Spring 2011

Greetings from Department Head Francie Cuthbert

The academic year has come to a close and it is time for our second department newsletter. Last fall, we began what we plan to be a yearly occurrence, communication to our alumni, colleagues and stakeholders, in the form of two electronic newsletters. This second newsletter provides an overview of department people and activities including short articles on the Minnesota Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Unit, a profile of graduate student Meadow Kouffeld and a study abroad opportunity for undergraduates in Thailand. Despite uncertain state and federal budgets, undergraduate and graduate enrollments have remained stable, faculty research grant dollars have increased and we were able to hire two new faculty members, James Forester and Paul Venturelli, in fall 2010 and 2011. At the end of this month, the department will lose Christina Clarkson, a key member of our office staff. Christina produced both newsletters this year, developed our website and contributed to department operations in many significant ways. We will miss her greatly but wish her well in her new position as Website and Electronic Communications Coordinator in the College of Education and Human Development. I hope you all have an enjoyable summer.

Minnesota Fisheries and Wildlife Cooperative Unit - A Message from Coop Unit Leader David Andersen

The Minnesota Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit has been in existence for just shy of 25 years. Since its establishment in the late 1980s, the MN Coop Unit has strived to fulfill its mission of research, graduate education, and outreach in natural resources conservation and management, including the human dimensions of wildlife and fisheries. Housed in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, MN Coop Unit scientists conduct research on a broad array of topics, teach graduate level courses and provide technical expertise in natural resources conservation. However, even though we’ve been around for a while, it’s not always apparent to those outside the MN Coop Unit how we are organized, how Coop Unit scientists are similar to university faculty, and how our responsibilities differ. So, here’s a brief overview of the MN Coop Unit.

The MN Coop Unit was located at the University of Minnesota in the then Department of Fisheries and Wildlife in 1987. Scientist positions at the MN Coop Unit were filled beginning in 1988—currently there are three U.S. Geological Survey scientists at the MN Coop Unit (David Andersen – Leader; David Fulton – Assistant Leader, Wildlife; and Bruce Vondracek – Assistant Leader, Fisheries). In addition, Hattie Saloka is the MNCFWRU Administrative Assistant, and provides administrative support to staff, students, and cooperators; in addition to setting up and tracking Coop Unit research grants (RWOs or Research Work Orders). MN Coop Unit scientists have faculty appointments in a variety of Graduate Programs at the University of Minnesota, and are restricted by federal regulation to focus on graduate-level education.

The MN Coop Unit is part of a national U.S. Geological Survey program, with 40 Cooperative Research Units in 38 states. Each Cooperative Research Unit is directed by a Coordinating Committee, which for the MN Coop Unit consists of the U.S. Geological Survey, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Wildlife Management Institute, the University of Minnesota, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Each of those cooperators provides support to the Coop Unit, and the nature of that support is spelled out in a formal Cooperative Agreement. The Coordinating Committee meets annually to review Coop Unit activities, approve new projects and recognize cooperator contributions. In addition to activities of Coop Unit scientists, the MN Coop Unit also provides an avenue for federal agencies to fund research of cooperating faculty.

Currently, the MN Coop Unit is involved in upwards of 20 research projects supported by over $3.5 million in external funding, and also provides administration for almost $1.0 million of research conducted by cooperating faculty. Coop Unit scientists advise over 20 graduate students, who work on a diversity of projects, ranging from estimating detection probabilities of American woodcock, to human dimensions of deer management in Minnesota, to the effects of rotational grazing on stream invertebrate communities and water quality. Every two years, we prepare a biennial report summarizing activities of the MN Coop Unit—our 2009-2010 biennial report is currently in preparation, and when completed, will be available on our website.

Undergraduate News - FWCB Club and International Field Course in Thailand


FWCB-enews-jpg-fwcbclub2The Fisheries and Wildlife Club has about 40 members who actively participate in different educational and professional experiences throughout the year. During the fall semester, members stayed busy with trips to the Hawk Ridge Nature reserve in Duluth and the Wildlife Science Center in Columbus, MN.

At Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve, the club witnessed the yearly raptor migration and adopted a Sharp-shinned Hawk, Accipiter striatus, which was caught by professional counters using mist nets. The club also traveled to the Wildlife Science Center in Columbus, Minnesota, where they got a tour of the different species at the center and a snake handling session (Pictured above). The club slept in a tent on the facilities camping area and listened to the wolves communicate to one another throughout the night. The club also assisted with a deer necropsy and saw the feeding and educational sessions of animals such as cougars, bears and wolves.

The club won $100 for the most interactive booth at the CFANS Fall BBQ Kickoff, where club officers educated students and faculty with wildlife bingo that involved the identification of pelts and skulls, slideshows of past club events, and handed out prizes. In December, club members volunteered their time at the 71st Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference, helping the conference run smoothly while also networking with professionals and other college students.

