frog half submerged in water
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Sue M GalatowitschSpring is the season when prospective students make their college choices, and we are busy with recruiting events.  At these events we highlight why the University is a wonderful place to pursue a degree in fisheries, wildlife and conservation. One of these highlights is the value of being within a comprehensive, land-grant university (although that’s not how we describe it to our audiences of 18 year-olds!). Among FWCB’s important partners within the University is the College of Veterinary Medicine. A great product of this partnership is the successful Wildlife Care and Handling (WCH) undergraduate minor, which we jointly created a couple of years ago.

Many undergraduates choosing to study fisheries and wildlife are drawn to the field because of interests in wildlife rescue, rehabilitation, zoos and aquaria.  For students to pursue those interests competently, we needed to create a program that blended wildlife biology and veterinary science. We also wanted the minor to complement our major offerings in fisheries and wildlife, which aim to build skills and knowledge for managing populations and habitats. Fortunately, faculty from the University’s Raptor Center were enthusiastic to work with us on this effort. The result is a 15-credit program consisting of a foundations course in managing captive wildlife, a wildlife care and handling externship, and electives in wildlife or fisheries biology.  Already 67 students have enrolled in the minor and 18 have completed it.

Julia Ponder and Michelle Willette of the Raptor Center co-teach the managed captive wildlife course, which includes many guest presentations. For example, one session is led by a falconer whose birds do abatement (i.e., keep other birds away) at airports, wineries, farms, and poultry operations. Using insights from practitioners, students create a fictional wildlife care facility. Jim Perry from our department leads the externship class and coordinates the WCH minor. The first group of students spent externships at local zoos (Minnesota Zoo, Como Zoo), the Raptor Center, even distant facilities (e.g., Cosely Zoo in Illinois and the Beijing Raptor Rescue Center). 

Building this professional capacity addresses an important need - both regionally and globally. Over the past few decades, wildlife rehabilitation has become an increasingly essential part of conserving some species, such as those with populations chronically impacted by industrial accidents or poaching. Likewise, recovery of endangered species often requires captive breeding to repopulate habitats after threats have been addressed.  A commitment to wild species conservation is often kindled by childhood visits to zoos or aquaria - facilities that are increasingly sophisticated in order to achieve the best possible level of animal welfare. Thanks to this partnership between FWCB and the Vet School, our Minnesota WCH students are positioned to play an important role in species conservation.

I hope you enjoy learning about this and many other exciting things happening in FWCB through this newsletter. Be sure to forward it to any aspiring students you know who are wondering where they can get a great start to their conservation careers!

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The Fall 2019 Kolshorn Lecture will be held Thursday, September 12 at the Bell Museum. This year’s lecture will be given by Dr. Heather Leslie, Director of the University of Maine’s Darling Marine Center. Dr. Leslie is an international leader in marine conservation science who conducts research on the ecology, policy, and management of coastal marine ecosystems.

The Vadnais Lake Area Water Management Organization (VLAWMO) began using remote cameras to study wildlife in the wetlands and waterways during fall 2018, using cameras on loan from the FWCB. VLAWMO’s initiative, led by Adjunct Assistant Professor Dawn Tanner, is using remote-camera data to better understand mammals in these habitats, identify species that may need additional research and conservation efforts and to provide a baseline for restoration. The best photos collected so far will be on display at the Ramsey County Library – White Bear Lake from March through May. The photo exhibit will culminate with a story time and singalong in celebration of World Otter Day from 10:30 to 11 a.m. May 24.

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Angelique Dahlberg (PhD student, Conservation Sciences) was selected for the 2019 Great Lakes Regional Network Environmental Leadership Program. The program's mission is to support visionary, action-oriented, and diverse leadership for a just and sustainable future, and the program works to build a diverse community of emerging leaders and create programs to support their development. She is part of a cohort of 18 people from throughout the Great Lakes region. Angelique was also selected as one of four University of Minnesota representatives for the 2019 AAAS CASE Workshop. The workshop introduces STEM students to policy-making. The workshop was held in Washington, D.C. and culminated with congressional visits.

