Zoo I learned I enjoyed interacting with people too much to work as a full time keeper. I took a naturalist internship after college at Sibley State where I believe I discovered my love of educating people about the natural world. I started working as a Naturalist in 2013 at Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park and eventually landed my dream job here at Quarry Hill in 2017!

When I'm not working I'm spending time educating my children about the natural world and spending as much time outdoors with them as possible. I also really love to travel, hike, downhill ski, camp, do yoga, explore, be with friends and family and relax!

Favorite animal: The dog. I was a dog mom before I was a mom, mom. I love all wild animals but the dog will always be my favorite animal.

Favorite MN State Park: I have a lot, it's hard to choose. I worked at Forestville/Mystery Cave for over 5 years and that place became my home away from home for a while. I got married in Whitewater State Park, so that place will always be special to me. Sibley State Park is where I worked as a naturalist for the first time. Great River Bluff State Park is where I worked on my first prescribed burn while working with the Conservation Corp.

Favorite Book with a Nature Theme: Where the Crawdads Sing!

Jill Danielsen
Jill Danielsen
Heats and cools her home with geothermal energy.

Volunteer & Program Coordinator/Naturalist
When I was a kid, I 'lived' outside. Growing up on a farm, I followed my Dad everywhere - everything outside was interesting to me. I walked the woods with my science teacher mom, spent hours with farm animals, played in the dirt and planted with my Dad. My farm and backyard were my playground. Later my playground expanded when I studied wildlife biology and became involved in wildlife research. Once I spent 70 days in a tent researching wetlands - bird, plants, and leeches baited and trapped with chicken livers. Today, I am back living on the farm I grew up on and spend my days at Quarry Hill planning environmental education experiences for others.

A big part of my work at Quarry Hill is coordinating the many volunteers that help with classes and park maintenance. It's fantastic to everyday be sharing the work of bringing the wonders of nature to others.

Favorite Minnesota State Park: Tettegouche because of it's fantastic views, hiking and scenery.

If I could be a tree, I'd be a Burr Oak because of their resilience, strength, beauty, and character all together in one. Each burr oak feels like an individual with stories to tell.

Random Fact: I once kept a loon chick in my bathtub for a week until reuniting it with Mom.

Jenny Doty
Jenny Doty
Favorite season is "Minnesota!"

Office Manager

I was born and raised in Rochester but spent every weekend, Memorial Day through Labor Day, camping with my family along the Mississippi River.  

I remember visiting the Nature Center on a school trip when it was just one big room with a concrete floor and some taxidermy. I’m so proud of all the folks through the years whose hard work made the Nature Center into the amazing resource it is now. 

Today, I manage the front office of the Nature Center. I welcome visitors and help them find the many wonderful programs and places Quarry Hill has to offer. Each year I schedule field trips for over 7,000 students from Rochester Public Schools to come out, twice, for their class field trips.

Favorite Animal: Blackburnian warbler because it was the first bird that amazed me and started my journey as a birder.

Favorite Minnesota State Park: Frontenac State Park because of its great views of the river and great birding during migration. Habitats vary within the park so you can see many different species in one visit.

My favorite Season: Minnesota. I would not want to live where I knew what weather to expect! I love the changing seasons. 

Fun Fact: My grandpa was one of the farmers for the Rochester State Hospital in the 1940’s - 1960’s. His silo still stands but I challenge you to find it!

Photo: blackburnian warbler by Linnea Halvorson

KyAnne Hilger
KyAnne Hilger
Can never have too many animals!

Hi, my name is KyAnne. I started here at Quarry Hill as the summer naturalist in 2021 and stayed on as a part-time naturalist after that. I help teach programs as well as take care of the ambassador animals that call Quarry Hill Nature Center home. Nature and animals have always been a huge passion of mine. I grew up watching Steve Irwin on the TV and always knew that I was going to work with wild animals someday. I graduated from Missouri State University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Wildlife Biology. When I am not at Quarry Hill caring for the animals, you can find me spending time with my animals at home. I currently have 2 dogs, 3 cats, a parrot, 1 bearded dragon, 3 crested geckos, and 3 snakes!

When I was a kid I watched Steve Irwin on the TV and thought to myself that how cool it was that he was able to share his passion of animals and conservation and teach the world about it. I knew then that I wanted to do the same!

Favorite Animals and Why My favorite animal is a Giraffe because they are so unique in the animal kingdom. They are fun to watch and you can’t help but feel in awe when you stand next to one. Plus, their tongues are a foot long and are purple in color which acts as a sunscreen.  

Favorite Minnesota State Park: My favorite State Park is any of the parks along the North Shore because Lake Superior is just stunning no matter what time of year you see it.

