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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Meredith Cornett from The Nature Conservancy takes part in The Minnesota Bee Atlas Program

Agapostemon virescens, a Western hemisphere sweat bee. Photo © sankax/Flckr 

Meredith Cornett has directed The Nature Conservancy’s science program in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota since August 2003. Between the months of April and October, Meredith took part in this year's Bee Atlas survey project. You can read all about her experience here - from learning about the program to signing up, installing a bee nesting block on her property, and making observations with her family. 

The Minnesota Bee Atlas, a four-year project funded by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF), is a citizen science program designed to use volunteer participants to create a state-wide list of native bees found in Minnesota. The last time a survey of Minnesota bees was completed was in 1919 when only 67 species were listed. 

We recently sat down with Elaine Evans and Britt Forsberg from The Bee Atlas program to discuss bees, the impact of citizen scientists on their surveying efforts, and how people can get involved. You can listen to that conversation below in the third episode of University of Minnesota Extension's  The Naturalist podcast. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Naturalist - 03 Bee Atlas and Citizen Science

Episode 3 - Bee Atlas and Citizen Science

On this episode of the Naturalist we get a chance to sit down and discuss bee populations in Minnesota with Extension Educator, Elaine Evans, and Bee Atlas Program Coordinator, Britt Forsberg.  

Music by Twin Musicom and Silent Partner

   Listen on Google Play Music

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

National Public Lands Day 2017 in Minnesota

National Public Lands Day in Minnesota

National Public Lands Day is the largest, single-day, service effort for public lands. Since 2012, the Minnesota Master Naturalist Program has facilitated this effort at sites across the state. More than 850 volunteers have removed invasive species, planted pollinator gardens, and protected newly planted trees, among other projects, for over 4,000 service hours to date. This year, the MN Master Naturalist Program encourages residents to join this growing tradition of stewardship through service at one of 12 locations in Minnesota.

Volunteers taking part in last year's bud-capping NPLD event
at Itasca State Park 
Locations can be found all over the state. From Indian Heights Park in Rochester to Boulder Lake ELC in Duluth. If you are interested in registering for this year's NPLD, log on to If this is your first time visiting the site, you'll be asked to make an account. With this account, you'll be able to sign up for any future Master Naturalist classes. Register before this Saturday, September 9th, and you will get a Master Naturalist NPLD 2017 t-shirt at event sign-in. Below is a map of all the locations across the state. Map is no longer available. Event date has passed.

Master Naturalist Volunteers taking part in a prairie restoration
 project at Prairie Woods ELC for NPLD 2016
If you are looking to get down and dirty, then you might consider going to Indian Heights Park in Rochester, where volunteers will be helping remove invasive buckthorn from sections of the park. If buckthorn removal is not a possibility, volunteers are welcome to help the staff of Hidden Falls Regional Park in St. Paul with managing their NPLD celebration. There is an opportunity available for everyone!

This is shaping up to be a great event. The MNAT team is hoping to see you at this year's NPLD!

Any specific questions can be forwarded to Santiago Pelaez at

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Naturalist - 02 Getting Involved in the World of Phenology

Episode 2 - Getting Involved in the World of Phenology

On this episode of the Naturalist, we get a chance to talk phenology with Staff Phenologist John Latimer from KAXE Community Radio in Grand Rapids and Associate Extension Professor Eli Sagor. 

Music by Twin Musicom

   Listen on Google Play Music

Friday, April 21, 2017

Mason Bees

Mason bees, one of the earliest spring bees in Minnesota, are out pollinating in full force. In contrast to most other solitary bees, mason bees spend the winter as adults in cocoons.  This allows them to emerge earlier in spring than many other bees that overwinter as larvae and still need to pupate before emerging as an adult.

Mason bees get their common name from the habit many have of lining and sealing their nests with mud.  In spring, a single solitary female mason bee will start building a nest in an empty cavity like a hollow stem, beetle burrow, or hole in the ground.  Starting at the back of the hole, she will place a ball of pollen, lay an egg, and then seal off the chamber with mud or chewed leaves.  She will continue this way until the entire tunnel is full.

There are 30 species of mason bees (genus Osmia) in the eastern United States and Canada.  Of those, 15 species are likely to be found in bee blocks in Minnesota. Female mason bees use the hairs on the undersides of their abdomens to collect pollen from willows, maples, plums, Virginia waterleaf, wild geranium, and other spring wildflowers.  They will then bring the pollen back to the nest to provision cells for their offspring.

Mason bees are commonly used to pollinate agricultural crops like apples, cherries, and plums due to their early spring activity and the ease of providing artificial nests.

