June 2013

duck track iconNote from the Department Head 

Department Head, Susan M GalatowitschDear FWCB Alumni, Friends, Students, and Staff—

After 6 years of tremendous leadership and service to the FWCB Department as head, Professor Francie Cuthbert returned to her faculty position. I joined FWCB as the Department’s fourth head after a whirlwind transition at the tail end of fall semester. My semester was spent meeting with as many of you as possible, learning about the collective aspirations for the FWCB Department, as well as figuring out the nuts-and-bolts of being a department head.

At the end of spring semester, a few FWCB faculty members journeyed to Itasca, to explore ways to strengthen our Summer Field Session. According to many of our alums, the field session is one of the best parts of their UM undergraduate experience – both professionally and socially. Our May trip focused on ways to expand the scope of the fisheries and aquatic biology part of the session, which is based at Itasca. For the rest of the field session students learn wildlife and vegetation field techniques at the Cloquet Forestry Center. The Center offers the best combination of computing facilities and natural landscapes anywhere in Minnesota. Students need to know how to link ecology and technology to fully contribute as natural resource professionals – and our field session is critical for building those skills.

Our Itasca brainstorming trip benefited from a fresh infusion of insights generated through roundtable discussions that we held jointly with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources at Fort Snelling State Park earlier in May. We spent a day examining critical competencies needed for future fisheries, wildlife, and conservation biology professionals and ways students can attain this expertise. Many ideas emerged from this meeting that we will be working on in the coming months.

The Itasca trip was an ideal way to wrap up my first semester as department head. It was satisfying to spend time with colleagues (out of the office!) focused entirely on academic excellence and professional relevance. The location also had special significance for me. As a new UM faculty member — assistant professor of landscape ecology—I started a field session at Itasca for first-year landscape architecture students. Although the course is still offered I haven’t been its instructor for the past decade since I changed departments to focus more on research, specifically wetland and prairie restoration ecology. I’m delighted to join the FWCB Department and serve as its head – and eager to support and participate in our excellent teaching, research, and extension programs – such as the Summer Field Session!

 Sue's signature

Sue Galatowitsch
FWCB Department Head

duck track iconFaculty and Staff Highlights

 photo of Francie Cuthbert

Francie Cuthbert (left) returned to her faculty position in FWCB after serving 6 years as department head. Under her leadership, the department greatly expanded its international educational opportunities, added two new faculty members, and improved its financial stability.

David Andersen, Leader of the Minnesota Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, received The Wildlife Society’s Minnesota Award, a Lifetime Achievement award for his distinguished research accomplishments. David is a nationally recognized wildlife researcher, known for his comprehensive studies of raptors, game birds, song birds and waterfowl. He has published more than 100 papers on population dynamics, research methods, effects of land use and environmental contaminants. The Minnesota Award is the highest award given by the Minnesota Chapter of the Wildlife Society.

Rob Blair, Karen Oberhauser and the Minnesota Master Naturalist Team were awarded the 2012 Best State Natural Resource Volunteer Program in the country by the Alliance for Natural Resource Outreach and Service Programs.

Sue Galatowitsch won the 2013 R1Edu award for excellence and innovation in online learning for her work in developing a series of ecological restoration online training courses.

Peter Sorensen, director of the newly formed Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center, was awarded $8.7M by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources. Check out this WCCO video on MAISRC research—one of many news story from Peter’s research team this past year. http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2013/01/16/a-new-tool-targeting-asian-carp/

photo of Dave Smith

After thirty years, Dave Smith (photo, far right) stepped down as coordinator of the FWCB Summer Field Session. He now co-leads the Nepal Semester Abroad Course, which was held for the first time this past spring. This 16 cr course, Ecological Services and Biodiversity in Nepal’s Community Forests, is to be offered each year.

duck track iconStudent Highlights

Three PhD students were awarded Wally Dayton Wildlife Fellowships to support their research:

