About Quarry Hill

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.




Pam Meyer
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.

Matt Lambert
Matt Lambert
Thinks fish are the best pets

Development Manager

Bio: From my earliest memories, it seems like I was always playing around in the mud, skipping some rocks, or rolling around in the grass. No, I’m not a naturalist by trade, but I’ve always appreciated the wonderful parks and scenic nature of Minnesota. Yearly visits to the Boundary Waters, North Shore, and our favorite destination, Charles A. Lindbergh State Park in Little Falls, were always the highlights of my summers growing up. 

After graduating from Winona State in 2016 with a degree in Journalism, I spent the next handful of years covering every news and sports subject under the sun as a reporter and editor for small-town newspapers. I wrote thousands of stories during my time, but decided to leave my writing career behind for a philanthropy role at Ability Building Community in Rochester for nearly three years before joining Quarry Hill in May 2024. 

Favorite animal: The walleye because it’s a quintessential Minnesota staple that I love to fish for and also love eating. 

Favorite State Park: Charles A. Lindbergh State Park is where my dad would take my brother and me camping multiple times a year. We loved tenting near the river, canoeing up to the dam, and fishing each day. 

Hobbies: I love to cook, but enjoy making bread most of all. I created my own sourdough starter and will regularly bake loaves of sourdough. 

Favorite Travel Destination: Füssen, Germany. One of the most gorgeous, picturesque places in the world. My wife and I visited Germany in 2022 as part of our Europe trip and I would retire there someday if I had my way. 

If I could be any tree, what would I be: I would be a banana tree because that means I have to be in a beautiful, tropical location. 

Jill Danielsen
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  
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

Lori Forstie
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.

Carrie Nelson
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.

Jenna Daire
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!


Brooke Hilger
Brooke Hilger  
Brooke Hilger
always creating!

Naturalist/Animal Care Lead

I was born in Missouri and moved a few times while growing up landing here in Minnesota around 4th grade. Since then I have always considered Minnesota home and have enjoyed getting to know all the plants and animals that reside here. I grew up with a love of the outdoors. My family wasn’t big into camping or traveling, but most of my favorite childhood memories were made in my backyard or local parks. I have 8 pets; two dogs, five cats and one bunny.

I went to school at Luther College and received my Biology and Arts degree in the spring of 2017. Right after school, I became a para in my hometown school in Stewartville. The summer following, I applied for a summer camp position at Quarry Hill and later transitioned to a permanent naturalist position in the fall of 2018. Throughout my time here I have had a few different roles. I have always been a part of our program staff, but initially also helped care for the animals. When the pandemic hit my role here quickly shifted to Digital editor, as we pivoted from in-person learning to online learning. Now that we have students and families back in the nature center, I continue to teach, manage our Instagram account and work on the digital content we produce and I have taken on animal care once again. I have learned so much and continue to learn here at Quarry Hill.

When I was a kid, I enjoyed playing with all the local neighborhood kids outside. It has always been a treat for me to come up with and engage kids in activities centered around nature, such as fort building, critter home creations, or simply biking or rollerblading through the city parks.

Favorite Animal – at least in Minnesota, is the American Toad. These animals are so charismatic and can be found just about anywhere in the summer. I can remember finding them as kids creating spaces for them to thrive in our backyard. They were also the most entertaining for me to watch when I cared for the animals.

Favorite Minnesota State Park: Whitewater, because it is the park I have been to and know the most

Favorite Food: beef sticks. Any day is bound to be a good day if you begin it with a beef stick.

Favorite Quote: In the rising and setting of the sun, you will remember him the rest of your days – Kirk Payne (in a sympathy card I received from the staff after my father’s passing)

Cheryl Newman
Cheryl Newman
Naturally Curious


When I was a kid I spent as much time outside as I could.  Still do today.  The freedom to explore and interact with the natural world has never left me empty handed. I hope to pass along the sense of wonder to my audience and to encourage a life-long pursuit of the outdoors that only a natural setting can give

Climbing trees, catching small critters and exploring natural areas on my banana seat bike was just a part of growing up in Southwestern MN.  My interest in the outdoors continued to grow as I joined the local bird club at age 10 and purchased my first pair of binoculars through cereal box tops! Today I continue my love for the outdoors by teaching others to stop, look around, and experience the natural world around them. Although new to Quarry Hill in 2023, I have been involved in outdoor education and recreation throughout Minnesota. A volunteer position at a Twin Cities nature center prompted a career shift down a path that was a natural fit. I have enjoyed teaching families at Wolf Ridge ELC to managing the adventure classes at Eagle Bluff ELC. Splatter in a few nature centers and the outdoors becomes a perfect backdrop for learning and recreation. Hope to see you on the trail at QH!

