Feature Stories

Students across the Twin Cities metropolitan area are getting the opportunity to ask and answer their own scientific questions thanks to the Integrated Science Education and Outreach (InSciEd Out) program. An evidence-based elementary and middle school program, InSciEd Out empowers young learners to investigate society’s most pressing health issues so they can ignite measurable and sustainable changes in the health and wellness of their families and communities. Through a partnership between the College of Biological Science and the Mayo Clinic, InSciEd Out now reaches over 3,000 students form 6 partner schools in the Twin Cities.

The University of Minnesota’s Water Resources Center director Jeff Peterson is the lead investigator on a recently awarded National Science Foundation (NSF) grant which funds new research on providing sustainable food, energy and clean, plentiful water for the Earth’s burgeoning population.  NSF partnered with the National Institute for Food and Agriculture to award 46.6 million in grants to researchers committee to finding solutions to a potential sustainability crisis.

Lakes are changing and how we protect and manage them needs to change as well. Freshwater lakes are a tiny fraction (<0.5%) of the total water on earth, and host a web of complex ecosystems, and influence the lives of the many people around them.  Lakes are part of the still or standing water (lentic) of inland waters.  But, there is a full range of water motion (flow) within lakes that makes each lake a unique dynamic system and constantly changing.  Yet, lakes with similar shapes and forms (morphometry) of the same area (climate zones) tend to respond similarly to the changes inside them and within their watersheds.  

In the fall of 2016, Doug Malchow, since-retired Extension Educator in Water Resources, responded to inquiries from Dante Rand of the Cedar Lake Ambassadors of Rice County (CLARC) - a community of people interested in restoring, preserving, and protecting Cedar Lake in Rice County, Minnesota. CLARC is an action-oriented committee working in conjunction with the non-profit organizations of Cedar Lake Association and The Sportsman’s Club.

The 2017 Minnesota Water Resources Conference offered a variety of water topics to the record-breaking 787 attendees who gathered amid the fall color display along the Mississippi River. Tribal water management, discovering the source of harmful microorganisms in our recreational and drinking water and using media to bring problems and solutions to the public were just a handful of topics offered.

The area’s scenic attractions have typically been enhanced by its weather – breezy, sunny, and mild in summer and reliably snowy in winter.  But current models predict that global climate change patterns will result in local changes that could noticeably and adversely impact the visitor and resident North Shore experience. 

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?