While it’s not surprising that FWCB researchers study various kinds of fish, mammals, birds, and amphibians, you might wonder: where within the University are the scientists who focus on wild invertebrates? Freshwater native mussels, invasive mussels, butterflies, wetland dragonflies, native bees and other pollinators all pose conservation challenges in Minnesota that depend on science-based decision making.
FWCB has become one of the major research hubs in Minnesota for invertebrate conservation and management. Many Minnesotans are aware of invasive mussels—zebra and quagga—that are spreading statewide, and perhaps of the efforts of scientists like Dr. Mike McCartney who study their genetics in order to develop effective prevention and control strategies.
All of the press about “bad mussels” often overshadows what’s happening with our Minnesota native mussels. Of our four dozen native bivalve mussels, about half are rare or declining - five species are federally endangered. Pollution, altered hydrology and invasive species pose threats to these species. Researcher Mark Hove is one of the state’s experts on native bivalve mussels and studies their life history requirements and how to reintroduce them to restored rivers and streams. Graduate student Sean Keogh is researching whether commonly accepted species distinctions are reliable ways to account for their diversity.
Dragonflies are another group of aquatic invertebrates that are often sensitive to human impacts. Five Minnesota dragonflies are classified as endangered in the state, although little is known about the status and trends of most of these species. Graduate student Ami Thompson is studying the life history requirements of a common species, the green darner. To learn more about Ami’s research, check out this video.
The severe decline in pollinators is receiving a lot of press—especially as it relates to agriculture. FWCB researchers focus on various aspects of pollinators related to conserving native species. Dr. Rob Blair is leading the Minnesota Bee Atlas project—a citizen science initiative to map the native bee distributions statewide. The last time bees were systematically surveyed in Minnesota was a century ago—and the number of species recorded (67) is suspected to be about one sixth of what actually occurs here.
Monarch butterflies, which have been proposed for federal listing under the Endangered Species Act, have been Dr. Karen Oberhauser’s focus for nearly 30 years. She and her team have studied many aspects of the ecology of the species and population trends. For this reason the Monarch Joint Venture, a 65-partner organization that coordinates monarch conservation, has been based in FWCB since 2008.
The diversity of invertebrates is staggeringly high compared to vertebrates—so it’s good there are multiple departments at the University with researchers who study them. FWCB’s researchers have been especially critical in advancing the science needed for on-the-ground conservation and management of environmentally sensitive species – in both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.
So, as you enjoy the warm summer months, take a moment to appreciate our native invertebrates and think about what we’ll need to know in order to sustain them—and the research it will take to make that happen.
Have a great summer!
In May, the University of Minnesota Board of Regents approved moving the Wildlife Ecology and Management track from the Natural Resource Science and Management graduate program to the Conservation Sciences graduate program. This change, which was proposed and approved by the faculties of both programs, unifies wildlife graduate education into a single program. This unification creates the opportunity to advance graduate education in FWCB, taking full advantage of the expertise of all our faculty and students.
Registration is now open for Starry Trek, a statewide search for starry stonewort and other aquatic invaders! Join us on Saturday, August 5 at sites across the state to help search for this invasive alga. No experience is necessary to participate in this free event. Participants will receive expert training on monitoring protocols and starry stonewort identification on-site when you arrive. Starry Trek is an easy, rewarding, and family-friendly way to help protect your local lakes and inform ongoing research at the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center. Visit the MAISRC website to learn more and to register.
Congratulations to Hannah Specht who was awarded a Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship for her proposal "Habitat use and reproductive success of water birds in the human-dominated landscape of North America’s prairies: Using sparse data to inform management.” Hannah is advised by Dr. Todd Arnold. These fellowships support students in their final year of dissertation writing.
Sean Keogh (photo right) was awarded the Moos Graduate Research Fellowship in Aquatic Biology and the Dayton Wildlife Fellowship for his work on species delineation freshwater mussels. These awards provide summer salary and fringe as well as a travel and research support. Sean is advised by Dr. Andrew Simons.
