April/May 2015

duck track icon Note from the Department Head 

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

With so many important challenges facing the conservation of wildlife, fish, and the habitats they rely on, you might think that every major university in the United States must have a department like ours. Surprisingly there are only eleven universities in the country with a department dedicated to fisheries and wildlife. There are 27 universities that offer doctorates with an option of specializing in fisheries and/or wildlife, but these are part of departments with a much broader scope—usually natural resources or biology. Why is it important for Minnesota to have a Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology? There are many reasons, but let me touch on two of them.

Advancing our understanding of free-ranging animals is quite distinct and requires expertise in population ecology, animal behavior, species biology, and landscape and ecosystem ecology. Whether the challenge relates to invasive fish, endangered species, game birds or mammals, having researchers with the scope and depth of expertise that we have in FWCB is critical. Many FWCB researchers work on some aspect of animal movement in landscape—and this helps us build collaborations to tackle tough research and management problems.

Departments like ours, with a mission encompassing both fisheries and wildlife, address aquatic and terrestrial species, ecosystems and the wetlands in between. There are very few thorny problems related to the environment that are just about human effects on water or land. For example, poor water quality is typically tied to land use problems and this favors invasive over native species. Habitat loss of wetlands, grasslands and forests greatly alters how free-ranging animals must meet their essential needs and thus the likelihood that they can sustain their populations. A wide array of wild animals, including many amphibians and water birds, depend on a combination of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems; our research helps understand how complex changes to landscapes specifically affect them. FWCB’s research capacity in ecology and management of both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems is one of the most important assets our university offers Minnesota.

You’ll get an even better sense of why FWCB is important from the highlights in our newsletters, articles in the CFANS’ Solutions magazine and of course, from the press coverage of FWCB faculty research. Links to all of these social media can be found at the end of this newsletter.

Be sure to stay connected to FWCB to learn more about what we’re doing and why it’s important!

Sue's signature

Sue Galatowitsch
FWCB Department Head  

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The Monarch Larva Monitoring Project (MLMP) is hosting a citizen science volunteer training workshop on Saturday, June 6 on the St. Paul campus. This workshop, open to the public, will be taught by Wendy Caldwell (FWCB Education Program Associate). At this special workshop for Minnesota Master Naturalists, you’ll learn about monarch biology and the MLMP and gain hands-on practice with several data collection activities. You’ll leave the workshop with specific knowledge on how to choose and monitor an MLMP site, enter your data on-line, interpret your findings, and engage your friends, family members, and neighbors in an exciting science research project. Click here for more information and to register.

The Second Annual Conservation Biology Research Spotlight Fundraiser, held on March 30, raised more than $2,200 for the Conservation Biology Student Travel Fund! The evening, attended by 75 people, featured a shared light dinner, a poster session, a series of short student research talks, a bake sale and a silent auction. Hope to see many of you back again next year, as well as some new faces too.

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Peter Xiong, an FWCB undergraduate student advised by Peter Sorensen, won the "Best Poster" award at the recent Minnesota Chapter of the American Fisheries Society annual meeting. Peter reported on his research, "Determining whether polyamines function as behavioral deterrents in a model filter-feeding invasive species, the bigheaded carp.

photo of Peter Xiong

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photo of Mark Hove in a boat with student

Mark Hove, a researcher in FWCB, was awarded the William J. Clench Memorial Award by the Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society at their annual symposium in March. This is only the third time the society has given this award since it was established in 1998. Mark was honored for his contributions which have advanced the natural history and understanding of freshwater mollusks. He has mentored more than 55 students, both undergraduate and high school, exploring mussel host relationships. Mark has advanced what is known about mussel life history traits and host associations, relocation as a means to preserve unionid biodiversity, and the impact of small dams on mussel growth. His work was instrumental in identifying the host fish for the federally endangered winged mapleleaf and sheepnose mussels. Mark also has a strong commitment to the maintenance and curation of the freshwater mussel collection at the Bell Museum.

Paul Venturelli, Asssistant Professor, has been awarded a Richard C. Newman Art of Teaching Award. This award is presented annually to a natural resources faculty member who achieves excellence in teaching and has a positive impact on students. Please join us at the Newman Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, May 5, 3-4:30 PM, 105 Cargill, Saint Paul Campus. Congratulations, Paul!

Mark Hove, Bruce Vondracek, Professor and Assistant Coop Leader, and Jay Hatch, Associate Professor in CEHD, received an Award of Special Recognition from the Minnesota Chapter of the American Fisheries Society (MNAFS) for their service on the MNAFS Scholarship Committee since its inception in 2001.

Andrew Simons, Professor, was featured in a recent Minnesota Public Radio science update exploring why the scientific names of animals change. Read the full story, by Molly Bloom, “Thunder lizard lives: bronto tale shows how scientific names evolve”.

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photo of Marcus Beck with friends and bicycles

Since completing his Conservation Biology PhD in 2013, Marcus Beck has been working as a post-doc with the USEPA under a fellowship with the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education. He recently developed a software package for R to assist researchers and technicians from NOAAs National Estuarine Research Reserve System. Read about his work in this article by Tess Liebersohn, an EPA science writer who interviewed Marcus.

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Thanks to Sarah Mann and Michael Schestopol! Their bequest to FWCB will be a major contribution to the Grady Mann Scholarship Fund, supporting undergraduates interested in wetlands and waterfowl management.

photo of FWCB students in a boat

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. With support from the Dayton Kirkham Scholarship fund, we can cover the fees for 25% of students who attend, or 10 students each year. We hope to fund three more scholarships through the University of Minnesota Foundation crowdfunding by June 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 (612-624-7489, cashman@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!

a photo of wetlands