Dear FWCB Alumni, Friends, Students and Staff--
Many of the approaches researchers use to study wildlife and fish have been developed over decades and are “tools of the trade”: mark-and-recapture population studies, breeding bird surveys of various sorts, telemetry, and vegetation plot sampling. Until recently, researchers approached their work by using self-reliant data collection, followed by consultation during analysis, and communication to peers and sponsors after the study concluded. As you can see from any issue of our newsletter, this traditional research mode is undergoing a rapid transformation. Let’s take a closer look at the highlights of graduate student research in this newsletter to get a sense of this change.
Graduate students today are thinking about ways to solve bigger problems by getting the public involved in data collection. This has to be approached with some care (typically training and detailed guidance) but the data gathered can be sound and is impossible to collect otherwise. In the newsletter announcements, you will find two “calls” to be part of research projects – Ellen Candler’s “Offal Wildlife Watching” study and Isaiah Tolo’s fish biocontrol research. These projects are designed to rely on a distributed network of data collectors who are seeking new ways to go beyond their traditional outdoor hobbies and get involved in research to advance things they care about. Ellen’s project is a great example of involving people in various ways—some in the field who will contribute image records of gut pile use and others who will help analyze these images. This second group will be part of a collective citizen science initiative called Zooniverse.
Another transformation concerns communicating research findings. Meg McEachran shared her research findings about zebra mussels in a webinar that reached more than one hundred people who didn’t need to come to campus or attend a conference. Webinars no longer require elaborate production facilities or depend on specialists who have mastered the quirks of unreliable computer apps to allow for audience Q & A. If you have a decent microphone and computer and a way to let people know you are giving a presentation, you can share what you are learning far and wide.
For another terrific example of how graduate students are communicating their work, be sure to listen to Ami Thompson’s podcast on her dragonfly research. You are sure to be drawn into the story of her research and learn a lot about dragonflies, too. Her podcast episode is part of a delightful and professionally produced series created by naturalists at the Three Rivers Park District.
These are just a few example of the rapidly evolving world of natural resource research. Our graduate students are innovating ways to connect their work more fully to society—with benefits to both research and the public.
The Fall 2019 Kolshorn Lecture will be held Thursday, September 12 at 5 PM at the Bell Museum. This year’s lecture, “Creating resilient coastal communities and ecosystems: Connecting marine conservation science and practice,” will be given by Dr. Heather Leslie, Director of the University of Maine’s Darling Marine Center. Dr. Leslie will share stories of her research in the US and Mexico, where she has led interdisciplinary research and education programs in collaboration with colleagues at academic, government, and non-government organizations for the last 20 years. Dr. Leslie is an internationally known marine conservation scientist at the University of Maine and Director of UMaine’s Darling Marine Center. She studies the human and environmental dimensions of small-scale fisheries and other aspects of human-nature interactions in coastal communities and works with her students and colleagues to connect this science to policy and management from the local to the national level.
Dr. Leslie will also give a research lecture on Friday, September 13 at Noon in 33 McNeal Hall. In her research lecture, “The emerging science of coupled social-ecological systems,” Dr. Leslie will expand on the scientific findings and approaches she introduced in the Kolshorn lecture. She will explain how she has adapted the social-ecological systems framework developed by Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom, and applied it to varied social and ecological contexts in coastal communities in the US and Mexico. This has led to expanded understanding of coupled systems dynamics and contributed knowledge to help inform marine management and policy.
FWCB graduate student researcher Ellen Candler is studying scavengers at offal sites and is seeking volunteers for "Offal Wildlife Watching." Ellen and her volunteers are working with deer hunters to better understand the scavenger species that visit hunter-provided gut piles around the state. Last year more than 120 hunters participated and thousands of images were contributed. They would like to recruit more participants and cover more of the state this year. If anyone would like to participate or knows of anyone who would like to participate, sign up here using the SignUpGenius page.
The Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center is recruiting people to help with research on common carp. Graduate student researcher Isaiah Tolo is studying the potential for a biocontrol agent for common carp and seeking volunteers to assist in lab and fieldwork. Watch an introduction to the project. More details are on the MAISRC website.
Registration is now open for the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research and Management Showcase! Join researchers on Wednesday, September 18 for a day full of informative talks, hands-on demos, lab tours, a poster session happy hour, and more! This is a great opportunity to hear from MAISRC researchers and network with others interested in aquatic invasive species. Space is limited and registration is required. Hope to see you there!
Mentor an FWCB Student! Professional networking is important for preparing future conservation leaders. Our CFANS Mentor Program connects students with mentors who provide them with career exploration, professional skill development and networking opportunities. Each year about 20 FWCB undergraduate and graduate students are matched with alumni and professionals. It is rewarding for all and does not require much time! Register now to be mentor for the 2019 academic year. If you have any questions about mentoring a FWCB student, contact Sue Galatowitsch (firstname.lastname@example.org, 612-624-3242). Please sign up by September 23.
