Fall 2020 Director's Corner

Dear Friends,


We wish you all good health as we reach the autumn of this difficult year.   

Like many of you, the WRC has spent the majority of the year in an all-virtual workplace. This change requires some ingenuity for professionals whose work depends on hands-on or interactive activities. I have been impressed with the ways that our staff have found innovative solutions to move their programs forward. In this issue, we’d like to share a few of these stories.

Our Onsite Sewage Treatment Program (OSTP) trains professionals who install, maintain, and inspect septic systems across Minnesota. OSTP has a full calendar of training workshops every year. Some of these were quickly modified for delivery online, while others are being offered in a blended format with both online and socially-distanced in-person components. 

If you have ever been on the delivery side of a conference, you know that these one- or two-day events take months of planning and organization. WRC staff prepare a number of conferences every year and found creative ways to deliver them in a virtual setting. For example, the Soil Management Summit (formerly the Conservation Tillage Conference) is being offered in an all-virtual format for the first time.  

Likewise, the Minnesota Water Resources Conference was delivered online in mid-October. Over 800 participants joined in for live presentations, Slack conversations, and small-group networking via Zoom. We’ll have a full recap in the next Minnegram, but for now I would like to congratulate Deb Swackhamer for receiving the Dave Ford Award.

I’m especially impressed by people who have navigated career transitions during the pandemic. In an interview with the Minnegram, Amy Shrank relays her experience of moving into the WRC office just days before being required to work from home. We are pleased to have Amy located in the WRC’s St. Paul office while working as an Extension Educator for the Minnesota Sea Grant Program at UM-Duluth. Her position reflects a growing partnership between Sea Grant and the WRC.  We also welcomed two new Extension Educators to our Water Resources team during the pandemic: Taylor Becker, who joined us in March and Anne Sawyer, who joined us in July. Taylor and Anne will further expand Extension programming on nutrient management, groundwater, and watershed planning. 

Research goes on as well, and we are pleased to include guest articles on two path breaking projects. John Nieber describes his recent work on terrestrial water storage. Dr. Nieber and his research team combined gravity measurements from satellites with observations on the ground to reveal the long-term patterns in total water stored in the landscape including lakes, streams, wetlands, soil water, and aquifers. Better projections of water storage can help to manage floods and protect streamflow during droughts. 

Mae Davenport, Michael Dockry, Gene-Hua Crystal Ng, and Emily Green write about their project, Kawe Gidaa-Naanaagadawendaamin Manoomin/Psiη. Their project has an Ojibwe title meaning “First we must consider Manoomin,” and is a collaboration among nine tribes, five tribal resource agencies, and researchers from the University of Minnesota. Their goal is to incorporate traditional ecological knowledge with western science to understand the causes of declining manoomin populations throughout the traditional lands of the Anashinaabe people.

Be safe and well,