June/July 2015

Dear FWCB Alumni, Friends, Students and Staff-

The next time you come across a news story about a conservation challenge, imagine how much time and effort is involved in the science needed to understand the situation and make good decisions.  Determining whether wild animal populations are increasing or decreasing, whether they are reproducing and how they are responding to changes in land use or management all require an incredible amount of effort.  Biological surveys and field studies are labor-intensive and must be sustained over long periods of time in order to generate reliable information.  The need for conservation data is growing and already vastly exceeds the professional capacity of conservation organizations and agencies.  That's why citizen scientists, or non-professional volunteers, are increasingly considered essential to fisheries and wildlife conservation.  For this to be effective, we need to know a lot more about the best ways to engage, educate, integrate and sustain dedicated volunteers. We also need to figure out better ways to collect, verify and use volunteer-generated data.  That's why  citizen science is emerging as an important area of university research and outreach worldwide-and FWCB is at the forefront of citizen science.

This newsletter highlights a few of our recent advances in citizen science.  The iFish Forever smartphone app, developed by Assistant Professor Paul Venturelli and colleagues, is an experimental approach for expanding creel surveys through direct reports from recreational fishermen.  In the most recent issue of Conservation Biology two of our graduate students, Eva Lewandowski and Hannah Specht, published the findings of their study on the quality of data collected by citizen scientists.

Our longest running citizen science projects are led by FWCB's extension specialists, Professors Rob Blair and Karen Oberhauser. For nearly 20 years they have developed innovative citizen science initiatives, such as the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project which has run continuously since 1997, the Minnesota Master Naturalist program which has produced a trained corps of 1200 volunteers, and the Driven-to-Discover program which engages middle school teachers and students in citizen science programs. These programs are building conservation science capacity and enriching the lives of the volunteers (after all, collecting field data is interesting!).  As importantly, our faculty track the effectiveness of these programs, which advances citizen science. The value of Rob and Karen's citizen science work is widely recognized-the Minnesota Master Naturalist program (launched by Rob) won a national award in 2012 and in 2013, Karen was honored as a White House Champion of Change. This past year Rob and Karen received a National Science Foundation grant.

Citizen science is poised to transform how societies address critical conservation challenges- more science will aid in conservation action and more citizens involved in this science will deepen connections to our fish and wildlife resources.  FWCB will play an important part in making this happen.

Have a great summer!

sue sign


Mark your calendars for the 2015 Kolshorn Lecture and Awards Ceremony which will be held on September 28 on the St. Paul campus from 4:30-6 PM. This year's speaker will be Dr. Don Siniff, one of the pioneers of marine mammal ecology and conservation and a FWCB alumnus. His research in Antarctica and on the US Pacific Coast has been crucial for marine conservation decision-making for more than four decades.

This past year, three FWCB students (Emily ErhartSamantha Helle, Paul Leingang) formed a non-profit organization, Project Conservation, to advance research on human dimensions conservation research.  Following the recent earthquake in Nepal they set up a fund, run through their organization, to help rebuild Majhuwa, a village destroyed by the recent earthquake. The village is the home of several of the wildlife technicians at the research station where the Nepal semester program is based.  Visit Project Conservation's website to learn more and to contribute to rebuilding Majhuwa, Nepal.

Construction on the $7M renovation of the Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Research Lab (formerly the Engineering and Fisheries Lab-"EFL") began in early June. The new facility is scheduled to open in January and will allow scientists to accelerate research on AIS, including invasive carps, zebra mussels, fish pathogens, Eurasian watermilfoil and curly leaf pondweed.  Professor Peter Sorensen spearheaded efforts in the 2014 legislative session that secured funding from the State of Minnesota and the University of Minnesota for this project.


Congratulations to Grace Loppnow, Kelly Nail, Lorraine Scotson and Kate Wyman who have all been awarded Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships from the University of Minnesota Graduate School! DDFs support students in their final year of dissertation writing.

Congratulations to graduate students Sergey Berg, Annie Bracey, Kelly Nail, and Brittney Yohannes who were awarded Dayton Wildlife Research Fellowships to support their thesis/dissertation studies.