FWCB is accepting nominations for both the Distinguished Alumni Award and the Early Career Alumni Award. The deadline for online submissions is November 15, 2019. All are welcome to nominate an individual for these awards and individuals can self-nominate.
Award winners will be recognized at a spring FWCB Awards luncheon which will be part of our research showcase held in April.
- The Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes an alumnus/alumna who has attained distinction as a professional in fisheries, wildlife, conservation biology or a related field, and has demonstrated outstanding achievement and/or leadership on a community, state, national, or international level. The candidate's education in FWCB should represent a significant portion of his or her total postsecondary education. Nominees cannot be a current member of faculty or staff or a sitting Regent, but retirees are eligible. This award may recognize an individual posthumously.
- The Early Career Award recognizes an early-career alumnus or alumna of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology who has achieved outstanding accomplishments and is poised to make significant advancements in their field. Nominees will have demonstrated excellence and potential for future excellence in one or several of the following areas: (1) research and discovery, (2) communication and outreach, education and pedagogy, (3) management and policy. The recipient must have completed a degree in our department (baccalaureate degree or their graduate degree from the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology) and have completed their terminal degree—whether at U of M or another institution—within the past 10 years.
Julia Leone (PhD student, Conservation Sciences) has been awarded a National Science Foundation GROW (Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide) Award and the 2019 Dayton Wildlife Research Award for her proposal, "Untangling the underlying processes that shape butterfly habitat occupancy: a synthesis of butterfly responses to grassland and savanna management on two continents." With this support she will spend the 2019-2020 school year in Darwin, Australia, working with scientists at Charles Darwin University and The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), studying the effects of fire and cattle grazing management on native butterfly diversity and abundance in savanna grasslands. Julia is advised by Adjunct Professor Karen Oberhauser.
Ami Thompson (PhD Student, Conservation Sciences) and her research on the common green darter dragonfly was featured on an episode of Three Rivers Park District’s Wandering Naturalist Podcast series. Listen to the episode (#21): Here there be dragon (flies).
Meg McEachran (MS student, Conservation Sciences - Fisheries and Aquatic Biology) was an invited speaker in a July webinar about invasive mussel impacts, "Stable isotopes indicate zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) increase dependence of lake food webs on littoral energy sources." The webinar was hosted by the Invasive Mussel Collaborative of the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission and about 100 people participated from across the Great Lake states and provinces. Meg is advised by Dr. Nick Phelps.
Sabrina Marconi (FWCB undergraduate) is volunteering this summer in southeast Alaska for the Student Conservation Association. She is assisting with a research project that is determining the effects of different logging treatments on Sitka black-tailed deer habitat. The attached photo shows her sampling vegetation (trees and herbs) in young growth forests in Southeast Alaska with the Forest Service.
Nancy Rothman, FWCB Administrator, retires on September 6, after 18 years in the department and at the University. Her dedication to staff, faculty and students and her capacity to make things happen—from puzzling reimbursements to unusual payroll challenges will be sorely missed. She has also been the prime mover behind “Donut Days” in FWCB and so it is only fitting that Nancy’s farewell will be at the first Donut Day of the new academic year—Thursday, September 5, at 10 AM. Thanks for everything, Nancy!
Professor Francie Cuthbert contributed to an in-depth Chicago Tribune article on piping plover conservation and recovery. Dr. Cuthbert was also interviewed by the Lansing State Journal (Michigan) in their story about why sea gull populations are rising in the Great Lakes.
Laura Dee, Assistant Professor, is moving to the University of Colorado-Boulder. Her faculty position there will focus on large-scale ecology.
Loren Miller, a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Research Scientist and an adjunct associate professor in FWCB, is part of a team that recently received a Minnesota State Government Innovation Award from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. The awards recognize the great work of state government entities and encourage an environment of experimentation and innovation in Minnesota. Dr. Miller received the award along with a group of MNDNR Fisheries managers from Duluth for the Steelhead Genetics Project. The key innovation of the project was involving sports groups and anglers in sampling Steelhead (migratory rainbow trout) throughout the North Shore of Lake Superior, which greatly expanded sampling beyond the capability of agency biologists. The genetic data obtained contributed to major changes in hatchery operations to protect wild populations.
Thanks to your generosity, we were able to buy a new electrofishing boat (photo below)! We needed to replace the department’s original electrofishing boat, which after more than two decades of service is rather “rickety” (perhaps not a good thing for something that sends electrical currents into water). These boats are not cheap and it took us a few years to make it happen. In partnership with the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center, we were able to leverage private donations with state grant funding from the Environment and Natural Resource Trust Fund, to get a really stunning boat (OK, bad pun) that will be an asset to our fisheries research for years to come. In this situation, many donations added up having big impact!
We still have many other critical needs to improve research and teaching equipment, so if you’d like to contribute to FWCB, please contact Sue Galatowitsch, FWCB Head, (612-624-3242) or Adam Nance,Chief Development Officer (612-624-7489) in the CFANS Development office. 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!