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.

Jenna Daire
Jenna Daire
Can't live without eggs and hot sauce!

I was born in Minnesota, but consider Montana home. 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. I love to be active in the outdoors and hope to pass on that passion to my three daughters. My husband, Lael, and I hope to pass on that passion to our three daughters. We love to hike together, learn the history and native plants/animals of an area, geocache, and earn Jr. Ranger badges. We are doing our best to fill in as many National Parks on our map as possible.

I joined the Quarry Hill staff in 2000 and have filled many roles in my time here. I especially enjoy teaching young children and being 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, they are massively beautiful, and their scientific name is Bison Bison.

Favorite MN State Park: Blue Mound State Park - they have Bison!

Hobbies: Volunteering in the community and canning fruits and veggies. There is nothing like opening a jar of peaches in the middle of winter and tasting summer!


Kirk Payne
Kirk Payne
Fought city hall to make backyard chickens legal in Rochester.

Licensed Science Teacher and Naturalist
I am the son of two music educators and grew up playing outside in the mountains of Utah, the woods of Wisconsin, the Loess Hills of Western Iowa and on my grandparent’s farm in Nebraska. My early days outdoors shaped my love of nature and probably my education and career paths. I attended both Iowa State University and the University of Iowa earning a BS in biology and an MA in Science Education. I joined the staff of the Rochester Public Schools in 1989 as a science teacher/naturalist and have worked at both John Marshall High School and Quarry Hill. I enjoy all of nature, but am especially drawn to the prairie ecosystem and to birds. My greatest joy comes from sharing the learning experience with others. Quarry Hill is a great setting for continued discovery. 

I spend my days at Quarry Hill teaching science classes for students and sharing naturalist programs with the general public. I am a licensed and active falconer and help care for Quarry Hill's resident raptors.

Favorite Animal: Early on, I felt a strong connection to the birds of prey. The Red-tailed hawk and American Kestrel falcon are among my favorite animals. I also think that chickens are pretty cool.

Favorite Minnesota State Park: Whitewater State Park, because of its beautiful combination of forest, prairie, bluff lands and water, plus many memories of being there with friends, family and students.

Favorite Food: Pho Chau's Spring Rolls
Favorite Music: Bach, Dan Fogelberg and The Wailin' Jennys

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. I'ts 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.

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.

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 Education and Communication 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 at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center in Austin, MN. Of all of these positions, those that involved an environmental education component have been the most rewarding. 

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.


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, Minn. I've been coast to coast and still feel Quarry Hill stands alone 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.

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 right here in Rochester, even attending classes at Quarry Hill as a youngster. After graduating from St. Cloud State University with a B.S. degree in Biology, I taught for seven years at informal outdoor and environmental education facilities across the country. During this time I also obtained a Master's Certificate in Environmental and Outdoor Education from the University of Minnesota- Duluth. At Quarry Hill, I assist with classes, programs, camps, and care for the animals. In my spare time I enjoy working on my house, picking things from the garden, attending the many activities to do in Rochester, and shoveling snow.

Favorite Animal: Any animal that sleeps a lot or hibernates, because with two preschool children in the house, I don't sleep enough!

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

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