Note from the Department Head
Dear FWCB Alumni, Friends, Students, and Staff—
In Minnesota, saying you are heading “Up North” conjures up images of iconic boreal forests surrounding lakes and bordering rivers. More formally, the northeastern third of Minnesota is called the Laurentian Forest Province and contains about 85% of the state’s forests. If you look at a map of the forests of the US, this region “pops out” as something distinctive—a diverse forest landscape hemmed in by the vast grasslands and croplands of the midcontinent. These forests, together with those dispersed over the rest of the state, provide critical habitat for 55 species of wildlife classified as “Species in Greatest Conservation Need.” Species like gray wolf, white-throated sparrow, Canada lynx and Northern Goshawk. Not surprisingly, forest wildlife is a priority concern for FWCB and our faculty and students who conduct research on a variety of forest-dependent mammals and birds such as moose, ruffed grouse, and golden-winged warblers.
The need for science-based solutions to sustain forest wildlife is growing as we grapple with the consequences of climate change. Already, conifers are being replaced by hardwoods, increased incidence of droughts, disease and fire are reducing forest health, and more forest pests can tolerate our winters. Forests are being converted to agriculture, where soils are deep enough to support crops. These changes are likely to proceed unabated for the coming decades with implications for forest wildlife. Wildlife biologists assess the vulnerability of species to climate change and generate lists of likely “winners and losers.” Some forest wildlife species predicted to be losers in Minnesota are pine marten, fisher, moose, pine siskin and boreal chickadees. Winners include species like raccoons, skunks, white-tailed deer and cardinals. But lists of predictions mask the fact that the choices we make in how we use and manage our forest landscape are likely to have a big effect on our ability to sustain forest wildlife diversity and minimize the list of “losers.”
FWCB is fortunate to have an endowed professorship in forest wildlife. This ensures that Minnesota will always have an outstanding faculty member to lead forest wildlife research. The Gullion Chair of Forest Wildlife honors Gordy Gullion, who for 30 years studied how forest management affected forest-dwelling game birds. The stated aim of the chair, first filled 15 years ago, seems more relevant than ever: “to develop management practices that preserve the natural environment, protect biodiversity, and allow for sustainable forest harvest.” Our first Gullion Chair, Professor Rocky Gutierrez, is closing out an illustrious research career. He advanced methods that improved assessment of spotted owl population trends, developed a new paradigm for managing forests to sustain ruffed grouse, and collaborated with federal agencies to evaluate fire-reduction practices on forest wildlife populations. Upon Professor Gutierrez’ retirement in 2016, we plan to search for our next forest wildlife chair.
To build the research capacity associated with the Forest Wildlife Chair position, FWCB hopes to create a second endowment to support a graduate student working in forest wildlife. We don’t have a lot of time –just about 2 years -- to raise enough money ($500,000) so that the new Forest Wildlife chair has continuous support for a graduate student. Given the rate of forest change in Minnesota there are many reasons to feel a sense of urgency. In the coming months, watch for our communications about FWCB’s Forest Wildlife Initiative and please consider contributing.
Wishing you a wonderful summer and some quality time “Up North.”
FWCB Department Head
FACULTY AND STAFF HIGHLIGHTS
Dr. Andrew Simons was promoted from Associate Professor to Professor in May. Andrew is an international authority on fish systematics and biogeography and an award-winning teacher. He holds a joint appointment in FWCB and the Bell Museum of Natural History.
Dr. Peter Sorensen received a major grant from the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources to test acoustic barriers to Asian carp movement. He and his research team will install transducers (i.e., underwater speakers) on the doors of Lock and Dam 8 of the Mississippi River, at the Iowa border. This story was reported in many news outlets, including the MSP Star-Tribune.