Four Bell Museum Natural History Awards and Fellowships were awarded to Conservation Sciences graduate students this past spring: Rothman Summer Fellowship — Carmen Martin; Zoological Society Fellowship — Anna Peschel; Joyce Davenport Natural History Award — Carmen Martin; Frank McKinney Natural History Award — Josh Egan and Anna Peschel. These fellowships provide research and travel support.
Conservation Sciences PhD students, Tarciso Leao, Diele Lobo, and Lorraine Scotson published their written preliminary exam paper, Economic and biological conditions influence the sustainability of harvest of wild animals and plants in developing countries, in the journal, Ecological Economics.
Fifty-three FWCB undergraduates received their BS degrees at the CFANS Commencement held May 12 at Mariucci Arena. Seven students received special honors: Gabriella Barnas (Distinction), Sarah Conway (Distinction), Madeline Grunklee (Distinction), Laura Knutsen (Distinction), Blake Mitchell (High Distinction), Kirsten Vacura (Distinction, Summa Cum Laude), Amanda Zak (Distinction).
Paul Venturelli and John Fieberg were promoted from Assistant Professor to Associate Professor with tenure.
John Fieberg was selected as a McKnight Presidential Fellow, a prestigious university award given annually to five newly tenured faculty members.
Professor Karen Oberhauser (photo left) has accepted the position of University of Wisconsin–Madison Arboretum Director. An internationally renowned monarch butterfly researcher, Dr. Oberhauser is returning to UW–Madison where once she studied as an undergraduate. She will begin her position at the UW-Arboretum on October 1.
Associate Professor Paul Venturelli and Adjunct Assistant Professor Jessica Ward will join the Biology Department faculty at Ball State University in August. During his six years in FWCB, Dr. Venturelli advised 5 students who completed MS and PhDs, supervised 11 undergraduate research projects, taught several courses central to the fisheries academic programs, and pursued research that was highly valued by Minnesota’s fisheries managers.
Jay Maher (photo right) was awarded the college’s Civil Service/Bargaining Unit Staff Award in the Science/Technology category. Jay, who also marked his 30th year in FWCB in 2017, was recognized for his exceptional contributions to the design and commissioning of the new Aquatic Invasive Species Containment Laboratory.
The Monarch Joint Venture welcomed five new staff, Alison Cariveau, Laura Lukens, Kyle Kasten, Karen Tuerk, and Evan Pugh as part of the science team working on monarch conservation and monitoring. One of the main projects they'll be working on is the development and implementation of a national monitoring strategy for monarchs and their habitat.
Dr. John J. Magnuson (’58 Fisheries), has been selected to receive the University of Minnesota - Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology (FWCB) Distinguished Alumni Award for 2017. This annual award recognizes an alumnus/alumna who has attained professional distinction in fisheries, wildlife, conservation biology or related field as evidenced by outstanding professional achievement on a state, national, or international level. Dr. Magnuson’s accomplishments as a distinguished fish and aquatic biologist have been crucial for advancing the understanding of global stressors such as climate change, invasive species and pollution on lake ecosystems and their fisher communities. John will receive his award on September 18 at the 2017 Kolshorn Lecture.
FWCB welcomes 15 new graduate students this fall. During the course of their program we strive to provide each student with opportunities to conduct cutting-edge research, to present their findings to colleagues and professionals nationally, and internationally, and to become well-networked so they can become tomorrow’s conservation leaders. All of this requires financial support beyond tuition. Please consider contributing to FWCB graduate fellowships, travels funds, and departmental funds that support student research, travel, and research infrastructure.
To contribute to FWCB, please contact Sue Galatowitsch (612-624-3242), firstname.lastname@example.org), FWCB Head, or Cynthia Cashman (612-624-7489, email@example.com) in the CFANS Development office. More information about making gifts to the department can be found on the FWCB website.
A special thanks to our supporters who annually support FWCB with contributions that support our students and our research—you are making a difference!
AIS Detector training led by Dan Larkin (background).