2020 Community Connections Profile - Life's ups and downs have made Nicole Bernd the person she is

Mike Christopherson
Nicole Bernd

First off, could you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your family, education, background/previous stops, career, etc.?

    Married to my husband Chris for 23 years.  We met while attending UMC both enrolled in the Natural Resource Management Program.  Once we both graduated, we were married and agreed to wait for kids and spend the next upcoming years traveling, camping, fishing and hunting at our own convenience. In 2002, we were blessed with Sawyer’s arrival, now graduating this year and in 2005, blessed with Kristine’s arrival, now in 8th grade.

    As mentioned, I attend UMC but prior attended Brainerd Technical College (Central Lake College) and was the first student in the Natural Resource Program there to transfer to the Natural Resource Program at UMC.  All credits were transferred!

    While attending Central Lakes college, I was hired by the MN Conservation Corp and worked at the MN Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division in Fergus Falls for a season.  My tasks were mowing WMA (Wildlife Management Areas) for weeds, obtained my Commercial Pesticide Applicators license to spray leafy spurge, stream survey by electrofishing, carnivore scent station surveys and much more.  My most memorable task was partaking in an avian botulism outbreak clean up in southern MN due to flooding.  Means of transportation was an airboat and tasks were to pick up deceased fowl with a pitchfork.

    Once settled in Crookston, I inquired for summer work at the Natural Resource Conservation Service field office, USDA Service Center here in Crookston.  I was hired as a WAE (When Actually Employed, (students)) employee.  Tasks were field boundary changes on aerial photos, assisting with surveying of field ditches, organizing customer files, etc.  During this time, I was fortunate to assist the West Polk Soil and Water Conservation District as both agencies were co-mingled and remain the same to this day.  I helped with tree planting, filing, surveying anything that would keep me busy and take the smaller jobs off the hands of those with bigger tasks.  I was thankful to have a job.

What’s a typical day at work like for you? Do you have typical days, or is every day different?

    Each day is different. I can start the day by talking to customers about trees, buffers, helping with Envirothon and end it by applying for a water quality project grant.  

Do you often find yourself trying to maintain a delicate balance between being a steward and a protector of the natural world and also being flexible and understanding when working with those who need to use the land and its resources in order to be successful and benefit their communities?

    I do.  I am able to maintain this balance with the knowledge, expertise and credentials but more importantly through empathy, gained trust and honesty.

How often does the changing climate come up in the course of your work? Any thoughts on what needs to be done, and when, to potentially stem the tide?

    Climate change is occurring more often in conversations of MN SWCD’s and also at conferences and workshops.  Lately and locally the conversations are minimal as the effect of last fall and this coming spring are heavy on the minds.  I believe realizing and acknowledging this matter is the first step before any direct education and outreach be conducted. It’s evitable this issue/concern will find its place at the center of attention through proper procedure but for right now, it’s a delicate effort.  

We’re coming off one of the worst farm harvests anyone can remember. Do you see more extreme weather becoming the norm in the coming years, and how do you see that impacting the northern prairie?

    I understand that everything in life there is ebb and flow so nothing is really normal in that context.  I am familiar with knowing these changes in our climate is nothing new as nature never remains static and is in a permanent state of flux.  For us locally here in the prairie, Lake Agassiz glacial lake plain, I see water quality/quantity, storage, retention, and control will be continuously on the rise of concern and not just the surface water but just as importantly, our groundwater.

When you’re out and about in nature and doing your work, what puts a smile on your face?

    When I see field and farmstead windbreaks I planted as a technician and the stories that go along with each planting.  I met some amazing people.

You won a pretty significant award recently, presented to you by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources. Can you expand on what the award is all about and explain what it meant to you to receive it?

    Each year, the Board of Water and Soil Resources recognizes and celebrates the excellent work accomplished by local government staff members who advance conservation efforts throughout the state.

    This award for me recognized an employee of a Soil and Water Conservation District that has gone above and beyond to do their due diligence assisting the local public, stakeholders/taxpayers, creating partnerships and collaborating efforts in managing our natural resources through means that will benefit both human and nature.  

Do you have any skills and/or hobbies that are particularly quirky or unusual that might surprise people to know about?

    Play trombone and pretty good at backing up trailers (hay racks not included).

Let’s try a you’re-stranded-on-a-deserted-island question: You have an amazing home theater and audio system and somehow have all of the electrical power you could ever need. But you can only play three songs and watch three movies. Which three songs and which three movies do you pick?


    • “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaun

    • “Ride On” – AC/DC

    • “Nothing Else Matters” - Metallica


    • Pacific Rim

    • Godzilla        

    • The Dark Crystal

I’m not asking you to list your heroes, since that term is a bit too casually tossed around these days, but could you list three people you look up to and/or admire, and explain why?

    1 - Sir David Attenborough for his ability to interpret the natural world and our relationship to it.

    I don’t have anymore.  I’ve had to learn what life hands me on my own, good and bad and that’s ok.  In fact, I believe it’s made me who I am today and will continue to do so.

Please describe yourself using no more than 10 words.

    Strong, gracious, inquisitive, collaborator, shy, organizer, naturalist, teacher, caretaker and intuitive.