Symposium explores new fellows program for WRC, importance of sound science in invasive species policy

greg cuomo

CFANS Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Programs sees gatherings like the Research Symposium are key in forging collaborations on campus and beyond

Water Resources Center Director Jeff Peterson welcomed the Research symposium attendees and introduced CFANS Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Programs Greg Cuomo. Cuomo spoke of water being a large part of the CFANS academic portfolio, benefiting Minnesota, the US and the world. Events like the symposium assist in taking research to the next level, collaborating across disciplines, colleges and professions, and leaving the gathering at the end of the day with new working relationships.

Peterson returned to the podium with a proposal to create a more formal affiliation between WRC and its research partners. A fellows program would hold many advantages for researchers working with the WRC; recognition for contributions to the community, access to WRC communications platforms, a vehicle to collect community input to shape WRC activities, and identification of expertise clusters available to internal and external parties.

A survey about the proposed program was available to attendees to gauge interest.

WRS-UMD Donn Branstetter presented an overview of the WRS program, saying it is distinctive due to its interdisciplinary make up, which allows for teaching strong technical skills alongside biophysical sciences and social science.


John Barton of the Minnesota Clean Water Council led the next presentation on the implications of research on water resources management, and the consequences of proceeding without proven science informing implementation.

Barton presented a cautionary tale of science not leading environmental policy, illustrated by the milfoil proliferation in Lake Minnetonka. The resulting hue and cry from the public about the infestation led to uninformed, unsuccessful and expensive efforts to control the weed. Had commissioners waited for and heeded the research, they would have known that milfoil will grow where it wants, some lakes are just at higher risk than others, and areas of likely spread are easy to identify.  Lake management informed from UMN research guided future milfoil control so supervisors knew how to manage the timeline for treatment and thus how to budget. Other benefits of following scientific protocol included clear chemical efficacy, methodical plant surveys done using accepted protocol, thus allowing for success to be easily measured and reported.


A group discussion around future collaborations ended the formal portion of the day-long conference. A reception and poster session wrapped up the day.

The symposium was held on the St. Paul campus January 24, 2020 and was sponsored by the Water Resources Center, the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center and the Minnesota INvasive Terrestrial Palnts and Pests Center