Annie Bracey (PhD candidate, Conservation Sciences) won the best graduate student poster award at The Wildlife Society meeting in Duluth for her research, Non-breeding distribution and migratory routes of declining inland North American Common Terns.  She is co-advised by Gerald Niemi (UMD-Biology) and Francie Cuthbert (FWCB).

This semester, Meghan Stirling (FWCB undergraduate), is on a National Student Exchange at the University of Southeast Alaska in Sitka, participating in their Dive Semester Program. In addition to coursework, Megan is involved in a research project on whales.  

Logan Neu (FWCB Undergraduate) will intern with the USGS this summer at the Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center out of its headquarters in Reston, Virginia. He will be part of a research team projecting the effects of climate change on global fisheries harvests. Logan will be helping with a systematic literature review, compiling and standardizing data, and modeling fisheries harvest under different climate scenarios.

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Adjunct Assistant Professor Sushma Reddy is part of a collaborative group that was recently awarded a Field Museum Polar Studies Award for a project entitled “Life on the edge: evolution and adaptation of penguins in the Southern Ocean.” Their group will begin to survey penguin populations on western subantarctic islands in winter, 2020. 

FWCB had two honorees for this year’s Borealis Night of Excellence. This event recognizes alumni, students, staff, faculty, and friends who have made significant contributions to students, the college, their professions, or society.  Susan Galatowitsch, Professor and Head, and Mark Hove, Research Staff, received awards for outstanding faculty member and outstanding club advisor, respectively.

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Paul Phifer (PhD '98, Conservation Biology) is currently on an Ian Axford Fellowship in New Zealand.  Working with the New Zealand Department of Conservation, Paul is assisting with their efforts to develop a climate change adaptation plan in preparation for a most likely forthcoming national zero carbon bill.  When not in New Zealand, Paul has been working as an assistant regional manager for the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Hadley, MA managing field offices across the eastern seaboard. 

Tom Landwehr (BS ‘81, Wildlife), former Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) was recently appointed as the Executive Director for the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. The Campaign, led by Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness, advocates to protect the clean water, clean air and forest landscape of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and its watershed.

William (Bill) Ardren (PhD ’99, Fisheries) received the prestigious National Science Award from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for his work to restore Atlantic salmon in the Lake Champlain Basin. Read more about Bill’s work and award.

Sarina Haasken (BS ’18, Wildlife) has been conducting winter fisher surveys on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests as a technician with Idaho Fish and Game. Fishers are considered a Species of Conservation Concern in both Idaho and Montana, which makes it important for biologists to understand local population sizes. Fisher monitoring on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests has been taking place since 2004.

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Thanks to the generosity of FWCB alumni and friends, we will be awarding over $15,000 in scholarships this year to students attending summer field sessions, study abroad field courses and other special skill-building opportunities. We are also happy to report that we have now raised enough funds to order a new electrofishing boat to replace one that is way past its prime. FWCB will partner with MAISRC on purchasing this new boat, which will be used for research and teaching. Watch for photos in an upcoming newsletter!

As you can see, FWCB depends on your generosity to offer the best educational opportunities possible for our students and to support much-needed research.  To contribute to FWCB, please contact Sue Galatowitsch (612-624-3242),, FWCB Head, or Adam Nance, Chief Development Officer (612-624-7489).  More information about making gifts to the department can be found on the FWCB website.

Thanks to everyone who supports FWCB with contributions that provide scholarships, fellowships, field gear, and visiting lectures. Your gifts truly make a difference!  

black and white trail camera photo of a coyote

Coyote on remote camera (VLAWMO)

four students in front of a plaque for committee on science, space and technology

Angelique Dahlberg (second from left)

smiling woman holding a small bird

Annie Bracey

person underwater in full diving gear

Megan Stirling

man stands in front of a Minnesota map

Tom Landwehr

man standing in water with snow in background

Bill Ardren

woman conducting research on a tree

Sarina Haasken

students in waders with nets standing in moving body of water

May 2018 field session