Director's Corner Spring 2020


Dear Friends,

I hope you and those close to you are safe and well during these extraordinary times. Like many organizations, we at the WRC are adjusting to a new normal of all-remote work. Amid the difficult news of rising illness and death tolls, I draw inspiration from seeing my colleagues and so many others tackle these times with resilience and creativity. 

While the pre-COVID world feels like the distant past, we have much WRC news to report from both before and during the pandemic. I began the year 2020 by being able to share the news with our staff that the WRC received an ‘outstanding’ rating from a recent USGS review. We were one of twelve centers and institutes among the 54 who were reviewed to receive this top rating. The review considered the work during 2011-15, when Deb Swackhamer and Faye Sleeper led the center. This news is yet another recognition of their leadership and the work of the WRC staff during that time - a foundation on which we continue to build. 

In January, when in-person events were still possible, we held two gatherings on different topics on the St. Paul Campus. Our Research Symposium highlighted the emerging science on the links between water resources and invasive species, aquatic and terrestrial. We co-hosted the symposium with the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center and the Minnesota Invasive Terrestrial Plants and Pests Center, bringing together three communities of scientists and practitioners. The Climate Adaptation Conference also sought to create new connections, with a program built around the theme “Crossing Boundaries – Sparking Collaboration.” 

Elsewhere in this issue you will find updates on some of the latest work on emerging water issues. Leslie Knoll, a Station Biologist and Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Itasca Biological Station, contributed an article describing how progressively shorter seasons of ice cover affect cultural ecosystem services. Ann Lewandowski summarizes a project commissioned by the Minnesota Department of Health. A collaboration between the WRC and the Humphrey School of Public affairs, the project assessed the governance of drinking water systems in the state with a focus on structures that can address evolving needs. Adam Wilke provides an update on a series of training workshops on the Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework, a tool that uses high-resolution geospatial data and modeling to aid in watershed planning. 

Finally, we’re excited to share with you a new “Water” page on the University of Minnesota Extension website. Dana Wilson and Joel Larson explain the development of this page and the variety of topics it covers. 

While the future is uncertain in so many ways, the breadth of information on the new Extension webpage is a good reminder that water resources challenges will go on. And our work goes on too. 

Wishing you all good health,