Feature Stories

Early fall means wild rice harvesting season for many people in Minnesota and around the western Great Lakes. Manoomin (Ojibwe)/ Psiη (Dakota) / Zizania palustris (Latin/scientific) is a highly nutritious native grass that has long grown in shallow waterways throughout the Great Lakes region. To the Ojibwe tribes across the region it is a sacred food, medicine, and gift from the Creator, which they have stewarded, hand-harvested, and processed for millennia. Manoomin is also a highly sensitive species. Its range and abundance have been in decline because of multiple stressors including disturbed hydrology, nutrient loads, land use change and climate change. It is nearly gone in Michigan, and an estimated one-third of Manoomin stands have disappeared across Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Minnesota Sea Grant's Amy Schrank moved into the WRC offices just in time to stay at home for the COVID-19 shut down. Minnegram recently checked in to see how Schrank was navigating research and collaboration during the pandemic.

Minnegram: Your Sea Grant profile states that you are "collaborating with stakeholders and researchers to understand the potential for an environmentally sustainable aquaculture industry within Minnesota and across the Great Lakes region." Is that work continuing during the pandemic?

Schrank: Though the pandemic has made it impossible to meet with stakeholders and researchers in person, I have had success in making connections by both phone and video conference. One project that has moved forward despite the pandemic is our Great Lakes Aquaculture Collaborative Project (GLAC).

UCOWR announced the awards that would have been presented at their Octotber 2020 conference in Minneapolis MN. Several WRC researchers and associates received virtual recognition:

Minnesota Water Resources Conference co-chair and Water Resources Center Director Jeff Peterson announced that due to continuing uncertainties about the COVID-19 pandemic, the conference planning committee made the decision to move the conference to an online-only format. “Our decision was made to ensure the health and safety of all participants, as well as to provide inclusive and equal access to all regardless of individual health risks,” said Peterson. 

Every spring, as tractors and planters spread out across rural Minnesota, seeding the earth with what will become the annual crop of corn, soybeans, wheat and other agricultural commodities, University of Minnesota researchers are out in full force, as well.  They use flagging and GPS to establish research plots on University research farms or private farms across the state, planting and fertilizing these controlled experiments in order to expand our knowledge on how to effectively manage insect pests, diseases, and nutrients. 

Based on responses from an online survey, and in consultation with campus web experts, the UMN Extension water team created and organized their extensive set of tools, materials and information to help Minnesotans manage our valuable water resources.

Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework (ACPF) is a planning tool which identifies specific locations and opportunities on agricultural landscapes to implement conservation practices. Watershed coordinators use detailed ACPF maps to focus fieldwork and to help explain local issues and opportunities to farmers and landowners and engage them in designing solutions. 

The University of Minnesota Water Resources Center, with support from the Environmental Protection Agency and in partnership with the University of Wisconsin Extension, Purdue University, and local agency partners, hosted the second of three scheduled Watershed Applications of ACPF workshops January 6-7, 2020.  More than 20 watershed coordinators from throughout the Midwest attended to learn and share how ACPF can be used in watershed-scale conservation planning and implementation.

By Lesley Knoll

It’s springtime; birds are on the move and it is the time of year when lake ice-outs spread northward in Minnesota. Local and worldwide ice records were collected before we had weather stations and they provide an independent set of human observations. These records help us to see that over the past century, lakes around the Northern Hemisphere have earlier ice break-up, later ice formation, and shorter seasons of ice cover. Some areas also experience increased frequency in freeze-thaw events.

Minnesota lakes are not immune and long-term ice cover trends here mirror those worldwide. Winter is important to us in our state where the season is long and outdoor activities can be key to our well-being. Part of our love for winter is connected to lake ice and the cultural, social, and economic benefits we receive from it. In our study, we looked at consequences of ice loss on these benefits ranging from recreation, social relations, spiritual connections, to capturing the frozen landscape on your phone’s camera.

The University of Minnesota’s Water Resources Center (WRC) was recognized by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) as operating at an outstanding level. Specifically, the WRC was lauded for its diversity of chosen water projects, collaborations with other institutions and agencies, student support through grants, real-world impact on local water management. The WRC is one of just 12 out of 54 national water centers to be given this recognition as part of a five year review by the USGS.

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