International Field Course in Thailand
Professor Dave Smith and Professor Francie Cuthbert led twelve undergraduate students on the annual large mammal survey design course in Thailand over winter break. Students spend two weeks at Thailand’s premier conservation research site, Khao Nang Rum Wildlife Research Center. There they get applied experience in designing and executing ecological field investigations for large mammals. The class also takes a trip up Thailand’s major waterway on a live aboard barge designed for research, and spends two days at Bongborapet wetlands to mist net birds. Fisheries and Wildlife senior Katherine Heffernan shares her thoughts on the experience.

FWCB-enews-jpg-thailandThe immediate immersion into both field work and Thai culture was great and made the transition easy. We met wonderful people and worked with researchers whose mission is to keep tigers here for future generations. Their dedication is inspiring and we saw their passion through their work. Being in the field and working with the researchers was educational, fun and a lot of hard work. A highlight for me was learning the different techniques used to collect data. I have a better understanding of what type of research is conducted in the field, how populations are monitored and have a better appreciation for everything. It was also great to have the opportunity to do mist netting with birds, where we learned to band and take measurements (Student Thomas Enright is pictured at left). We also were able to spend time bird watching along the river.

Some of the many cultural highlights included learning the language, how to bargain while shopping, and how to cook Thai food. One of my favorite things from the trip was waking up to the sounds of the jungle. One morning I woke up to gibbons calling far in the distance, but everything else was dead quiet. We were told that when the jungle goes silent, it means a large predator, either a tiger or leopard, is near. That was one of the coolest things on the trip and something that I will never forget.

Graduate Student Spotlight - Meadow Kouffeld

FWCB-enews-jpg-meadowkouffeld_thumbnailThe Department offers graduate degrees in Natural Resources Science & Management (NRSM) and Conservation Biology. There are more than 100 students enrolled in the NRSM program and about 70 students in the conservation biology program. In this issue NRSM student Meadow Kouffeld describes what brought her to the UMN and her research interests. Kouffeld is advised by Professor Rocky Gutiérrez.

I majored in wildlife conservation biology and vertebrate ecology at Humboldt State University in Arcata, CA, and was very involved in the student chapter of the wildlife society and wildlife conclave (wildlife quiz bowl). I have also worked with a wide spectrum of aquatic and terrestrial species across the West.

I first met Dr. Gutiérrez at Humboldt State, where he was the keynote speaker at our Western Section Student Conclave. I’ve had an interest in game birds for a long time, and his speech on grouse research around the world sparked my interest. We stayed in contact, and because we share similar philosophies on research and teaching, he thought I would be a good fit in his lab.

I was awarded the University’s D.O.V.E. Fellowship (Diversity of Views and Experiences) and secured funding for my grouse project through the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, so graduate work at Minnesota was an easy decision. I plan to acquire a Ph.D. working with large game or game bird species. Continuing my education is an important step in achieving my career goal of teaching the wildlife sciences. I think the best educators have a diverse background and teach through experience. I hope to continue to diversify my experiences within the University so that I’m able to better direct my future students as well as make informed career decisions.

My general research interests are in the ecology of game species and the sustainable management and use of wildlife resources. My thesis research has focused on the landscape scale habitat use of northern Minnesota by ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus). I find great importance in conducting research that can be directly applied to, and improve, wildlife management practices. Results from my current research should provide support for improving forest management practices such that forest structure provides habitat for a range of wildlife species in addition to forest products. This is especially important with the recent interest in converting aspen dominated habitat to conifer dominated habitat. In addition to studying wildlife I enjoy hunting, fishing, taxidermy, trapping, gathering natural foods, gardening, cooking, hiking, camping, exploring and creating wildlife art.

Department News and Upcoming Events

Two from FWCB Promoted to Professor
This spring two faculty members, Rob Blair and Kristen Nelson, were promoted from Associate Professor to Professor. Blair has a joint appointment with FWCB and University of Minnesota Extension, with research focused on urban wildlife ecology. Kristen Nelson has a shared appointment between FWCB and Forest Resources, and her research focuses on the human dimensions of natural resources.

New Fisheries Field Course - Field Methods in Applied Conservation of Aquatic Ecosystems
FWCB Research Associate Przemek Bajer will teach a two-week field course Aug. 22 - Sept 1, 2011, focused on how invasive species and eutrophication impact lake ecosystems. The course will focus on Twin Cities metro area lakes. For more information, download the syllabus or contact Dr. Bajer at bajer003@umn.edu

Conservation Biology "Bike Across Minnesota" Fundraiser - June 2-5, 2011
Graduate students in the Conservation Biology program are holding a bike relay across Minnesota as a fund raising campaign. The route will begin on the southern Minnesota border and travel north to the Canadian border, traversing over 400 miles in four days. More details on the event and how you may contribute are here.

Cloquet Alumni and Friends Day - July 30, 2011
You are invited to a fun-filled day at the 3,506 acre Cloquet Forestry Center— Minnesota's oldest forest reserved for research and education. There will be tours of forestry and wildlife research, updates from the college and a wonderful barbecue dinner and social. This is a great opportunity to learn about some of our college's most historic research, to connect with old and new friends in a relaxed and beautiful environment in northern Minnesota. We hope to see you there!

