Get to Know the New Cons Bio Cohort 2014 edition (Part 3)

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Name: Britney Mosey
Hometown: Prior Lake, MN
Other colleges/universities attended (undergrad and/or graduate): UW-Madison
Advisor: Jay Hatch
Degree anticipated: MS
Research interests: animal behavior (mainly fish) and how humans are influencing them
Favorite hobbies: running, traveling, diving, hanging out with my dog Reagan
Favorite thing that’s green: stride gum
Last read: Harry Potter. I reread them at least once a year.
Favorite place on Earth: Hogwarts (kidding), Hawaii
Guilty pleasure: Harry Potter, ABC shows

Name: Annie Bracey
Hometowmn: Albuquerque, NM
Other colleges/universities attended (undergrad and/or graduate): University of MN-Duluth
Advisors: Dr. Cuthbert and Dr. Niemi
Degree anticipated: PhD in Conservation Biology
Research interests: Avian Conservation
Guilty pleasure: I enjoy antique stores and shopping for records


Get to Know the New Cons Bio Cohort 2014 edition (Part 2)

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Name: Jordan Rutter
Hometown: Silver Spring, MD
Other colleges/universities attended (undergrad and/or graduate): Oberlin College
Advisor: Francie Cuthbert
Degree anticipated: M.S.
Research interests: Bird Conservation Education –My project will be focused on piping plover outreach and public engagement in conservation in the Great Lakes region.
Favorite hobbies: Birding, Photography, Ceramics
Favorite thing that’s green: Green Jay
Last read: Deception Point by Dan Brown
Favorite place on Earth: Bird Rock in St. Mary’s, Newfoundland, Canada
Guilty pleasure: Tv shows/pop culture

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Name: Ashley Smith
Hometown: St. Paul
Other colleges/universities: University of British Columbia
Advisor: Andrew Simons
Degree anticipated: MS
Research interests: Population genetics of North American freshwater mussels and co-evoluation with their fish hosts.
Favourite hobbies: Rock climbing, hiking, biking, cooking and baking.
Favourite thing that’s green: Pacific Spiny Lumpsucker
Last read: Into the Wild
Favourite place on Earth: Bamfield, British Columbia
Guilty pleasure: Webcomics

Get to Know the New Cons Bio Cohort 2014 edition (Part 1)

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Name: Brittney Yohannes
Hometown: Lino Lakes, MN
Other colleges/universities attended (undergrad and/or graduate): Bethel University
Advisor: Dr. Todd Arnold
Degree anticipated: MS
Research interests: Red-headed Woodpecker nesting, all things avian
Favorite hobbies: birding, camping, video gaming, exploring the Twin Cities
Favorite thing that’s green: hummingbirds
Last read: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Favorite place on Earth: the cloud forests of Mindo, Ecuador
Guilty pleasure: eating peanut butter and Nutella right out of the jars (usually mixed together)


Name: Ami Thompson
Hometown: Cedarburg, WI
Other colleges/universities attended (undergrad and/or graduate): UW-River Falls (B.S. in Conservation, minor in Geology)
Advisor: Rob Blair and Karen Oberhauser
Degree anticipated: leaning towards PhD
Research interests: Dragonflies and Damselflies
Favorite hobbies: Canoeing, Cooking, Yoga, Running,  Dragonfly Catching
Favorite thing that’s green: Common Green Darner
Last read: Skinny Legs and All, Tom Robbins
Favorite place on Earth: Our slice of recreation land along Hall’s Creek near Black River Falls, WI
Guilty pleasure: Video Games

The diversity of conservation: Exploring narratives, relationships and ecosystem services in Melanesian market-based biodiversity conservation. PhD Dissertation Defense by Bridget M Henning

Date October 20th, 2014

Time: 9:00 am

Place: R-380 LES 


Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a biodiversity hotspot with large carbon pools making it a target of international conservation efforts.  Protection of biodiversity in PNG requires conservationists to work with customary landowners, whose land rights are ensured in the constitution.  New projects utilizing market-based conservation are now being attempted in PNG. Landowners welcome direct payments from conservationists, but different cultural perspectives exist.  This dissertation examines the perspectives of landowners and conservationists in a market-based project. The first chapter describes Wanang village and the development of the Wanang Conservation Project, the first project in PNG to use direct payments for conservation. The second chapter explores the multiple meanings of conservation to villagers; conservation is discussed in term of as ancestral resource protection, material benefits, exchange relationships, political leadership, and as a connection to ancestors. These narratives demonstrate the diverse roles that conservation plays in Wanang, far more complex than simple biodiversity protection. In the third chapter, villagers’ and conservationists’ interests in ecosystem services and how these interests align are discussed through an examination of the bundling of carbon storage, hunted game, useful plants, and forest spirits in primary and secondary forests. Villagers’ interests in hunting, forest spirits, and plants used for tools, medicine, food, and rituals, bundled with conservationists’ interests in carbon storage in primary forests.  The fourth chapter examines the complexity of using economic incentives in Melanesia. Conservationists use economic discourse to explain how the project functions and how they appeal to villagers as rational, self-interested, economic actors.  However, villagers see incentives as part of an exchange relationship with moral obligations that extends beyond the transaction.  The two sides are able to build a relationship around the idea of material exchange, though they understand it differently.  This dissertation demonstrates the complexity of payments for environmental services in PNG. Villagers have multiple interests and expectations of conservation; villagers and conservationists have different interests in conservation, and also have different understandings of how projects work. Despite these differences, villagers and conservationists can find common ground to work together.  Future research should examine the role of social relationships, incentives, and ancestors in the sustainability of the direct payments model.

