February/March 2019

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Dear FWCB Alumni, Friends, Students and Staff--

woman smiling at cameraTo adapt a phrase from a nightly TV weathercast—This was the weirdest January on record.  The prolonged shutdown of the federal government followed by a wallop from a polar vortex leaves us yearning for a return to normalcy. As I write this, another shutdown looms and we still have faculty, staff and students displaced from federal-leased office space since the last shutdown.  While there is no “silver lining” to this shutdown mess, it’s an important moment to highlight some of the critical connections between federal agencies, programs, scientists and FWCB.

Nearly 7% of Minnesota – 3.5 million acres - is federally managed, including wildlife refuges, national parks and forests, wild and scenic rivers. East of the Rocky Mountain states only Florida, Michigan and Arkansas have more federal lands than Minnesota. Not surprisingly, many FWCB wildlife biologists collaborate with federal land management agencies. Their research aims to guide decisions that impact wild species on these lands.

Minnesota’s mid-continental location, 10 million acres of wetlands, more than 10,000 lakes, extensive forests and three major river systems means that migratory species are a management priority here. The fate of long-distant migratory species depends on conditions in many states and so receive special federal protection. Our scientists are engaged in research of migratory populations of waterbirds, shorebirds, and warblers - to name a few. This research fills key knowledge gaps critical for sound implementation of federal policies, including harvest.

Minnesota supports populations of nineteen federal endangered and threatened species. Understanding the biology and threats to endangered species across their global distributions is a research focus for many in FWCB. We also work to find science-based solutions for the recovery of these species and work with federal agencies on those efforts. Our work goes beyond Minnesota-based species to include endangered species in other parts of the US and world.

FWCB’s faculty includes two federal “Co-op Unit” USGS scientists within our department and seven adjunct members who are federal research scientists based in the Fish and Wildlife Service, USGS, and National Park Service. These federal faculty members lead and collaborate on research based in FWCB, advise graduate students, and serve as a liaison between the agencies and university faculty and students. These networks are important for creating opportunities for our students to gain professional experiences, as well as for facilitating research that focuses on priority knowledge gaps.

At a time of national ambivalence towards the federal government, it’s important to reflect on what the absence of federal fish and wildlife policies, land programs, and research units would mean going forward - or if they had never been established at all. For the past century, our country’s response to serious national impacts to natural resources has depended on a professional, innovative and rational federal presence. Threats to fish and wildlife are accelerating, not diminishing. Now more than ever we need federal lands, policies and programs as a foundation for conservation action.

Here’s hoping we can all get back to our important work,

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VerhoevenDon’t miss FWCB and MAISRC graduate student, Mike Verhoeven’s “gig” at Café Scientifique—Bryant Lake Bowl (Minneapolis)-on February 19. Do a little bowling, enjoy bar grub and hear his presentation, Good weeds and bad weeds - saving our underwater prairies in the land of 10,000 lakes.

We have a fantastic series of weekly lectures this spring in FWCB-Conservation Sciences Spring Seminar, highlighting research and applications that range from Conservation Science to Conservation Practice. Seminars are on Fridays at noon in 335 Borlaug and feature U of M faculty, and researchers from around the country. Come and learn how extreme weather events impact bird populations, how alleviating poverty affects the environment, how we can conserve native freshwater mussels, and much more! See the full lineup and start planning your Fridays here.

The Annual Conservation Sciences Research Spotlight Fundraiser will be held April 11, 2019, 5-7 PM, at the Cargill Building on the Saint Paul Campus. Join us for an evening of Conservation Sciences research and conversation over food and drink, all in support of the Conservation Sciences Graduate Student Travel Fund. The evening will feature student research talks and posters, a bake sale and a silent auction.  A light meal and beverages will be served. RSVP’s are appreciated but not required, and donations are appreciated but attendance is free. You can RSVP, donate to the silent auction, or contribute directly to the travel fund now. We hope that you'll join us in our efforts to take student research beyond the walls of the University!

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Aislyn Keyes (MS Conservation Sciences) presented a research lecture, “Network theory: a new toolbox for ecosystem service assessments?” at Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakech, Morocco. Aislyn is advised by Dr. Laura Dee.
 
Ellen Candler’s (Ph.D. Conservation Science) “Offal Wildlife Watching” project has received contributions from 127 volunteer hunters who place remote cameras on deer offal piles immediately after harvest. Volunteer participation got a big boost from the Minnesota Master Naturalist program. To date, more than 30,000 images have been captured for the study, including the banner and closing photos of this newsletter. Ellen is supervised by Dr. Joseph Bump.

While gathering research data for the Voyageurs Wolf project, Ph.D. candidate Tom Gable found that two GPS-collared wolves in the “Bowman Bay” pack spent 43-63% of their time hunting fish around a creek. His report of this unique feeding behavior was published in Mammalian Biology and covered by many media outlets. The Voyageurs Project is a collaboration between the National Park Service and FWCB’s research group. Tom Gable is co-advised by Dr. Joseph Bump and Dr. Steve Windels, Adjunct Assistant Professor in FWCB. 

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A University of Minnesota-led research team, including FWCB Adjunct Assistant Professor Derric Pennington, recently published research showing how adoption of voluntary sustainability standards can slow climate change. This paper was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research is a collaborative effort with the Natural Capital Project, Coca-Cola Company and several other partners. Voluntary sustainability standards could significantly reduce detrimental impacts of global agriculture.  

Associate Professor John Fieberg is on sabbatical leave in Scotland this semester. Among his many projects will be to put on a NSF-funded workshop for graduate students and other projections interested in relating animal tracking data to environmental data. This workshop on the use of Movebank and Env-DATA Track Annotation Service will be held in late April at Scottish Centre for Ecology and the Natural Environment (SCENE) near Glasgow. More info can be found on Eventbrite.

Dr. Shu-jin Luo’s, (PhD ‘06, Conservation Biology) research team at Peking University, Beijing, published a landmark study confirming the existence of six remaining subspecies of tigers. This paper addresses a long-running debate about whether two subspecies should be recognized to simplify conservation or whether the full range of six subspecies should be recognized. Three additional subspecies are already extinct. This paper, A genome-wide evolutionary analysis of natural history and adaptation in the world’s tigers, was published in Current Biology. Dr. Dave Smith (FWCB) and Stephen O’Brien, her colleagues and PhD advisors are co-authors. The findings have been widely covered in the media, including the New York TimesScience Daily, and Discover Magazine.
 
Yue-Chen Liu, Xin Sun, Carlos Driscoll, Dale G. Miquelle, Xiao Xu, Paolo Martelli, Olga Uphyrkina, James L.D. Smith, Stephen J. O'Brien, Shu-Jin Luo. Genome-Wide Evolutionary Analysis of Natural History and Adaptation in the World's TigersCurrent Biology, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.09.019

 

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We depend on your generosity to provide student scholarships, offer alumni awards, bringing visiting scholars to campus for special lectures, and even to upgrade our field gear and laboratories. 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, research and lectures. Your gift truly makes a difference!

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Fishing wolf in Voyageurs National Park

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The Fieberg Family in Scotland

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Wildlife action at a deer offal pile