Saturday, July 30 - 12:30 p.m.- 6:30 p.m.
Cloquet Forestry Center - Cloquet, Minnesota.
Please RSVP by July 22
: z.umn.edu/cloquetalumniandfriends

FWCB Adjunct Faculty and Alumnus Appointed Head of Minnesota DNR
In January Governor Dayton appointed FWCB adjunct professor Tom Landwehr DNR commissioner. Landwehr received his M.S. in Wildlife Management from the University of Minnesota. He was most recently the assistant state director of the Nature Conservancy.

FWCB Professor Emeritus Tom Waters Publishes Book
FWCB-enews-jpg-watersbook_smallTom Waters' The Rivers of Minnesota: Recreation and Conservation was published by Riparian Press last September. The book is for sale at Amazon


Giving to FWCB
Consider making a gift to the department to support fellowships and scholarships, outreach programs, special research, and activities that enhance the learning experiences of our students.

The mission of the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology is to foster a high quality natural environment by contributing to the management, protection, and sustainable use of fisheries and wildlife resources through teaching, research, and outreach.

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2010-2011 Faculty and Staff Honors and Awards

David Andersen, Professor and Henry Streby, Research Associate, received the 2011 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Region 3 Award for Strategic Conservation in the Notable Projects/Team Achievement category.

Rob Blair, Professor, received the 2011 Outstanding Community Service Award in the faculty division from the Office of Public Engagement. The award is given to a faculty member who has made an extraordinary, significant contribution to the betterment of society through his/her research, teaching and/or public service.

Douglas Johnson, Adjunct Professor in FWCB and Research Statistician and Senior Scientist, USGS, was selected to receive the 2010 Aldo Leopold Memorial Award at The Wildlife Society's annual meeting this month in Snowbird, Utah. This award recognizes distinguished service to wildlife conservation and is the highest honor bestowed by the Society.

Ken Kozak, Assistant Professor, received the American Society of Naturalist's President's Award for best paper published in The American Naturalist during 2010 (volumes 175 and 176). Kozak and John Wiens of Stony Brook University published "Niche conservatism drives elevational diversity patterns in Appalachian salamanders," in July 2010. 

Ray Newman
, Professor, received a distinguished teaching award for his outstanding contributions to postbaccalaureate, graduate, and/or professional education. This honor is awarded annually to exceptional candidates nominated by their colleges in their quest to identify excellence in postbaccalaureate, graduate, and/or professional education.

Karen Oberhauser, Associate Professor, received the 2011 R.C. Newman Art of Teaching Award. The award is presented annually to a faculty member who focuses on the natural resource sciences, achieves excellence in teaching, and has a positive impact on students.

2010-2011 Graduate Student Honors and Awards

Marcus Beck, Conservation Biology, won the Best Student Paper Award at the 44th Annual Meeting of the Minnesota Chapter of the American Fisheries Society.

Advisor: Bruce Vondracek

Serge Berg received an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Berg will enter the Conservation Biology program this fall, and James Forester will be his advisor.

Stephanie Bergh, NRSM, Best Student Presentation, 2010 Joint Meeting of the Minnesota Chapters of The Wildlife Society, American Fisheries Society, Society of American Foresters, and the Society for Conservation Biology, Nisswa, Minnesota.

Advisor: David Andersen

Lorelle Berkeley, NRSM, accepted a permanent position with Montana Game, Fish and Parks as a research scientist.

Advisor: Rocky Gutiérrez

Meadow Kouffeld, NRSM, received the Donald H. Rusch Memorial Game Bird Research Scholarship at The Wildlife Society's annual meeting in Snowbird, Utah. The scholarship assists a graduate student studying upland game bird or waterfowl biology and management.

Advisor: Rocky Gutiérrez

Kelly Nail,
Conservation Biology, received the Joan Mosenthal DeWind Award from the Xerces Society. This award will fund her research on the impacts of climate change on monarch butterflies.

Advisor: Karen Oberhauser

Erin Roche,
Conservation Biology, has a postdoctoral position at the University of Tulsa with Dr. Charles Brown.

Advisor: Francie Cuthbert 

Jon Slaght, NRSM, accepted a permanent position as research and conservation scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society Russia Program.

Advisor: Rocky Gutiérrez

Gopi Sundar,
Conservation Biology, received a Noteworthy Oral Presentation Award at the Waterbird Society annual meeting in Grand Island, Nebraska.

Advisor: Francie Cuthbert

Perry Williams, NRSM, accepted a Ph.D. position with Bill Kendall at Colorado State University.

Advisor: Rocky Gutiérrez

Kate Wyman, Conservation Biology, received a Noteworthy Poster Award at the Waterbird Society annual meeting in Grand Island, Nebraska.

Advisor: Francie Cuthbert