Wild turkey reproductive ecology and survival in the urban environment. PhD Dissertation Defense by Karl Tinsely

Date: Wednesday, October 8th

Time:  9 am

Place: 203 Green Hall


Once extirpated from large portions of it historic range, the wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) serves as a prime example of a conservation success.  As North America’s largest game bird, the species represents a valuable recreational asset in many rural areas throughout the United States and Canada.  As such, research has traditionally focused on habitat quality and species demographics in rural settings.  Wild turkeys, however, have recently colonized urban areas, residing in habitat once thought of as unsuitable.  As wild turkeys increasingly enter the urban setting, the species is coming into conflict with human residences.  An important first step in understanding a species response to new or changing environments is understanding the influence on the species demographics and use of this habitat.  For the wild turkey, we will need a basic understanding of these traits in order to effectively manage urban populations.  Additionally, the wild turkey offers us the opportunity to gain insights into broader questions regarding the effects of urbanization on ground nesting species.

My research addresses how wild turkey demographics and habitat use may change in response to differing urban intensities.  For three years, I monitored wild turkey habitat use, survival, and nesting behavior using radio-equipped birds at three study areas across the Twin Cities metropolitan area.  For this study I examined:  1) reproductive measures, 2) nest site characteristics, 3) survival, 4) cause-specific mortality, 5) home range characteristics, and 6) habitat use.  For this lecture I plan to present my nesting ecology and survival data.  I will discuss several reproductive measures, including percent nesting, clutch size and hatch rate differences between my study sites, as well as nesting area traits.  Lastly I will review survival and cause-specific mortality of urban turkeys, focusing my discussion on survival during the reproductive period.

Hungry Bears

Mark Ditmer holding a black bear cub

Mark Ditmer holding a black bear cub

If I asked you to name three favorite foods of bears, you would probably list off honey, berries, and salmon. But did you know that some bears also like corn and even sunflower seeds? Mark Ditmer, the Consbio program’s most recent grad, has spent the last several years studying what black bears eat in the far extreme of the Eastern black bear population’s range. His work attempts to explain how bears are managing to succeed in Northwestern Minnesota, an area previously thought to represent marginal habitat, but that is now the only part of Minnesota with an increasing bear population.

In order to survive a winter’s hibernation, bears need to pack on the pounds during the fall. Ditmer found that captive bears, given a choice, were basing their food intake on which items had the highest caloric content: fatty oil sunflower seeds were preferred over corn, acorns, and lower-calorie convection sunflower seeds. His stable isotope analysis of wild bears similarly showed that while corn and sunflowers made up a relatively small proportion of the available landscape, they were accounting for a disproportionately large amount of the diet.

As it turns out, crop fields provide easy foraging. By utilizing heart rate biologgers developed by Medtronic, Inc. and GPS-collars, Ditmer found that whereas when bears move across areas of open agricultural lands (without crops that bears prefer to eat) they exhibit faster movement and heart rates, their movement will actually decrease, and so may their heart rates, when they are foraging in crop fields. What could be easier than sitting in the middle of a corn field, and munching on every ear within arm’s reach? Of course, this kind of behavior gets bears into trouble with farmers. The havoc caused by a bear eating corn is much more visible than when a deer wanders through a field taking a bite here and a bite there.

So to answer Ditmer’s question, (how are bears managing to thrive in the marginal habitat of Northwestern Minnesota?) it turns out, bears in Northwestern Minnesota have much larger home ranges than bears in other places. Typically large home ranges are associated with poor habitats but Ditmer’s findings suggest that the males’ roaming is used to seek out and then hone in on the best available forage. Bear home ranges expand and contract in the short-term as different food resources become available. For instance, bears tend to stick to a smaller area if they have ripe crops in their home range, but before the crops ripen they are using a much larger area. As a general rule of thumb, the higher the caloric density (the more food there is) the smaller the bear’s home range will be. Crop fields are particularly dense in calories, so bears, especially the bolder males, are likely to use crops to forage to prepare for a long winter without any food. However, female bears seem willing to reduce or avoid raiding crop fields if other options in natural habitat, such as an oak forest full of acorns, are available in a given year.