Favorite Animal: Timber Wolf - their secretive life, yet powerful contribution to the ecosystem, sets them apart. 

Favorite Minnesota State Park: Banning State Park. This park has a great combination of challenging trails, flowing rivers, and beautiful scenery. It also was my destination on my first solo camping trip.

Hobbies: Kayaking, biking, camping, gardening, and training dogs.

Random Fact:  Attempt to build and sleep in a quinzhee each winter (snow permitting)!

Three items I would never leave on a camping trip without: Knife, cozy sleeping bag, and good coffee!

Cassidy Michels
Cassidy Michels  
Cassidy Michels
Wants to befriend a beaver

I grew up in Menomonie, WI with a fascination for science-based TV shows. I loved science classes and activities and loved to see animals. This was the base for my journey to environmental education!
I graduated from the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire with a major in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. Throughout this time, I led the care of saltwater fish tanks and partook in two undergraduate research projects in plant community ecology and limnology, respectively. My love of ecology blossomed here and I was able to take a naturalist internship which sparked my passion for environmental education. It also had a butterfly house, which heightened my love of butterflies and helped me become the butterfly girl. 
I continued my journey in environmental education at Wolf Ridge ELC in Finland, MN in which I was a graduate naturalist with a mentorship in wildlife care and programming. For the first time, I went on solo hikes and was able to connect with nature on a deep level. This confirmed my love of environmental education and led me here today.
In my free time, you can find me looking for beavers and butterflies or playing/collecting/watching Pokémon!

Favorite Animal: I have such a big heart for animals. Favorites? I love butterflies because they are beautiful and have the power to metamorphize, raptors because I have bonded with several individuals, and beavers because they are fantastic. 

Favorite Minnesota State Park: Tettegouche. It is gorgeous and I saw a peregrine falcon once when I was there. 

Hobbies: swimming, hiking, board games, and Pokémon card collecting

Travis Meyer
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.


Maple Lassila
Maple Lassila
Naturalist/Animal Care
Rob Lager
Rob Lager
Weekend Naturalist
John Roth
John Roth
Weekend Naturalist
Nancy Freese
Nancy Freese

BOARD OF DIRECTORS Click to expand

  • Peggy Edwards, President Education Specialist, Mayo Clinic (Retired)
  • Tracy Will, Vice President Senior Communications Specialist, Mayo Clinic
  • George Penokie, Treasurer Avago Technologies, Sr. Storage Architect (Retired)
  • Ray Goldstein, Secretary PhD Ornithologist; Non-Profit Board Management Consultant (Retired)
  • Jason Dinsmore Director of Conservation Partnerships, National Wildlife Federation, Great Lakes Region
  • Hans Hollander Middle School Teacher, Rochester Public Schools
  • Catharine Richert Jones Correspondent, Minnesota Public Radio
  • Mary McKie Veterinarian, Northern Valley Animal Clinic
  • Keith Morriss Investment Officer, Mayo Clinic
  • Mike Nigbur Park and Forestry Division Head, City of Rochester
  • Mike Olson Elementary School Teacher, Rochester Public Schools
  • Christina Caprice Rieder Finance Director, United Healthcare
  • Jon Turk Captain, Rochester Police Department
  • Mike Willard Human Resource Director, IBM (Retired)

Opening eyes and minds through natural science discovery.





Quarry Hill is a premier environmental learning destination. The Nature Center opened in 1973 as a cooperative effort between the Rochester Park Department and the Rochester Public School District. In September 1990, work was completed on a major addition to the existing nature center, effectively tripling the main floor area and enabling Quarry Hill to meet the increasing needs of both the general public and school. 

Check out a timeline of Quaryy Hills history of events



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