Bee Squad Director
Jessica Helgen is the Bee Squad's Program Director and manages the amazing team of Bee Squad beekeepers, educators, artists, and researchers.
Jessica fell in love with beekeeping on a study abroad trip to southern India in college. After graduating, she started working for the UMN Bee Lab in 2006, then returned to India for a Fulbright fellowship to study Asian honey bees (Apis cerana). Jessica continued working for the Bee Lab and became one the first Bee Squad beekeepers. In 2015, Jessica initiated the Mentoring Apiary program, which provides hands-on training to hobby beekeepers. She is most proud of convincing new beekeepers to try glove-less beekeeping!
Education: B.A. in Biology from St. Olaf College, 2006
Outreach Specialist & Researcher
Elise started working for the Bee Squad in 2021. She is the Program Coordinator for the Minnesota Bumble Bee Atlas and assists in conducting bumble bee research. Elise leads pollinator-centric outreach across the Twin Cities, including attending events and giving talks. Elise holds a BS from the University of Minnesota where she studied environmental science, policy, and management with a focus in environmental education and communication, alongside a minor in public health. Outside of work, Elise is an avid rock climber and outdoor enthusiast.
Beekeeper, Equipment Manager and Creative Consultant
Clara Costello started beekeeping as a student in the Bee Squad’s Mentoring Apiary Program. She discovered she had a talent, and joined the Bee Squad team in 2014. Clara holds a B.A. in German and Theatre Arts, with a minor in Biology, from the University of Minnesota, Morris. Besides beekeeping, she remains an active part of the Twin Cities’ theatre community.
Bee Squad Specialist
Judy Griesedieck is a professional photographer, has worked at three newspapers around the country, including the Star Tribune, and is now a freelance photographer. In spring and summer of 2014, Judy followed the Bee Squad, taking photos and video as they worked their magic on the rooftops around the Twin Cities. Her project was published by Minnesota Public radio. Judy says that the closer she got to the bees, the more she learned and the more intrigued she became. This year Judy is excited to be a part of the Bee Squad, with a chance to do some hands-on work, as well as take photos and video in any way that will help get the word out about the magic of honeybees and the vital role they play in our lives.
Bee Veterans Mentor and Farmer
Keith Johnson, originally from northern Minnesota, comes to the Bee Squad with 25 years of farming experience and four years of military service. Keith became interested in hobby beekeeping through his work with pollinator habitat restoration, and he connected with the Bee Squad through the Bee Squad’s Mentoring Apiary Program. Keith studied horticulture at Anoka Technical College.
Dr. Katie Lee
Extension Educator and Researcher
I am the Apiculture Extension Educator, a Bee Squad team member, and a post-doctoral researcher on the Minnesota Agriculture for Pollinators Project led by Dr. Dan Cariveau. My work focuses on the parasitic mite Varroa destructor, metrics that indicate queen bee and colony health, and the benefits of pollinator plantings on bee health. I developed a parasitic mite sampling protocol that is now a nationwide standard. For the Bee Informed Partnership, I founded two extension teams that provide colony assessment services for commercial beekeepers. I serve on the boards of the Minnesota Hobby Beekeepers Association and the American Beekeeping Federation and co-chair the education and research committees.
Education: PhD, Entomology, 2018, U of MN, Advisor: Marla Spivak M.S. Entomology, 2009, U of MN, Advisor: Marla Spivak B.S. Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, 2005, U of MN
Bee Squad Program Adviser
Rebecca Masterman first worked for the UMN Bee Lab as an undergraduate in 1992, and returned in 2012 as the Bee Squad’s Associate Program Director and Coordinator. Becky graduated from UMN Twin Cities with a BA (major in history, minor in biology) and then obtained a Ph.D. in Entomology studying the neuroethology of honey bee hygienic behavior under the direction of Dr. Marla Spivak.
Bee Squad Program Adviser
Bridget Mendel is the former Bee Squad Program Director. She is currently the Communications Director for the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory. She loves working with bees, beekeepers, and the public to make the world a more habitable place for all people and all pollinators.
Education: Bridget holds a B.A. from Northwestern University and an M.F.A. from the University of Minnesota.
Pronouns: she/ hers
Beneficial Insect and Environmental Ecosystem Specialist
Jessica Miller earned her MS in Entomology at the University of Minnesota and enjoys her work with insects. She is very involved in stormwater management as a Master Water Steward and loves how interested people are in clean water and learning more about insects. Pollinators are a focus of interest to Jessica because of their close ties to plant health and water infiltration. Her strength in communications allows great spreading of insect knowledge and implementation of best management practices.