Eva Lewandowski and Hannah Specht published their PhD written preliminary paper, Influence of volunteer and project characteristics on the data quality of biological surveysin the journalConservation Biology. They learned about the reliability of volunteer contributions to biological surveys which are increasingly relied upon by conservation programs worldwide.

During the past year, 10 PhDs and 7 MS students advised by FWCB faculty completed degrees:

PhD: Pete Cutter, Mark Ditmer, Will French,  Kevin Heist, Vinnie Hirt, Adam Kokotovich, Tricia Markle, Sara Saunders, Jiraporn Teampanpong, Karl Tinsley.

MS: Rodrigo Castro Bustamante, Aaron Claus, Stephania Galuppo Gaete, Jonathan JaKa, Justine Koch, Brian Moe, Chakong Thao.

This year's Student Research Night for the  Analysis of Populations class, held on May 5, featured lightning talks and posters on a wide array of topics including:  Estimating population trends of painted turtles in an urban lake (photo), Evaluating harvest rates of walleyes in Upper and Lower Red Lake, and Comparison of statistical models for wildlife abundance in the Republic of Congo

Paul Leingang and Erika Senyk presented their research, Can the common moon jellyfish be sued as an indicator species of increasingly acidic environments within specific oceanic regions?  at the 2015 National Conference on Undergraduate Research, Eastern Washington University.

Thirty-one FWCB undergraduates received their BS degrees at the CFANS Commencement held May 15 at Northrup Auditorium. Three students received special honors: Charlie Cummings (Magna Cum Laude), John Douglas (Distinction), Kristin Olson (Distinction).


FWCB faculty author 4 newly released books!

Stephen Redpath, Ralph J. Gutiérrez (Gullion Chair of Forest Wildlife), Kevin Wood, and Juliette Young: Conflicts in Conservation: Navigating Towards Solutions.

Karen Oberhauser (Professor), Kelly Nail (PhD student), and Sonia Altizer: Monarchs in a Changing World: Biology and Conservation of an Iconic Butterfly.

David Harvey and Jim Perry (Professor)The Future of Heritage as Climates Change: Loss, Adaptation, and Creativity.

Peter Sorensen (Professor) and Brian Wisenden: Fish Pheromones and Related Cues.

In May, iFish Forever, a new app developed by Assistant Professor Paul Venturelli and the app company, iFish, was released for smartphone use.  The iFish Forever is an IFish MN add-on that allows anglers to anonymously share their catch in support of cutting edge research and responsible management. For more than a century that information has come from interviews with anglers- known as creel surveys--conducted on the water or at an access point.  Because of the staffing costs, creel surveys are expensive to conduct which has limited the amount of data available to researchers and managers.  "As a result, we know surprisingly little about our fisheries resources beyond the most popular lakes," Venturelli says.  "iFish Forever addresses these limitations by engaging anglers as part of the solution. By putting the creel survey in the palm of your hand we're saving tax dollars and providing creel data in real time and anywhere that people are fishing."  Learn more about iFish Forever from news stories by the University of MinnesotaMinnesota Public Radio,KARE11 News. Better yet, download the app!


As part of the retirement celebration of Bruce Vondracek's career on May 3, a group of FWCB coldwater research alumni gathered to fish Rush River, Wisconsin (l-r): Ray Newman, Bruce Vondracek, Jenny Biederman, Tom Kwak, Austen Cargill, Carl Ruetz.


Join the crowd and help fund an undergraduate heading to the Cloquet/Itasca Field Session this summer! All FWCB undergraduates participate in the 3-week session to gain critical field skills and knowledge. In addition to tuition (which cannot be covered by financial aid), every student pays about $1000 to cover the costs of lodging, food, transportation and supplies.  We hope to fund three scholarships through the University of Minnesota Foundation crowdfunding by August 1. Click now to help us reach this goal! 

To contribute to FWCB scholarships or research, please contact Sue Galatowitsch (612-624-3242,galat001@umn.edu), FWCB Head or Cynthia Cashman (612-624-7489cashman@umn.edu 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 to funds that provide scholarships, fellowships, research and lectures. Your gift makes a difference!


In this issue:

  • Note from the Dept. Head
  • Announcements & Events
  • Student Highlights
  • Faculty & Staff Highlights
  • Alumni Highlights
  • Support FWCB!