Meet the Bee Squad

Bridget Mendel Lee

UMN Bee Squad Program Director

Bridget takes care of bees, teaches classes for beekeepers and the public, and manages interdisciplinary, pollinator-focused programs including Bee Arts and the HMR Pollinator Project. She also writes grants and communications for Bee Squad's programs and research projects. Outside of Bee Squad, she teaches creative writing to college students. Her own work has appeared in DUSIE, Noo Journal, Beekeeper’s Quarterly, and Nous Zot Press. She is the recipient of a Minnesota Emerging Writers Grant, and holds a BA from Northwestern University and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Minnesota.

Current Staff

Clara Costello
Clara Costello

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.

Judy Griesedieck
Staff Photo

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.

Ana Heck
Ana Heck

Beekeeper, Program Manager

Ana Heck learned how to keep bees in Nicaragua while apprenticing on an organic farm and working with a women's beekeeping cooperative. She joined the University of Minnesota Bee Squad in 2014, where she enjoys working with bees, beekeepers, and the public. Heck manages apiaries, provides hands-on and classroom training to beekeepers, and is involved in managing Bee Squad outreach and Extension programs. She holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Minnesota and a B.A. in Philosophy and Spanish from Creighton University.

Jessica Helgen
Jessica Helgen

Team Leader and Mentoring Apiary Coordinator

Jessica Helgen is a founding member of the Bee Squad, and she loves meeting beekeepers from Minnesota and around the world! She fell in love with beekeeping on a study abroad trip to southern India in college. After graduating from St. Olaf College in 2006 with a B.A. in Biology, she started working for the UMN Bee Lab, then returned to India for a Fulbright fellowship to study Asian honey bees (Apis cerana). In 2013 she traveled to Yunnan, China to teach beekeeping to farmers. Jessica currently coordinate 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!

Keith Johnson
Keith Johnson

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.

Rebecca Masterman
becky masterman

UMN 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.

Jessica Miller
Jessica Miller

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.  

Chris Schad
Chris Schad picture

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.

Brooke Sommerfeldt
Brooke Sommerfeldt Photo

Bee Research Technician and Outreach Coordinator

Brooke Sommerfeldt manages bees and serves as the Program Coordinator for Bee Squad's 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. 

Julie Tomáška
Julie Tomaska

Bee Veterans Leader

Julie Tomáška joined the Bee Squad in 2015 and works with the Bee Veterans program, which offers beekeeping opportunities to Veterans.  Julie is a current Air National Guard Member with 17 years of experience as well as an Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) Veteran. She has extensive experience in military reintegration research and is currently a Research Associate with the Minnesota Veterans Medical Research & Education Foundation, within the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis. Julie earned her Ph.D. in Public Health (BSW/MSPH) and specializes in clinical research.

Anne Turnham
Staff Photo

Bee Squad Specialist, Beekeeping and Communications

Anne Turnham joined the Bee Squad in 2015.  She is a beekeeper and founder of a graphic design business that helps beekeepers around the world market their products.  She works on various community and educational outreach projects to promote the importance of honey bees and other pollinators.   Anne 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.

Jenny Warner

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.

To get in touch with the Bee Squad, fill out our contact form or email