Summer 2010

Greetings from Department Head Francie Cuthbert

As the current Head of the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota, I am excited to connect with former and current students, faculty, professional colleagues, stakeholders and friends. This e-newsletter has been in the planning stages for some time. We will produce two e-newsletters each year with the goal of sharing Department activities and accomplishments. For this first issue I have provided a brief history of the Department and how it has evolved over the years.

Since its earliest inception, just before the Great Depression, the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology has undergone many name changes and administrative homes. In his 1976 Agricultural Experiment Station publication “The Department of Entomology, Fisheries, and Wildlife 1888-1974,” the late A.C. Hodson provided an excellent summary of our Department’s history. In 1928, a game management research and teaching program was established in the Division of Entomology and Economic Zoology at the University of Minnesota. Development of this program was stimulated by a proposal from Aldo Leopold to then President Coffman.  

Professor Ralph King was the first formal wildlife faculty member. By 1935, he taught the course, Principles of Wildlife Conservation, at the Forestry and Biological Station at Itasca State Park. In 1946, a research and teaching program in fish culture and management was approved by the University. Dr. Lloyd Smith was the first fisheries faculty member. One justification for this new program was that it would strengthen the offerings in game management and wildlife, and promote a more harmonious and cooperative relationship between the University and the then State Department of Conservation. In 1962, the name of the Division was changed to the Department of Entomology, Fisheries and Wildlife to better reflect the nature of the disciplines embraced by the Department. Three years later, the Department moved into the newly constructed Hodson Hall. In 1982, the departments split into separate entities, and Fisheries and Wildlife joined the College of Forestry; the College name was changed to the College of Natural Resources in 1987. In 2001, the Department changed its name to Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology (FWCB) to communicate current research and teaching expertise. Finally, in 2006 two colleges merged to create the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) where our Department resides today.

Faculty news

FWCB-enews-millerimgAs of fall 2010, the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology has 17 faculty members. In addition to the 13 with regular appointments, three individuals are members of the USGS Minnesota Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit which was established in 1987. This summer, we were fortunate to add Dr. Loren Miller to our faculty. He is a fisheries geneticist who is employed by the MN DNR and housed in Hodson Hall.

FWCB-faculty-foresterimgDr. James Forester joined the department in July as an assistant professor/large mammal ecologist. Forester received his Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Wisconsin and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard. His wife, Dr. Véronique St-Louis, also joined the department as a research associate. She received her Ph.D. in Forest Ecology and Management from the University of Wisconsin, and was most recently a postdoctoral research associate at Brown.

FWCB-enews-venturellithumbIn fall 2011, a new faculty member, Dr. Paul Venturelli, will add to our expertise in quantitative fisheries ecology. Several emeritus faculty are still active in our program. For more information on faculty and their research, see the Faculty page at our website. Photo credit: Roch Lecompte, Lecompte Photography.

Retirements and departures

FWCB-enews-adelmanthumbIra Adelman received his Ph.D. in Fisheries at UMN in 1969 (Lloyd Smith, advisor) and joined the faculty in 1974. He retired in 2009 and left a legacy as Department Head for 18 years and faculty member for 34. His research interests and expertise centered on environmental physiology of fishes, aquatic toxicology and fisheries management. One of his many contributions to the Department and the U was acquisition of funds for the St. Paul Campus aquaculture facility. Ira taught seven courses ranging from Orientation to Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology to Environmental Physiology of Fishes to Aquatic Toxicology. He was also an exceptional advisor to about 25 graduate students. Professionally, he was very active in the American Fisheries Society over a period spanning four decades; he served on more than a dozen committees and was President in 2004. In 1997, AFS awarded Ira their Distinguished Service Award.

