Feature Stories

Like many annual events, this year’s Soil Management Summit (SMS), formerly known as the Conservation Tillage Conference or CTC, has had to make the transition from in-person to online.

The SMS planning committee wanted to ensure the health and wellbeing of participants, vendors, and everyone else involved in the summit's production while maintaining the high standard of programmatic content the event has provided over the years. As the COVID-19 situation has evolved, the committee  made the decision that this event will be offered online only.

 

Information about the amount of water stored in the surface waters, soil, and groundwater systems on earth is valuable to water resource managers. Decisions on water allocations rest on assumptions or assessments of the availability of water in these different storage zones. The forecasting of the near-future states of the hydrologic system is dependent on estimates of water storage amounts. For instance, the occurrence of floods results when there is too much water in storage, and hydrologic droughts occur when there is too little water in storage.

When the COVID-19 shutdown stretched into weeks with no clear end, staff at the Onsite Sewage Treatment Program (OSTP) moved nimbly to adapt their programming. This has included offering synchronous and asynchronous online workshops, hybrid classes with online training and in-person field sessions, and fully in-person trainings with reduced class sizes and additional safety protocols.

With over 25 percent of Minnesota households relying on septic systems to treat their sewage and wastewater, trained septic professionals are critical to building and maintaining systems that efficiently treat waste and protect the surrounding environment.

OSTP, housed within the Water Resources Center, has been providing training workshops in partnership with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency since the 1970’s. Minnesota state law requires that septic professional attend certification workshops to obtain their licenses to install and service septic systems, so it was critical to continue to offer training opportunities.

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.

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