  • Sergey Berg, “Assessing the effects of climate-induced landscape change on fishers in the Upper Midwest” (James Forester, adviser)
  • John Berini, “Decline from the bottom up: linking temperature, secondary, metabolites, and moose demographic rates in northeastern Minnesota” (James Forester, adviser)
  • Sarah Saunders, “Why does a male bias in breeding adults exist in Great Lakes Piping Plover populations?” (Francie Cuthbert, adviser).

 photo of Kyle Daly

Kyle Daly was selected for the Student Conservationist Award by the Minnesota Chapter of the Wildlife Society (photo right, receiving the TWS award with his adviser, David Andersen). Kyle is a M.S. student in the Wildlife Ecology and Management track of the Natural Resources Science and Management Graduate Program. He is studying the response of American woodcock to landscape-scale management.

Graduate degrees were conferred upon:

  • Amanda Strommer (M.S. – Water Resources Sciences): Communication and Public Outreach About Emerging Contaminants in Public Drinking Water Supplies in Minnesota
  • Matthew Kocian (M.S. – Conservation Biology): Assessing the Accuracy of GIS-Derived Stream Length and Slope Estimates
  • Jennifer Stucker (Ph.D. – Conservation Biology): Sandbars Managed for Least Terns Within the Missouri River: Evaluating the Influence of Fish, Spatial Scale, and Environment on Habitat Use
  • Christine Dolph (Ph.D. – Water Resources Science): Defining Stream Integrity Using Biological Indicators

Fifteen FWCB undergraduate students received Dayton P. Kirkham scholarships to attend the Summer Field Session or the Thailand course. These scholarships are awarded based on academic performance and financial need.

Amy Borglum Kellie Lager Sarah Rasmussen James Weagley
Alanna Gottshall Kristin Olson Trent Seamans Nicholas Cruz
Charlee Jensen Ethan Ragan Jamee Snyder Elizabeth Wiley
Daniel Sommers Roberta Ryan Kristin Olson  

Roberta Ryan and Conner Anderson were selected as the 2012 recipients of Joseph N. Alexander Scholarships. They received their awards at the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance banquet in February. Conner is freshman at the University of Minnesota. He plans to major in Fisheries and Wildlife with a focus on wildlife. He developed a love for the outdoors through Boy Scouts, backpacking, and snowboarding trips. Connor also participates on the Ultimate Frisbee club team at the University. Roberta Ryan is a junior at the University of Minnesota, majoring in Fisheries and Wildlife. She volunteers with the Wildlife Science Center in Columbus, MN. Roberta is the incoming president of the FWCB Club.

Seven FWCB students were matched with professionals in the CFANS Mentor Program this past year. The mentor program is an excellent opportunity for students to connect with professionals working in their areas of career interest. Through this relationship students can get an inside view of how various companies and organizations work, how professionals balance life and career and suggestions on how to better prepare for the working world. This year’s students and their mentors are listed below:

  • Ella Ostlund - Leslie Reed, Staff Veterinarian, Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota
  • Roberta Ryan - Darren Lochner, Master Naturalist Program Coordinator, University of Minnesota Extension
  • Samantha Baker - Lynnette Scott, Director of Nursery Programs, Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota
  • Mino Aketa - Mahmoud Abdel Aziz, Professor in Department of Animal and Fish Production at King Faisal University, Saudi Arabia
  • Shana Olson - Stacey Sigurdson, Interpretive Naturalist, Three Rivers Park District, Richardson Nature Center
  • Debbie Koenigs - Bobbi Zenner, Naturalist, Laurentian Environmental Learning Center
  • Brynn Johnson - Monica Rauchwarter, Naturalist, Lowry Nature Center

The College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) Mentor Program aims to connect CFANS students with alumni and professionals in order to facilitate career exploration and provide students with an opportunity to network and enhance their professional skills. Contact Masha Finn, College to Career Coordinator, 612-624-9957, or mfinn@umn.edu, for more information about becoming involved with the Mentor Program.