FWCB-faculty-kapuscinskiimg In 2009 Fisheries Professor Anne Kapuscinksi moved to Dartmouth College, where she was appointed the Fairchild Distinguished Professor of Sustainability Science. She joined the FWCB faculty in 1984. While at the University, Kapuscinksi was a founding fellow of the Institute on the Environment, a Sea Grant extension specialist and director of the Institute for Social, Economic and Ecological Sustainability. She also founded the AquaGen Laboratory, which focuses on population and conservation genetics of fish and other aquatic organisms. In 2008, Anne was awarded a Distinguished Service Award from the Society for Conservation Biology.

FWCB-faculty-spanglerimgGeorge Spangler received his Ph.D. in Zoology at University of Toronto and came to UMN in 1978 from his position as Scientist in Charge, Lake Huron Fisheries Research Unit, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. George’s research focused on population dynamics of fishes in large lake systems, Native American fish and wildlife management, and the biochronology of fishes. George was also a passionate teacher and advisor. In 1999, he was honored with a Richard C. Newman Art of Teaching Award. George developed and taught more than a dozen courses spanning from the Ecology of Fish Populations to Treaty Rights and Natural Resources. He also advised more than 25 graduate students and recruited and advised the first three women to complete graduate degrees in Fisheries at the University. George was very active with the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, especially as Chairman, Board of Technical Experts, and he received their Distinguished Service Award in 1988. For his research in Minnesota, George was honored with an Award of Excellence, MN Chapter, American Fisheries Society. After 31 years, George retired from the University in 2009.

Undergraduate learning opportunities

There are approximately 150 undergraduate students enrolled in the Fisheries and Wildlife major. Two capstone courses are held every August at the Cloquet Forestry Center in northern Minnesota, to give students hands-on experience in their major.

FWCB-enews-cloquetimg2In the first course, students study the field identification of approximately 100 plants, and the role plants play in the survival of wildlife. The second course emphasizes planning and implementing research and management projects and data collection. Students also radio track bears and sometimes participate in a capture (pictured right).

FWCB-enews-bahamasimageThe department also offers annual international field research opportunities. Professor Dave Smith leads a course on large mammal survey design in Thailand over winter break. Professor Jim Perry offers a course in Integrated Tropical Water Quality Management in Jamaica, and Professor Peter Sorensen leads a tropical marine biology and shark ecology course in the Bahamas. Pictured at left is a student from the Bahamas class with a twelve-foot long tiger shark caught at 500 feet.

Interdisciplinary courses like Associate Professor Todd Arnold’s Sustainable People, Sustainable Planet, have grown significantly and attract majors from across the University and consistently reach maximum enrollment. The course is offered as part of the Sustainability studies minor created in 2006.

Research - A look at Peter Sorensen's ongoing carp studies

FWCB-carp2-imgFaculty, staff and graduate students participate in diverse research at local to global locations. This issue highlights Professor Peter Sorensen's ongoing carp studies. The common carp, Cyprinus carpio, is one of the world’s most damaging fishes and it has dominated thousands of Minnesota lakes for over a century. It has also become a focus of Professor Sorensen's laboratory which seeks to develop a detailed understanding of its biology to permit integrated control strategies to be developed.

He believes these efforts will help with the Asian carp which are now invading from the south but finds this fish to be fascinating its own right. Efforts focus on understanding how this species uses pheromones (as attractants for trapping), its migratory movements (acoustical barriers), complex and fascinating life history (sustainable recruitment control), and feeding habits (how and why it damages lakes and what can be done).

Already nearly 90% of the biomass of carp in several local lakes has been removed and because reproductive success has also been suppressed, substantial increases in water clarity are being noted. Support comes from many sources including the Australian government, the Minnesota Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund, The Riley Purgatory Bluff Creek Watershed District and the Ramsey Washington Metro Watershed District. The latter organization, which spans the Twin Cities' northeast metro region, is presently supporting research to monitor carp movement and population dynamics. The district recently produced a documentary on Sorensen's research. Click here to watch.

