Today: Emma Schultz, community forest project specialist with the Department of Natural Resources.


I just finished “The Secret Commonwealth,” the second book in The Book of Dust trilogy by Philip Pullman. I’ve been eagerly awaiting this continuation of Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy (well-known for the first book, “The Golden Compass”) since 2000. Pullman’s fantasy world, so similar to our own and yet different, has fascinated me since childhood. My little girl and I read a lot of books about equipment and machinery. Some of her recent favorites are classics from Virginia Lee Burton that I also hold dear to my heart (thanks, Mom!): “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel,” “Choo Choo,” and “Katy and the Big Snow.”


The Cairn Project is an organization dedicated to expanding outdoor access to girls and young women by supporting community-based wilderness and outdoor education groups. Ambassadors support the organization through a Get Out, Give Back model, turning adventures into fundraisers that in turn allow The Cairn Project to make grants to local partners. To date, $150,000 in grants have been made, and online I have followed along on bikepacking adventures to Baja Sur and the Maah Daah Hey Trail, pack-rafting in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and thru-hikes of The Pacific Crest Trail.


One of my favorite things in winter is the ice that forms on the Mississippi River. It’s in a constant state of flux this year. I used to live deep in the northern Maine woods several hours off the paved road, and I would photograph the ice forming on the Umsaskis Lake portion of the Allagash River every time I passed by.

To continue with the ice theme, I recently went ice fishing with my dad to two of the designated trout lakes in the metro. My angling prowess on Cenaiko Lake was sluggish at best, so I spent some time in our portable shack laying on the ice, watching fish swim below. A large school of fat rainbow trout swam past, no more than 2 feet from my face, toying with my line before deciding it wasn’t worth it. Seeing such beautiful fish that close, unaware of my presence, was just as fun as it would have been to bring one in.

Once the ice thaws, I’ll spring into action on emerald ash borer. I also enjoy nature’s freezer because it slows the survival and spread of this invasive forest insect — just not completely. Since its discovery in Minnesota in 2009, the ash borer has spread to 21 counties. There are management challenges. I am working to facilitate grants to communities statewide to help.


I’m a sucker for ’90s feel-good pop music because we all need more happy, right? I started listening to the self-titled Savage Garden album from 1997 while I solo hiked the Colorado Trail this past August, and it’s been playing since.


I volunteer with Little Bellas, a mountain bike organization for girls and young women, to help them realize their potential through cycling. This summer, I will be working with their Twin Cities Ride Program. Geared for ages 12-16, the program focuses on building confidence and self-esteem while enhancing skills on the bike — and prioritizing fun. Whatever I can do to help more youth get outside and develop connections to the natural world — that is success in my book.