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Lake Country Faces: East Coast native begins work with National Loon Center in Crosslake

Natasha Bartolotta began working as the National Loon Center's communications and outreach coordinator on Nov. 1.

The National Loon Center in Crosslake is still a long way from being complete, but steps have been taken, including the hiring of a few staff members.

Among them is Communications and Outreach Coordinator Natasha Bartolotta, who joined the center Nov. 1 after living in several places across the country in recent years.

“I drove here the weekend of Halloween, all the way from Pennsylvania,” Bartolotta said, “And I started working at the loon center that Monday.”

Bartolotta grew up in New York and Connecticut, and has moved about recently, living in Pennsylvania and Louisiana while working a handful of seasonal and temporary research-based jobs.

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" We went kayaking and I saw some loons on the lake, and it reminded me of the job boards I had been scouring, where there was a job with the National Loon Center … I had to go back and look up where in the world Crosslake was, but seeing it was only 25 or 30 minutes away (from Brainerd) was the push I needed to apply."

— Natasha Bartolotta.


Her passion and previous work in the science world eventually led her to her role at the National Loon Center, though it was not a path she expected to take at all.

“I originally wanted to be a primatologist,” she said. “Through a series of events, I realized I no longer wanted to be a primatologist. I had done field research on great apes and I really enjoyed the research part, but I just realized I wanted to work on conservation issues closer to home.”

She described the situation that led to her hiring at the loon center as “fate.”

“In July, I came to visit a friend of mine in Brainerd - also from Connecticut,” Bartolotta said. “We went kayaking and I saw some loons on the lake, and it reminded me of the job boards I had been scouring, where there was a job with the National Loon Center … I had to go back and look up where in the world Crosslake was, but seeing it was only 25 or 30 minutes away (from Brainerd) was the push I needed to apply.”

The decision to move to the area was made much more easily thanks to the outdoor opportunities the area can provide for Bartolotta, a lifelong lake-goer and outdoors person.

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“I have always been a kayaker, so I really love that there are all these lakes here,” she said. “I was a little nervous about the winters here. I’m from the northeast, but I have been spending a lot of time in warmer places, so I’ve become a little spoiled weather-wise … But I’ll dress in layers, and I’m excited for all the outdoor sports I can do. I really want to try snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.”


" I really like how passionate everyone is about it,” Bartolotta said. “I really wasn't sure how the general public felt about loons, but just from talking to people and to the board of directors, I would say everyone loves loons. That makes the job a lot easier."

— Natasha Bartolotta.


Her time with the loon center began one month ago, even though the facility is not set to be completed until 2024. Until then, Bartolotta - along with Executive Director Jon Mobeck and Program Operations Associate Mike Pluimer - will focus on outreach and making the public aware of the center’s efforts, along with plenty of fundraising.

“The main vision is to build a 1,500-square-foot, world-class, educational, interactive destination for people across the nation,” Bartolotta said. “We are based in Minnesota and we have a lot of Minnesota pride, but we do want to also attract a lot of people across the nation to draw attention to these conservation issues.

“Right now, there’s only three of us (on staff), but we are already getting so much done together and we are working really well.”

In the process of raising community awareness, Bartolotta looks forward to getting to meet more of the residents of Crosslake and the surrounding area. She has been pleasantly surprised by the amount of support the loon center seems to have from those she has met thus far.

“I really like how passionate everyone is about it,” Bartolotta said. “I really wasn't sure how the general public felt about loons, but just from talking to people and to the board of directors, I would say everyone loves loons. That makes the job a lot easier.”

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" I originally wanted to be a primatologist. Through a series of events, I realized I no longer wanted to be a primatologist. I had done field research on great apes and I really enjoyed the research part, but I just realized I wanted to work on conservation issues closer to home."

— Natasha Bartolotta .


Mostly though, after a number of seasonal positions, she is looking forward to making the Brainerd lakes area a more permanent home, and the loon center a more permanent career.

“I'm really looking forward to being here and setting down roots here and being able to be a part of something long-term and watching it grow,” she said. “This is a really unique opportunity.”

Dan Determan may be reached at 218-855-5879 or dan.determan@pineandlakes.com. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Dan.

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