For more information on mason bees, look for "Bees: An Identification and Native Plant Forage Guide" by Heather Holm or "The Bees in Your Backyard" by Joseph Wilson and Olivia Messinger Carril.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

City Nature Challenge 2017: Update

The 2017 City Nature Challenge is coming to a close. Over the past four days, people from all over the country have been using the iNaturalist platform to make observations and identify species in various cities around the the nation. As of today, 88343 observations have been made with 7093 species IDs and 3410 participants.

In the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metro Area, over 800 observations where made. You can find more information about the iNaturalist statistics for all the participating cities here.

Below are some of the images taken from the Minneapolis/St. Paul iNaturalist page! Thank you, everyone who took part in this year's challenge.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Introducing the Naturalist, a new podcast from Extension

On the Naturalist, we set out to explore the world of Minnesota natural resources, all while capturing great stories and talking to people about the environment. Produced in-house by the FWCE team. Let us know what you think! 


Episode 1 - Boulder Lake Environmental Learning Center and EAB 

For this episode, we get a chance to talk to John Geissler and Nick Wagner from Boulder Lake Environmental Learning Center about the challenges associated with running an 18,000-acre center with a two person staff. Also, we talk to Angela Gupta, an Extension Educator/Forester, about a pest by the name of Emerald Ash Borer and the potential impacts it can have on Minnesota's forest.

   Listen on Google Play Music

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Become an Aquatic Invasive Species Detector

Are you a member of the public that has a desire to learn more about getting involved with the fights against the threat of Aquatic Invasive Species in Minnesota? Are you looking to build your skills in AIS identification and reporting? Do you want to be a part of the solution to AIS problems in Minnesota?

Become an Aquatic Invasive Species Detector, a volunteer network and science-based training program launched by the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center in partnership with U of M Extension. Registration is now open to become an Aquatic Invasive Species Detector! More information about the program and how to register can be found on the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center site.

Image courtesy of Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center

City Nature Challenge: Minneapolis/St. Paul

Which city in the United States has the most nature? The City Nature Challenge 2017 (April 14-18) will help us find out!

Just in time for National Citizen Science Day (April 15) and Earth Day (April 22), 16 U.S. cities are asking residents of and visitors to these urban areas to explore nature all around them and document the species they find. It all starts on Friday, April 14th and runs through Tuesday, April 18. Not only will these observations help build up the baseline of Minnesota biodiversity, but it also provides data for our local scientists, land managers, and governments about the areas they study and care for.

Who will come out on top? Which city will have the most species found, the most observations, the most citizen scientists involved?

University of Minnesota Cooperative Extension firmly believes that this challenge is something all Minnesotans can get behind. Let us show the rest of the nation what Minnesota biodiversity is all about!

So what can you do to help the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metro Area win this challenge?

The absolute easiest way is to download the iNaturalist app on your phone and to make observations of any and every living thing: species you find in your backyard, in your favorite park, on your walk to school or work. Any observation made within the Twin Cities and the surrounding counties between April 14th and April 18th will count toward the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metropolitan Area. The great thing about using iNaturalist is that you don’t need to know what it is you’re documenting - you just need to take good enough photos that someone else in the iNaturalist online community can ID it for you! More information can be found on iNaturalist’s Getting Started page. Starting on the 14th, you can see your observations and others made in the Metro Area for the challenge here: City Nature Challenge 2017: Minneapolis/St. Paul.

If you’re familiar with Minneapolis/St. Paul flora and fauna, you can also help by adding identifications to other people’s observations on iNaturalist.

You can also participate in one or more of the events being held in the Metro Area during the week of the competition. These events are designed to bring people together to learn more about our local nature, try out iNaturalist, and make nature observations as part of the City Nature Challenge. Check the City Nature Challenge 2017: Minneapolis/St. Paul page for upcoming events.

We look forward to seeing what you find in the Metro Area during the City Nature Challenge!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Sharing the Spotlight: Native Bees

As spring nears, you may start to see headlines like "10 Amazing Facts About Bees!" or "How to Attract Bees to Your Garden."  These articles and the photos in them almost always refer to honey bees.  Although they are an important and charismatic part of our agricultural system, honey bees are not native to North America.  With an estimated 400 different species of native bees in Minnesota, we think they deserve their own list of amazing facts.