Outreach - Minnesota Master Naturalist

FWCB-mnaturalist-imgPart of the FWCB department's mission is to foster a high quality natural environment through outreach, and the Minnesota Master Naturalist program is one of the key ways that mission is fulfilled. The program was created in 2005 by Associate Professor Rob Blair, who developed it with a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Through a combination of outdoor activities and classroom learning, adults learn about the three major biomes of Minnesota: Big Woods, Big Rivers; Prairies and Potholes; and North Woods, Great Lakes. Participants then complete forty hours of volunteer projects that include activities ranging from leading hikes to monarch larval monitoring. The program also attracts volunteer instructors with backgrounds in environmental science.

Since the program began, more than 100 instructors have taught classes, and over 500 volunteers have graduated from Minnesota Master Naturalist. In 2009, for example, volunteers spent 30,013 hours on stewardship projects, interpretive activities, citizen-science monitoring and program support at various nature centers.

Associate Professor Karen Oberhauser is a Co-Principal Investigator on the grant and is a vital member of the team, along with the Environmental Science Educators in University Extension, Amy Rager, Nate Meyer, and Andrea Lorek-Strauss. Peggy Guiney earned her Ph.D. on the project, exploring what motivates people to volunteer for conservation organizations. She now works as an evaluator on the project. Minnesota Master Naturalist is a joint effort of University of Minnesota Extension and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

If you are interested in participating or would like more information, visit their website.


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.

Questions or comments? Please e-mail Christina Clarkson at

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2009-2010 Faculty Honors and Awards

Rocky Gutiérrez and other members of The Northern Spotted Owl Long-Term Demography Research Team received the Ralph Schreiber Conservation Award by the American Ornithologists' Union. Adjunct faculty Alan Franklin was also part of the award team. The award honors extraordinary scientific contributions to the conservation, restoration, or preservation of birds and/or their habitats. Rocky has been part of the team for 23 years.

Ken Kozak was named a McKnight Land-Grant Professor. The program is designed to advance the careers of assistant professors who have the potential to make significant contributions to their scholarly fields. Each award includes a research grant for two consecutive years, summer support and a research leave in the second year. Kozak's research asks what can salamanders tell us about the origin and fate of the world's biodiversity hotspots.

Jim Perry won a CFANS Student Board Award. The award recognized the outstanding teaching efforts of two CFANS professors for their contributions to the education of students made during the 2009-2010 school year.

Andrew Simons won a CFANS Distinguished Teaching Award and a Best Director of Graduate Studies Award. Simons is director of the Ecology, Evolution and Behavior graduate program.

2009-2010 Graduate Student Honors and Awards

Courtney Amundson, Natural Resources Science and Management, received three awards at the North American Duck Symposium: 1st Place Student Poster Award, 2nd Place Student Presentation Award and a Student Travel Award.

Advisor: Todd Arnold

Lorelle Berkeley
, Natural Resources Science and Management, received the Gordon Gullion Fellowship and the Leigh H. Perkins Fellowship in Wildlife Management.

Advisor: Rocky Gutiérrez

Andrea Claassen
, Conservation Biology, received a three-year NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.

Advisor: Francie Cuthbert

Christy Dolph, Water Resources Science, was awarded an EPA STAR Graduate Fellowship and a Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship for the 2010-2011 academic year.

Advisor: Bruce Vondracek

Meadow Kouffeld
, Natural Resources Science and Management, received the Gordon Gullion Fellowship.

Advisor: Rocky Gutiérrez

Brandt Meixell, Conservation Biology, received the Ducks Unlimited Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Foundation Wetlands and Waterfowl Research Fellowship. He also received the Dennis G. Raveling Scholarship for Waterfowl Research.

Advisor: Todd Arnold

Sarah Thompson, Conservation Biology, received the Ducks Unlimited Edward D. and Sally M. Futch Graduate Fellowship. She also received a 3rd place student presentation award at the North American Duck Symposium.

Advisor: Todd Arnold