Beekeeper and Bee Veterans Mentor
Josh Muñoz transitioned out of the Marine Corps in 2014. He graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelors in Agriculture Communications & Marketing and a Masters in Agriculture Education. He now works as an Agricultural Teacher at Como Park Senior High School. Josh has been working with the Bee Squad since 2018.
Brooke Nikkila manages bees and serves as the Program Manager for the Bee Squad and their Pollinator Ambassadors Program. She also gives pollinator talks to groups throughout the Twin Cities. Brooke first discovered her interest in bees while doing research at the University of Wisconsin-Stout where she completed her undergraduate degree in Applied Science with a concentration in Biotechnology and has been a Bee Squadder since she finished her internship in 2015.
Education: B.S in Applied Science
Highlights: Published in July 2020 Insects article "Social fever or general immune response? Revisiting an example of social immunity in honey bees". Authors: Michael Goblirsch *, Jenny F Warner, Brooke A Sommerfeldt, Marla Spivak * Acknowledged in PLOS ONE article "Do honey bee (Apis mellifera) foragers recruit their nestmates to native forbs in reconstructed prairie habitats?" Carr-Markell MK, Demler CM, Couvillon MJ, Schürch R, Spivak M (2020) Acknowledged in PLOS ONE article “Sepsis and Hemocyte Loss in Honey Bees (Apis mellifera) Infected with Serratia marcescens Strain Sicaria.” Burritt, Nancy L et al. (2016)
Bee Squad Specialist, Rochester Bee Squad Mentor
Chris is a biologist by training, with several peer-reviewed genetics papers published in scientific journals. He works is a certified Master Naturalist, sits on the Olmsted County Parks commission, and is a past president of the SE Minnesota Beekeepers Association. Several years ago he restored a portion of his home property to native prairie, and shortly after that began keeping bees. He currently manages honey bees on his rural Rochester, MN property plus on other sites in the region.
Director of Visual Communications
Anne Turnham designs and creates graphic and digital communications and educational materials for the Bee Lab. She loves collaborating with scientists, beekeepers and pollinator educators to create new content for diverse audiences. A long-time beekeeper, Anne joined the Bee Squad in 2015. She graduated with a B.A. in Biology with an emphasis in Ecology and Environmental Science, along with a minor in Chemistry from Minnesota State University, Mankato.
Beekeeper and Team Leader
Jenny Warner has been a valued member of the UMN Bee Lab since 1997 and is a founding member of the UMN Bee Squad. She graduated with a B.S. in Horticultural Food Production and a minor in Soil Science from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.
Ben Ziegler gained an interest in aiding pollinators through years of gardening and habitat restoration. He transitioned out of the USAF in 2012, and currently aids the Spivak Honey Bee Lab, the Bee Squad, and Bee Veterans program in research and bee/plant maintenance. He spends his free time tinkering with trap crops, grafting stone fruit trees, and honing his caveman-medic skills.
Education: B.S. in Plant Science and minors in Entomology, Urban and Community Forestry, and Horticulture from the University of Minnesota, 2021; A.A. in Computer Animation from Art Institute of Minnesota,1999.
Bee Squad Pollinator and Climate Justice Coordinator
My name is Stephen Tolentino. I am a freshman at the University of Minnesota aiming to major in Product Design and/or Kinesiology. My responsibilities include my position in the Bee Squad as a Pollinator and Climate Justice Coordinator, as well as a Bike Builder at Freewheel Bike Shop. My interests include mountain biking, skiing, and environmentalism. I'm very excited to be working with all of the cool people at the bee lab!
Undergraduate @ University of Minnesota
2020 Varsity Track Captain at Woodbury High School, awardee of the 2018 Coach Moore Award, Academic Honor awardee at Woodbury High School.
My name is Jayden Peterson and I’m a junior at the University of Minnesota. I’m currently pursuing a B.S. in Conservation Biology with a GIS and ESPM minor. I recently began working with the Bee Squad to create a more accessible space surrounding policies and pollinators. I have two yorkies that love to go on hikes and other adventures with me all year round. In the summer I love to go hammocking in the park or on a last minute road trip. I am very excited to work with the Bee Lab and contribute to their amazing work!
Pronouns: she/ hers