CB PhD Student Jennifer Biederman featured on the Fisheries Blog

Current student Jennifer Biederman was featured as a guest contributor on the Fisheries Blog. Her post explores the relationship among reading, gender and science – and touches on what it’s like to be a new mom in graduate school. Enjoy!

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Get to Know the New Cons Bio Cohort- 2013 Edition (Part 2)

Get to know more about the new UMN Conservation Biology students:


JoeyName:  Joey Lechelt
Hometown: Chanhassen, MN
Other colleges/universities attended (undergrad and/or graduate):  University of Wisconsin-Madison
Advisor:  Przemek Bajer
Degree anticipated:  MS Conservation Biology
Research interests: Common Carp Recruitment, including biocontrol mechanisms and movement
Favorite hobbies:  Fishing, watching sports, beach volleyball
Favorite thing that’s green:  Pine Trees
Last read: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World
Favorite place on Earth: Glacier National Park
Guilty pleasure: Ice Cream


david-pavlikName:  David Pavlik
Hometown: Holt, MI
Other colleges/ universities attended (undergrad and/or graduate):  Northern Michigan University for undergrad
Advisor:  Rob Blair
Degree anticipated:  Master’s
Research interests: Butterflies and butterfly conservation, disturbance and nectar availability

Favorite hobbies:  Birding and Photography
Favorite place on Earth: Homer, Alaska
Guilty pleasure: Fantasy Hockey


Nathan_Banet_PhotoName:  Nate Banet
Hometown: Saint Louis, MO
Other colleges/universities attended (undergrad and/or graduate):  University of Portland
Advisor:  Peter Sorensen
Degree anticipated:  MSc
Research interests: Seabird and salmonid habitat conservation, saltmarsh habitat and avian research, invasive species control
Favorite hobbies:  backpacking, climbing, biking, skiing, traveling, running, anything outdoors
Favorite thing that’s green:  Pacific Northwest
Last read: The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw
Favorite place on Earth: Queensland, Australia
Guilty pleasure: Craft breweries

Get to Know the New Cons Bio Cohort- 2013 Edition (Part 1)

Get to know more about the new UMN Conservation Biology students:


Blog_BegaName:  Bega Inaho
Hometown: Eastern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea
Other colleges/universities attended (undergrad and/or graduate):  University of Papua New Guinea
Advisor:  Dr. George Weiblen
Degree anticipated:  MSc
Research interests:  Forest Ecology, Plant Systematics and Conservation
Favorite hobbies:  Backyard gardening, watching movies and music
Favorite thing that’s green:  Trees
Last read:  Local Newspaper
Favorite place on Earth: Nothing’s better than Home
Guilty pleasure: Cigarettes


Blog Kathryn SwansonName:  Kathryn Swanson
Hometown: Spring Lake Park
Other colleges/universities attended (undergrad and/or graduate):  University of Minnesota (Ecology, Evolution and Behavior and Spanish/Portuguese) and La Universidad Católica de Valparaíso (Undergrad Exchange)
Advisor: Susan Galatowitsch
Degree anticipated:  PhD
Research interests:  Wetlands, hydrology and global climate change
Favorite hobbies:  Camping, biking, pottery, reading, photography
Favorite thing that’s green:  Rain gardens
Last read:  Finding Mañana: A Memoir of a Cuban Exodus, by Mirta Ojito
Favorite place on Earth:  Ilha do mel, Paraná, Brazil
Guilty pleasure: Corny ABC Family TV shows


Blog_RodrigoName:  Rodrigo Villalobos Aguirre
Hometown: Santiago, Chile
Other colleges/universities attended (undergrad and/or graduate): Veterinarian, Universidad de Chile
Advisor:  Ron Moen
Degree anticipated:  PhD
Research interests:  Mammals, carnivores, Wildlife Conflict
Favorite hobbies:  Travel, trekking, snorkeling
Favorite thing that’s green:  Older Trees
Last read:  Top of the World by Hans Ruesch
Favorite place on Earth: Chilean High Plateau, Chilean Rainforest, Ko rok Thai island
Guilty pleasure: Wine and beer


Blog_AaronName:  Aaron Claus
Hometown:  Rochester, MN
Other colleges/universities attended (undergrad and/or graduate):  University of Denver
Advisor:  Peter Sorensen
Degree anticipated:  M.Sc.
Research interests:  Fish behavioral manipulation, conservation biology, invasive species control.
Favorite hobbies:  Angling, Competitive Paintball, Soccer
Favorite thing that’s green:  A productive lake or river
Last read:  World War Z
Favorite place on Earth:  Rio Juruena, BR
Guilty pleasure:  JIF reduced fat peanut butter