Hobbies: Hiking, Agate hunting, singing, spending time with family & Pets


Carrie Nelson
Carrie Nelson
Still playing in the mud.

Rocks, mud, bugs, mud, crayfish, and more mud were some of my favorite things growing up here in Rochester. When not playing around our backyard and by the Zumbro River, the need for nature was taken care of with our school trips to Quarry Hill. It was here that I first saw how to combine the things I enjoyed the most, nature and learning. After college, I joined AmeriCorps and was placed at Quarry Hill. When my AmeriCorps term ended, I became a full time Quarry Hill staff member.

Today I enjoy working with the many school classes and public programs through out the year. I spend summers at Quarry Hill leading Crazy Crayfish, Nature Explorations, Geology Rocks and other camps. Sometimes I even visit some of my childhood haunts (like the Zumbro River) with summer campers!

Favorite Animal: Any animal not trying to eat me for obvious reasons.

Favorite Minnesota State Park: Carly State Park because it's a lot like Whitewater, but not as busy.

Hobbies: When not at the Nature Center, I enjoy biking, hiking, camping, canoeing, skiing, reading, orienteering, and spending time with family.

Lori Forstie
Lori Forstie
Knits in nature

Public Relations & Outreach Coordinator

Beginning my work at Quarry Hill has been a “blast from the past”. Not only is it bringing back memories of visiting the park as a child, but I have also re-connected with some of my former science teachers who still visit Quarry Hill with their students today. Their dedication to helping students experience science and nature “hands-on” is inspiring. After leaving Rochester for a number of years, my husband and I moved back to Rochester to raise our three children. We knew that exploring nature and time outdoors were an important part of growing up and a way to balance the overload that kids sometimes face today. We began to take advantage of the many opportunities at Quarry Hill and to this day consider it one of the best places in town to hang out! I am a naturally curious person and spend my free time gardening, knitting and skiing. I enjoy discovering nature through the eyes of the Quarry Hill naturalists and many visitors we see each day.

Favorite Minnesota State Park: Carly State Park. Walking through the forest among the bed of wild flowers transports you into another world.

Joe Melmer
Joe Melmer
Can design, build, or fix ANYTHING!

Facilities Manager
I grew up in rural South Dakota where I developed a love of the outdoors. This interest in the outdoors influenced my choice of college study, geology; I also have acquired an MS in management. I have been blessed with a variety of exciting previous work experiences; including solar power plants, nuclear facilities, space shuttle, construction, farms, facilities and welding. I love working at Quarry Hill, it would be my choice as the best work environment and the staff would be included with my best coworkers.

Favorite MN State Park: Custer State Park in South Dakota!

Hobbies: Woodworking and reading

Favorite Book: Watership Down, by Richard Adams

Travis Meyer
Travis Meyer

Naturalist/ Teacher

I grew up in Rochester, even attending classes at Quarry Hill during elementary school. I left Rochester for about 9 years for college, grad school, and various environmental education teaching jobs around the country. I was happy to return in 2005 when I became a full time teacher here at Quarry Hill. I have since moved to part time helping with the facilities and maintenance of the Nature Center, while being a full-time dad of two and husband. I enjoy contributing to a positive visitor experience and supporting the rest of the staff in the mission of Quarry Hill.

Favorite Animal: My current favorite animal is the beaver for its amazing abilities of working with wood and shaping its surroundings. Its role in the history of MN is also fascinating.

Favorite Minnesota State Park: Any North Shore Park because of the rugged trails, views and wild spaces.

Hobbies: Hunting - for agates, fossils, and deer.


Becca Jacobson
Becca Jacobson
Proud to be a science nerd.

I was raised in Minnesota and grew up enjoying the State Parks and learning about the environment. I graduated from St. Olaf College with a B.A. in Biology and Environmental Studies, then completed a M.S. in Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, and a Certificate in Environmental Education from Hamline University. For the last nine years I have lived in Rochester with my husband and three daughters. We also have a cockatiel, a Russian tortoise, and a Netherland Dwarf rabbit in our family. Currently, I am working full time in Advanced Biomanufacturing at Mayo Clinic, but I am also very grateful to continue working as a naturalist on the weekends.

When I was a kid, I loved exploring the outdoors and learning about the environment. I particularly love the different biomes and seasons in Minnesota. I believe that no matter how old or young we are, we can all be teachers and learners.

Favorite animal: Opossum, they have great features and are totally underrated

Favorite Minnesota State Park: Itasca, because it’s where I married my husband 

?Hobbies: Camping, Hiking, Baking, Biking, Traveling

?Three items I’d never leave on a camping trip without: hammock, hiking boots, a good book