duck track iconAlumni Highlights

Several alumni were featured in major news stories over the past few months:

The Secret Lives of Bears
Dave Garshelis (Ph.D) relies on technology and a lifetime of experience to learn all he can about the world's bears, including black bears in Minnesota, but the bruins still retain some of their mystery. The University of Minnesota Alumni Magazine featured a story on Dave Garshelis for the Fall 2012 issue. Dave included FWCB undergrads in a visit to the dens of two radio-collared bear so they could learn about his bear research. Follow this links to the story and video about this trip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99GItYH_HpY. Dave was also the keynote speaker for the FWCB Undergraduate Symposium, “Data to Discovery”, hosted by Todd Arnold and Paul Venturelli to highlight the research of their Population Analysis students.

 photo of Jonathan Slaght and an owl

Long cloaked in mystery, Owls start coming into their own
Owls are a staple of children's books and cultural kitsch, and only lately scientists have begun to understand the birds in any detail, and to puzzle out the subtleties of behavior, biology and sensory prowess that set them apart from all other avian tribes. Other researchers are tracking the lives of some of the rarer and more outlandishly proportioned owls, like the endangered Blakiston’s fish owl of Eurasia. Nearly a yard high, weighing up to 10 pounds and with a wingspan of six feet, Blakiston’s is the world’s largest owl, a bird so hulking it’s often mistaken for other things, according to Jonathan Slaght (advised by Francie Cuthbert (M.S.) and Rocky Gutierrez (Ph.D.) of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Russia program. It could easily look like a bear in a tree or a man on a bridge. The New York Times.
Photo of Jonathan Slaght with a Blakiston's fish owl by S. Avdeyuk/Amur-Ussuri Centre for Avian Biodiversity.

The effect of outdoor cats on bird and mammal mortality
A new peer-reviewed study published today and authored by scientists from two of the world’s leading science and wildlife organizations – the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) – has found that bird and mammal mortality caused by outdoor cats is much higher than has been widely reported, with annual bird mortality now estimated to be 1.4 to 3.7 billion and mammal mortality likely 6.9 – 20.7 billion individuals. The study, which offers the most comprehensive analysis of information on the issue of outdoor cat predation, was published in the online research journal Nature Communications and is based on a review of 90 previous studies. The study was authored by Dr. Peter Marra and Scott Loss, research scientists at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and by Tom Will from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Division of Migratory Birds. Scott earned his PhD in Conservation Biology, advised by Rob Blair.

duck track iconGiving

Like students elsewhere, FWCB undergraduates often struggle to afford many of the academic opportunities that are critical for their professional development, such as the Summer Field Session or International field courses taught by FWCB faculty. All of our FWCB students attend the Summer Field Session and about one third study abroad. Consider donating to one of our existing funds dedicated to undergraduate field courses or even establishing a new fund.

Addressing looming global conservation problems affecting fish and wildlife depends greatly on our next generation of researchers. Unfortunately, cuts to higher education have disproportionately affected our capacity to support graduate students and their research. Fellowship support for graduate students is a priority need for the FWCB Department.

If you would like to discuss giving to the FWCB Department, for these or other purposes, please contact Sue Galatowitsch (612-624-3242, galat001@umn.edu) or Cynthia Cashman (612-624-7489, cashman@umn.edu in the CFANS Development office. To all the individuals who contributed to FWCB in the past year, thank you!

Creative Way to Support the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology
While we always welcome your donations to FWCB, we also want to highlight an option you may not have considered. You can support the department with an estate gift (for example, through a bequest or retirement plan beneficiary designation).

Contact our University of Minnesota Foundation planned giving representative, Lynn Praska, at 612-624-4158 or lpraska@umn.edu, for information on ways to give and/or to inform us of your future estate gift for FWCB.