Feature Stories

Citizen science is a field on the rise.  Around the globe, researchers are harnessing the power of engaged members of the community to help contribute to important research questions.  As defined by the Citizen Science Association, citizen science is “the involvement of the public in scientific research – whether community-driven research or global investigations.”

Now, University of Minnesota Extension and the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center are joining the movement and breaking new ground (or should we say, water) by bringing citizen science to the world of invasive aquatic plant management.  Many state and local agencies already utilize citizen scientists as part of their water quality monitoring programs and volunteers are becoming a key component for aquatic invasive species (AIS) monitoring.  The AIS Trackers program is bringing together these forms of citizen science to help answer the question: How can AIS control be maximized while minimizing impacts to non-target species?

Starry stonewort (Nitellopsis obtusa) is a new aquatic invasive species in Minnesota. This green alga—native to Europe and Asia—was first identified in Minnesota in summer 2015 in Lake Koronis (Stearns Co.). This came on the heels of new state records within the last few years in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Vermont. Its history in North America dates back to at least 1974, when it was collected from the St. Lawrence River, where it was likely introduced by transatlantic shipping. Despite its reputation as an aggressive invasive species, starry stonewort is actually classified as threatened and endangered in parts of its native range. But it has found conditions in North American lakes in which it thrives.

The 2017 Minnesota Water Resources Conference returns to the St. Paul RiverCentre October 17-18. The Water Resources Center hosts the annual conference which presents innovative water resource engineering solutions, management techniques, and current research. Plenary topics include the role of media in raising public awareness of water issues, water quality in agriculture, protecting public health in recreational waters and tribal water concerns. There will be a poster session on the first day of the conference and industry vendors will staff exhibits throughout both days.

Blue-green algae, cyanobacteria, harmful algal blooms - the terminology can get confusing. What is a concerned citizen to do?  

During Governor Mark Dayton’s Year of Water Action, the Water Resources Center convened a series of Water Science and Policy Salons to identify policy strategies that will provide significant movement towards meeting the goals put forth in the Minnesota Nutrient Reduction Strategy. 

Faye Sleeper decided early on that being a woman was not going to limit her life choices. Her father taught her to change tires and motor oil and she was her own bike mechanic. Her parents’ life and work ethic of fairness and kindness to all, cautious optimism and unwavering stewardship for the earth, had a profound effect on their daughter who carried those lessons into her life and work. “My parents modeled a conservation ethic long before it was trendy,” she says. Both Faye’s parents had advanced education and valued a college education for their daughter. 

Mark Seeley, climatologist with the UMN Department of Soil, Water, and Climate, handed out Climate Adaption awards at the May 2017 National Adaptation Forum in St. Paul. Seeley began the award portion of the program by presenting an award to recently retired WRC Associate Director Faye Sleeper

The Universities Council on Water Resources (UCOWR) has awarded Deborah Swackhamer (former WRC co-director) the Warren A. Hall Medal in honor of her lifetime achievements in water resources research and education.  

There are two current projects working simultaneously to advance the needs for additional research in stormwater management, practices, and policies for Minnesota.
The Stormwater Research Roadmap project is articulating and prioritizing research needs that can propel stormwater management and practice implementation forward to reduce and prevent pollution from urban stormwater runoff.

The USGS-funded NIWR 2017 grant competition yielded three project awardees, announced earlier this year.  Funding is available to researchers (pending Congressional budget action later this year) through WRC’s selection process, which chooses from submitted competent applied and peer reviewed research submissions each November. This year’s grants highlight methods to mitigate nitrogen and phosphorus from drain tile, open source monitoring of turbidity in surface water and testing the efficacy of buffer strips in deterring the export of organic matter and the resulting algal blooms.

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