Quarry Hill volunteer is honored with Environmental Achievement Award

February 7, 2019 GMT

Though usually docile, the 6-foot fox snake at Quarry Hill Nature Center can look intimidating. However, when a 6-year-old child holds the snake, it doesn’t look so scary.

When Andrew Pruett volunteers at Quarry Hill Nature Center, he often brings his young son, Theodore, with him. Seeing Theodore handle the snake can help the more squeamish visitors.

“When people see Theodore with a big snake, it’s like, ‘How can I be afraid of it?’” said Jill Danielsen, Quarry Hill volunteer coordinator.

Andrew Pruett was recognized along with other Quarry Hill volunteers for their work at the nature center. Pruett has been contributing his time to the center since he was 12 years old. He checks on the animals, bees, helps remove invasive species or anything else that needs attention. He said that by bringing his son to help volunteer, he’s sharing the experiences that led him to his decades of dedication to the center.

Pruett would ride his bike to the center and press longtime director Greg Munson with offers to help. Small tasks grew to more trust and more responsibilities.

“When you are trusted, you make sure you follow through with a commitment you made,” Pruett said.

Pruett received a 2018 Environmental Achievement Award from the Olmsted County Environmental Commission and Rochester Public Utilities along with Keith Anderson and De Cansler for their monarch butterfly conservation work; Curt Tvedt for his work to promote soil health; Lincoln Elementary School faculty that lead a beekeeping project; the Sierra Student Coalition at UMR for an air quality study; and the Homestead Trails Neighborhood Association for transforming empty land and waste sites into food gardens and native plant gardens.

“I didn’t expect to get any award,” Pruett said. “I came out here because it’s the right thing to do.”

Most of Pruett’s volunteer efforts are directed to the captive animals kept at the nature center. He helps maintain their habitats, helps feed them and works to upkeep the educational beehive. Pruett and Quarry Hill staff consulted experts to design the hive that gives people an insider’s view of bees at work. Pruett didn’t have to go far to find one expert. His wife, JoAnna, was once selected as Wisconsin Honey Queen.

Pruett does an excellent job explaining what he’s doing when he handles, feeds or otherwise cares for the animals.

“He takes the opportunity every time to share something about that animal,” Danielsen said.

In between feeding fish, he turns to feed some of the aquatic turtles, inviting a family at the center to watch.

The turtles were given dead minnows from the stock of live minnows kept to feed the fish.

“The turtles are our cleaning crew,” Pruett said.