University of Minnesota Extension
Menu Menu

Extension > Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Education News

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Volunteer Across Minnesota on National Public Lands Day, September 24th

The Minnesota Master Naturalist program is facilitating National Public Lands Day (September 24th, 2016) volunteer sites across the state. Explore the map below to find a location, view a project description, and get a link to registration. The full list of sites is also available on our website. See you in the field!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Extension Specialists Discuss Pollinators on MPR

Tune-in to Minnesota Public Radio MPR News at 11:00am this morning to hear Extension Specialists, Karen Oberhauser and Marla Spivak, and Dan Cariveau from the Department of Entomology discuss Minnesota's pollinators.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Driven to Discover Partner Wins State Environmental Education Award

Congratulations to the Milwaukee Urban Ecology Center & Ken Leinbach, recipient of the 2016 Dave Engleson Award from the Wisconsin Association for Environmental Education. The prestigious David Engleson Award is awarded to individuals, agencies, and organizations that make significant contributions to the field of environmental education.

A brief video about the award recipient includes images and an interview with a youth participant in the University of Minnesota Driven to Discover program. Urban Ecology Center was a key partner in helping University of Minnesota Extension faculty develop and test the Driven to Discover program, which involves youth and adult leaders in citizen science and conducting their own scientific investigations. A brief video on the Driven to Discover site describes an Urban Ecology Center investigation to compare bird species in different habitats.

Visit the Driven to Discover website to learn more about the program for youth and adult leaders.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Master Naturalist Volunteer Coordinates Rochester Weed Warriors Against Garlic Mustard

The Rochester Post-Bulletin has published a brief article about efforts of Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer, Terri Dugan, to coordinate "Weed Warriors" to eradicate garlic mustard at the Quarry Hill Nature Center. The paper quotes her as saying, "My hope is eventually every invasive species control class conducted by professionals will include contact information and an invitation to join the Weed Warriors." Congratulations to Dugan and the Warriors in Rochester!

Visit the Extension website to learn more about the Minnesota Master Naturalist program.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Thanks to Galen Erickson, Master Naturalist Volunteer, for Capstone Video

The Minnesota Master Naturalist program is and exciting way to learn about nature through a 40-hour course. Master Naturalist is for adults wanting to expand their horizons about the natural wonders in Minnesota's major biomes. After completing a course, they join thousands of others across Minnesota to volunteer in parks, nature centers and after school programs. Master Naturalists return thousands of hours of volunteer service annually to conserve Minnesota's natural resources. 

Galen Erickson is a Master Naturalist Volunteer from Minnesota from Plymouth, MN, who completed a video for the Master Naturalist program as his course capstone project. Galen runs New Horizon Productions INC., a company that produces short professional videos for Fortune 500 companies and Nonprofits. 


Monday, December 7, 2015

Driven to Discover Project Inspires Ecuadorians

Citizen engagement in scientific research is a hot topic among academics at the Universidad de Cuenca in Cuenca, Ecuador. FWCE Educator Andrea Lorek Strauss fanned the flame with a presentation about the Driven to Discover (D2D) project on a recent visit there.

Conservation biologists, anthropologists and geographers recently participated in a three-day seminar on Citizen Science and the potential for involving communities in gathering data relevant to their lives, including crowdsourcing of traffic patterns to aid biking and public transportation usage. Strauss, on a personal visit to the country last week, connected with University scholars in civic engagement and offered to share her expertise in training volunteers to engage youth in contributing citizen science data and pursuing independent scientific investigations. 

The research and evaluations on from the D2D project provided useful insight for the discussion. Science education in Ecuador is heavily lecture based at all levels, from primary school through University, and rarely includes lab or field experiences. The D2D curriculum guides and teaching tools provide innovative approaches for hands-on, learner directed learning experiences. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

4 questions with Andrea Lorek Strauss

When it comes to addressing controversial issues in Extension teaching, you’ve recommended to “teach the questions.” What does that mean? 

Andrea Lorek Strauss,
Extension Educator, Fish, Wildlife & Conservation Education,
Rochester Regional Office
“Teaching the questions” means helping audience members to think about an issue at a bigger picture level. I view Extension as playing a critical role helping our citizenry understand the larger societal and scientific questions that a controversy raises. We are in a unique position not only to share factual information about a situation, but also to help people recognize when larger questions are at play, such as “What is nature for?” “Who gets to make decisions?” “What is the appropriate role for government?”

The conflict of the moment may be about a current situation or problem, but differences of opinion are often rooted in differing value systems, differing world views. When we disagree about buffer strips, we’re really disagreeing about larger questions like “Who makes decisions about land use?” “Who should pay the price for clean water?” “What value do we place on democratic processes?” and so many more. Thinking about the issue through the lens of these larger questions helps to uncover the roots of the issue, the sources of our disagreement.

Understanding these larger contexts helps us understand ourselves and each other better. It helps us talk about what really matters and what’s at stake with any given issue. And when citizens understand an issue more clearly, they can engage more effectively with each other and the public processes that affect us all.

What programs are you part of and who are the major audiences? 

About half of my time is dedicated to working on the Minnesota Master Naturalist program; I specialize in training and supporting our corps of 200 instructors, writing the curriculum and other special projects such as the annual conference. We are excited about our new model of volunteer engagement, which is helping us understand and support our participants through all phases of their involvement.

Invasive Blitz workshop in Duluth.
This workshop was covered by local media. See the story.

The other half of my time focuses on a program called “Driven to Discover,” which trains volunteer adults to help youth get involved with citizen science and to use that experience to conduct real science research projects. By monitoring birds, monarch butterflies, phenology, dragonflies or pollinators, young people can’t help but to become curious about what they see. This program capitalizes on that interest and channels it into investigations.

So, I work with volunteers, naturalists, educators, youth group leaders, citizen scientists and anyone else interested in natural resource conservation!

What do you see as the major challenges facing citizen science? 

Sometimes also called “Public Participation in Scientific Research,” citizen science entails getting the general public involved in following specific protocols to gather, report and analyze scientific data. Research scientists at universities or public agencies can’t address large-scale ecological questions on their own, so calling on the public produces valuable conservation information while at the same time helping participants build a connection to nature, engage with their communities and build their scientific literacy.

The field of citizen science is fairly new to the world of science, and there are a few skeptics reluctant to trust data collected by “untrained” members of the public. But acceptance is growing, if slowly. Another challenge is helping prospective volunteers, including youth, to see their power to make a difference in the world, to see that it really is possible for them to do work that matters. And once these volunteers are engaged, supporting them over time with feedback and new opportunities can also be a challenge.

How did your interest in conservation education start?

Like many, I grew up playing outdoors. My siblings and I loved family camping trips around east central Wisconsin where I grew up. My mom wasn’t the roughing it type, so she and my dad – a definite woodsman – compromised with a pop-up camper. I have great memories of camping: cool nights in the camper, playing in the woods, paddling with my dad, hanging around the campfire, swimming in fast-moving rivers, and attending naturalist talks everywhere we went. I also spent summers attending scout camp, eventually earning opportunities to go on wilderness canoe trips. In this setting I really found my own footing in the outdoors and learned to love wild places. I had poor experiences in high school science classes, so in college I studied the things that came easily to me – communication, English, secondary education. I was all set to be a high school English and speech teacher. But after college I knew I needed to be outdoors and took a big leap of faith by accepting a seasonal outdoor education job in Massachusetts. I had the teaching experience, everyone else there had been biology majors, and together we figured out how to teach kids about food webs and the like. A year-long training program at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in northern Minnesota cemented my confidence that I was headed in the right direction.
  • Copyright 2015 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved.
  • The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Privacy