Note from the Department Head
Dear FWCB Alumni, Friends, Students, and Staff—
In the grand scheme of things at a university, individual academic departments like FWCB are not often in the public eye. The focus is usually on star faculty, university policies and plans how the athletic teams are faring. I’d like to think this lack of attention is mostly a good thing—that it reflects confidence that academic departments like FWCB are doing a good job of supporting research and providing educational opportunities for students and the broader public. But it’s worthwhile to periodically view the university from a “department-centric” perspective. With that in mind, I’d like to share some of my thoughts on the University’s new strategic plan called “Grand Challenges” which will likely shape the U’s priorities for many years to come. The 85-page draft strategic plan is available online.
To solve the grand challenges of a diverse and changing world the university needs to recruit and develop researchers and teachers who are “field-shapers,” world-leading researchers who shape their discipline as well as the next generation of professionals. The strategic plan identifies ways the university can best promote the productivity faculty at the forefront of their fields. As the plan notes, all research and teaching faculty need an academic home with which they closely identify. Being a good home to “field shapers” means having an excellent work environment, an inclusive culture, strong departmental leadership and ways to reward high productivity—all issues addressed in the plan.
The new plan also focuses on the need for the University to promote research that addresses key grand challenges. The plan identifies three research grand challenges for immediate action, one of which focuses on the environment: Advancing industry while conserving the environment and addressing climate change. Addressing the effects of climate change and finding solutions to reverse environmental degradation are research arenas in which the FWCB faculty are actively engaged. But this grand research challenge (unlike the other two) is surprisingly narrowly defined: the focus is on advancing industrial practice in ways that are environmentally sound while still making good business sense. Although a worthy goal, this research scope may not be sufficient to truly address the grand challenge we face to conserve Minnesota’s natural resources in the face of climate change, habitat conversion and invasive species introductions.
Strategic plans shape the university priorities and the distribution of resources, and so can change the capacity for departments like Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology to do their work. It will be interesting to see how this plan translates into new opportunities for students and faculty in FWCB. Where the plan doesn’t seem well-aligned with FWCB’s mission, we’ll figure out ways to move forward and create those opportunities!
FWCB Department Head
EVENTS & ANNOUNCEMENTS
The Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center is holding a Research Showcase on November 19, at the UM Saint Paul Campus from 10:30-4. Sessions will feature research talks highlighting recent advances relevant to AIS prevention and control, basic skills participants need to work on AIS problems, and a close-up look at methods researchers use to develop new methods to combat AIS. This meeting is open to the public and requires registration.
The Minnesota Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit (MN CFWRU) celebrated its 25th year of operation this year, having been established in 1987 and staffed since 1989. Cooperators gathered twice this year for annual Coordinating Committee meetings. The most recent meeting occurred in October 2014. All of the MN CFWRU cooperators (University of Minnesota, U.S. Geological Survey, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Wildlife Management Institute, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) came to at least one of our 2014 meetings, where we discussed cooperator contributions, ongoing and new research projects, and MN CFWRU productivity. More information on the MN CFWRU is available here.
Dr. Mel Sunquist (Wildlife BS 1965, MS 1970, PhD 1979) co-authored (with Fiona Sunquist) The Wild Cat Book: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Cats, soon to be released by University of Chicago Press. They also wrote Tiger Moon: Tracking the Great Cats in Nepal, Wild Cats of the World, and Florida: The Ecotravellers’ Wildlife Guide. Mel is Emeritus Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida.
FACULTY AND STAFF HIGHLIGHTS
A panel of seven scientists from the United States, Canada and Europe, including FWCB Department Head, Dr. Susan Galatowitsch, conducted a formal review of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s analysis of sulfate impacts to wild rice. This analysis and review are central to pending action on revising the state’s water quality standard for sulfate. Red Lake Nation News
Dr. Karen Oberhauser was featured on NBC Nightly News on September 13 in a story exploring the decline of Monarch butterflies. The Monarch has been proposed for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act.
FWCB undergraduate, Jessica Colbaugh, completed an expedition down the Chicago and Illinois Rivers as part of a multi-university group, Paddle Forward, with the Wild River Academy. The group’s 30 day journey took them down rivers that for centuries have been the focus of cultural transformations of the region, creating modern day environmental complexities. The group started in Chicago on September 9 and reached the confluence with the Mississippi River on October 7. During their travels, Paddle Forward students connected with K-12 schools, sharing videos, blog posts and photos of their encounters, discoveries and daily routines.
Twenty-nine students were recognized for their academic achievements at the FWCB Annual Awards Ceremony, held on October 6 prior to the Kolshorn Lecture. Undergraduate recipients of Dayton P Kirkham Scholarships, Erik Ness Scholarships, the Joseph Alexander Scholarship and RAP/URS Scholarships were honored along with graduate students receiving Wally Dayton Wildlife Research Fellowships and the L. Daniel Frenzel and Thomas F. Waters Fellowship. The awards ceremony program (PDF) is posted on the FWCB Website.
Conservation PhD students Jennifer Biederman, Kate Wyman, Will French and Grace Loppnow, published the paper they wrote as part of their written preliminary exam: Identifying Correlates of Success and Failure of Native Freshwater Fish Reintroductions. The article will appear in the Journal of Conservation Biology. It is available for early view online here.
At the recent joint American Ornithologists' Union/Cooper Ornithological Society/Society of Canadian Ornithologists meeting held in Estes Park, CO, Sarah Saunders received the AOU's Student Conservation Award for her paper, "Genetic and environmental influences on fitness-related traits in an endangered shorebird population.”
Thanks to all of those who have supported FWCB scholarships, fellowships, and the Kolshorn Lecture. That support truly makes a difference and provides opportunities that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. This year’s Kolshorn Lecture and Awards Ceremony was a great success and well-attended by FWCB alumni and friends. We’ll begin planning next year’s events soon and hope you’ll consider supporting future Kolshorn Lectures (link to fund on FWCB site).
To contribute to this fund or to FWCB in other ways, please contact Sue Galatowitsch (612-624-3242, email@example.com) or Cynthia Cashman (612-624-7489, firstname.lastname@example.org in the CFANS Development office. More information about making gifts to the department can be found on the FWCB website.
Your gift really can make a difference!