Twenty-three undergraduate students were awarded Dayton Kirkham Scholarships to attend FWCB Summer Field Sessions in 2014:
|Erin Arneson||Jessica Colbaugh||Sarah Conway|
|Sophia Crosby||Daniel Dewey||Andrew Erickson|
|Chelsea Holm||Amber Lindholm||Samantha Miller|
|John Morgan||Robert Pagel||Trurisa Pathoumthong|
|Matthew Pickhartz||Maccrea Pirkl||Breanna Pool|
|Andrew Riesgraf||Michael Rohweder||Roberta Ryan|
|Guy Schmidt||Daniel Schmitter||Erika Senyk|
|Hanna Sundstrom||Samantha Wolf|
53 undergraduates received B.S. degrees in Fisheries and Wildlife at Spring Commencement. Five students received special academic distinction: Zachary Beach (High Distinction), Sophia Crosby (High Distinction), Shana Olson (Distinction), Trent Seamans (Distinction), and James Weagley (Distinction). James Weagley graduated Summa cum laude. Congratulations to everyone!
PhD students Sarah Saunders and Lauren White received Dayton Wildlife Fellowships to support their dissertation research. Sarah was also awarded a Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship from the Graduate School. John Berini received a 3-year EPA Star Fellowship; Hannah Specht received a NSF Graduate Fellowship.
Eleven M.S and Ph.D. students completed degrees this past year: Kyle Chezik (MS, Conservation Biology-Fisheries and Aquatic Biology), Robert Dunlap (MS, Natural Resources Science and Management), Michelle LaRue (PhD, Conservation Biology), April Lueck (MS, Water Resources Science), Douglas Tempel (PhD, Natural Resources Science and Management), Sarah Thompson (PhD, Conservation Biology), Seth Stapleton (PhD, Conservation Biology), Mike Rentz (PhD, Conservation Biology), Kira Cassidy (MS, Natural Resources Science and Management), Scott Mackenthun (MS, Conservation Biology-Fisheries and Aquatic Biology), Leif Devaney (PhD, Conservation Biology).
It takes a village to run a FWCB Summer Field Session! This is the first summer FWCB is holding two field sessions (completing two field sessions is a requirement of all FW students). The recently completed May session was taught by 5 university instructors, with contributions from 16 guest instructors and volunteers. Seven of these guest instructors are FWCB Alumni: Michelle Carstensen, Lou Cornicelli, Mark Hove, Tom Landwehr, Olivia LeDee and Grant Wilson. The session’s lead instructor, Dawn Tanner, is also an alumna. Thanks to everyone for making this session a great success!
Dr. Mike Zicus (’76, PhD, Wildlife) returned to campus for a visit in May (shown at right in photo with John Fieberg). Mike, who recently retired from Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, was in town to finalize his gift to the department which will establish the Dr. Michael C. Zicus Waterfowl and Wetland Fellowship. Mike was a waterfowl biologist with the Minnesota DNR Wetland Populations and Research Group in Bemidji.
Dr. K.S. Gopi Sundar (’11, PhD, Conservation Biology,) was among five conservation biologists in India to receive the 2014 Carl Zeiss Conservation Award. Dr. Gopi Sundar is a Program Director for the International Crane Foundation.
EVENTS & ANNOUNCEMENTS
The 2014 Kolshorn Lecture will be held October 6, 2014 on the St. Paul Campus. This year’s lecture is “The Science of Catch-and-Release Fishing,” to be presented by Dr. Steven Cooke. Dr. Cooke is an Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair of Environmental Science and Biology at Carleton University (Ottawa, Ontario), in the field of fish ecology and conservation physiology. Dr. Cooke is also giving a research talk on October 7, “Physiology, behavior, social science and conservation: Solving freshwater fish and turtle by-catch problems through mechanistic, integrated research.” Locations of both talks will be posted on the FWCB Department website later this summer.
This issue of the newsletter provides many examples of ways gifts make possible the research, education and outreach of the department, including endowed professorships, scholarships for field sessions, research grants for graduate students, graduate fellowships, and annual lectures. Your gift really can make a difference! More information about making gifts to the department can be found on the FWCB website.
If you would like to discuss giving to the FWCB Department, 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. Thanks to all of our past supporters!