Note from the Department Head
Dear FWCB Alumni, Friends, Students, and Staff—
One thing I’ve noticed in my first year as Department Head is that many informal conversations with our undergraduates turn to international educational experiences offered by FWCB faculty. Students who haven’t yet taken a study abroad class will chart out the details of which one they plan to take, when they hope to go, and what they’re most excited about learning. “I really want to do the Peru class next spring; it would be so cool to do research in an Amazon rainforest!” Students who’ve already taken a class typically share some aspect of their experiences that changed them, things they couldn’t have anticipated. For example, a student attracted to FWCB because of her/his fascination with mammals, came away from the Thailand course with a new passion for birds. These student anecdotes capture why FWCB is committed to study abroad: the courses are highly effective for expanding and deepening professional competencies, as well as for allowing individual exploration of the unfamiliar.
Of course, any international travel that is “off the beaten path” can result in a deeper understanding of the places visited and affect a person’s perspective on a wide range of issues. But our study abroad courses offer even more because the FWCB faculty instructors are very deliberate about maximizing student experiences. They create structured opportunities for students to gain first-hand familiarity with a region’s natural and cultural history as well as pressing conservation challenges. But to truly maximize what a student gets from a study abroad class, they can’t simply be expected to absorb what their local guides and faculty instructors already know—students need to develop their skills as problem-solvers. Thus, the faculty also create opportunities for individual research so that students can learn how to advance our understanding of the natural world by gathering data and making sense of what it means. In Nepal, for example, students devise techniques to assess the biodiversity of community forests which provide critical habitat for many wide-ranging animals and critical resources for local people.
About one-third of FWCB undergraduates take one of the study abroad courses offered by FWCB faculty. In addition to courses in Peru, Thailand and Nepal, we also offer tropical marine biology taught in the Bahamas. All of our study abroad courses fulfill one or more degree requirements, which gives them added value. And, because we want all students to have an opportunity to study abroad, we work to keep them as affordable as possible. To further defray costs, most students taking study abroad courses receive scholarships through the University and College, as well as the FWCB Department.
Can we envision a future where nearly all of our students choose study abroad as part of their FWCB academic program? It’s certainly a worthy goal and we already have a great start. There is no shortage of amazing places where we can take our students to help them develop as conservation professionals.
Best wishes for the New Year,
FWCB Department Head
Faculty and Staff Highlights
Michael McCartney (left) joined the FWCB faculty in December as a Research Assistant Professor specializing in zebra mussel biology and control. Dr. McCartney is the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center’s first full-time research scientist. Dr. McCartney will lead the Center’s effort to identify prevention and control options for the invasive zebra mussel in Minnesota waters. Dr. McCartney comes from the University of North Carolina, where he served for 13 years as a professor and director of a laboratory researching marine and freshwater aquatic animals. An expert on molecular ecology of mollusks and other invertebrates and fishes, Dr. McCartney uses modern genetic analysis methods to understand population origins and relationships, their distribution patterns, and reproduction and life cycles.
This fall, the Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology Club organized visits to the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake and the MOA Aquarium. In the coming months they will be touring the Animal Humane Society’s Wildlife Rescue Center and monitoring bear dens with Minnesota DNR scientists. The FWCB Club sponsors social, vocational, and educational events to bring together individuals of similar interests, encourage networking, and keep members informed on current issues. Most importantly, the FWCB Club aims to prepare members for a career in the discipline by building field experience and fostering connections with future employers. This year’s FWCB Club Officers are Roberta Ryan (President), Faith Kelly (Vice President), Alex Halverson (Treasurer), and Tony Bodelson (Secretary).
The FWCB Club has produced a calendar for 2014, featuring fish and wildlife photographs taken by club members (right). They are available for $15, with proceeds supporting FWCB Club professional activities. To purchase a calendar, send an email to FWCBClub@umn.edu, call the FWCB department at 612-624-3600, or stop by the department office in 135 Skok.
Six FWCB undergraduates were honored at the CFANS Thanksgiving Scholarships Dinner on November 20 at the McNamara Alumni Center: Erin Arneson, Gabriella Barnas, Kristin Olson, Roberta Ryan, James Weagley, and Cullen Williams-Freier. FWCB Club President Roberta Ryan was at the awards celebration. Roberta spoke about the opportunities scholarships have provided her as an undergraduate, including study abroad experiences. Click here for video footage from the Thanksgiving for Scholarships dinner.
Don Pereira was named the new fisheries chief for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in November. Dr. Pereira received his PhD in Fisheries Science from the University of Minnesota in 1992 and is an adjunct faculty member in FWCB. Don has worked for the DNR for thirty years, playing a key role in in policy and management issues including cormorants at Leech Lake and a number of large lake management challenges. He has been a leader for improving public engagement and application of social data to fisheries management.
We would like more FWCB students to have study abroad opportunities. To do this, we need to grow the funds that support international student scholarships. Even though 90% of our students receive scholarships, many awards are small relative to overall costs. Please consider making a donation to the International Scholarship or Dayton Kirkham Funds. More details on these funds and many others are described on the FWCB website: http://fwcb.cfans.umn.edu/MakeaGift/
If you would like to discuss giving to the FWCB Department, for these or other purposes, please contact Sue Galatowitsch (612-624-3242, firstname.lastname@example.org) or Cynthia Cashman (612-624-7489, email@example.com in the CFANS Development office. To all the individuals who contributed to FWCB in the past year, thank you!