1.  Bees in Minnesota show tremendous diversity, ranging in size from small sweat bees to large bumble bees.  They may be black and yellow striped like cartoon bees but can also be green, orange, or metallic blue.
2.  Most Minnesota bees are solitary, meaning they do not nest with other bees and do not share responsibility for maintaining a hive or colony.
3.  Many bees spend most of their life as larvae or pupae and may only be active as adults for a few weeks of the year.  You probably have many bees in your yard that you've never noticed.
4.  Bumble bees, as well as a few other bees, use a process called "buzz pollination" to shake pollen from hard-to-reach flowers like those in the family Solanaceae. By vibrating their flight muscles at a particular frequency, they are able to shake the pollen off the flower.  You can see buzz pollination in action in this video.
5.  None of the bees native to Minnesota make honey.  Bumble bees may store 1-2 days worth of nectar in “honey pots” in case of poor weather or other events that may prevent them from foraging but they do not make honey from the nectar.
6.  Some bees are kleptoparasites meaning that instead of building their own nests and providing food for their offspring, they lay their eggs in the nests of other bees.  This isn't altogether unusual in the animal kingdom; cowbirds are also known for this behavior.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

North Woods, Great Lakes Curriculum Premiere

NWGL Premier-14.jpg
Audience members who contributed to the development of the curriculum stand and receive recognition.

The first Minnesota Master Naturalist Program North Woods Great Lakes course was taught in Duluth in 2008, making the Great Lakes Aquarium an appropriate venue for the premiere of the latest curriculum book, North Woods, Great Lakes: An Introduction to the Natural History of Minnesota’s Coniferous Forests. Hundreds of Master Naturalist volunteers have since completed the course, graduating into service to promote awareness, conservation, and understanding of Minnesota’s natural environment in their communities.

The cover of North Woods, Great Lakes: An Introduction to the Natural History of Minnesota’s Coniferous Forests.

NWGL Premier-9.jpg
Amy Rager, state program director for the Minnesota Master Naturalist Program.

On Monday, February 3rd, over one-hundred Master Naturalist graduates, instructors, specialists, University of Minnesota Extension & DNR staff gathered at the Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth to celebrate the premiere of the North Woods, Great Lakes (NWGL) curriculum. This 316-page curriculum focuses on the unique features of the environment found in the northeastern part of the state and serves as the textbook for northern Minnesota-focused NWGL Master Naturalist classes. Amy Rager, the state program director for the Master Naturalist Program, kicked off the night with her perspective on what it took to develop this comprehensive natural history curriculum. She shared a brief program history,, congratulating graduates and contributors alike for their dedication, and continued involvement in the Master Naturalist program.

NWGL Premier-17.jpg
Kurt Mead, Minnesota DNR Tettegouche State Park Interpretive Naturalist and author of Dragonflies of the North Woods.

Keynote speaker, Kurt Mead, took the podium later in the night. As a Department of Natural Resources interpretive naturalist at Tettegouche State Park, Kurt contributed to the development of the NWGL curriculum and worked with various Master Naturalist volunteers over the years. During his presentation, Kurt described t the characteristics that make Minnesota’s North Woods, Great Lakes biome unique and fascinating.

Over three-thousand participants have completed the statewide Minnesota Master Naturalist program since its inception in 2005. Master Naturalist volunteers have contributed over four hundred thousand hours service through stewardship, research, and education impacting over 3.4 million acres of Minnesota’s natural resources. The NWGL curriculum has received wide recognition as a quality resource for learning about natural history and ecology in the region. The February premiere was a celebration of all that the program has been able to accomplish. It was a way to get people together to discuss their Master Naturalist stories and share the experiences that have led to the success of the program.

The loon, a Minnesota Master Naturalist icon.
Thank you to all Master Naturalist volunteers, instructors, contributors, and the public for making the Minnesota Master Naturalist Program a success. We look forward to working together to further build upon the mission of University Extension, Minnesota DNR, and the Minnesota Master Naturalist Program.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Rochester Master Naturalists to Restore City Park Environment

Quarry Hill Park and the adjacent Silver Creek form a critical and frequently visited urban green corridor in Rochester, Minnesota. Through a non-profit neighborhood resource center, this parcel of nature recently received a $111,900 grant from the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) thanks to the skills and commitment of the Rochester chapter of Minnesota Master Naturalists.

When complete the Quarry Hill Park project will restore sections of stream banks within the city limits to form greenways extending from the rural areas of Olmsted County to the Zumbro River. This project will also enhance the prairies, savannas and woodlands of Quarry Hill; a large city park well known for its natural environments and busy educational nature center.

The Quarry Hill/Silver Creek restoration proposal was initiated and prepared by volunteer Master Naturalists to address ecological damage caused by common buckthorn, non-native honeysuckles and garlic mustard. The application for LCCMR funds was approved in September by the City of Rochester Park's Board as well as the fiscal agent RNeighbors. The funds will be used by the Conservation Corps of Minnesota to reduce invasive species such as buckthorn and Asian honeysuckle over the next three years.

Buckthorn, one of several non-native species infesting Quarry Hill Park, grows quickly and out-competes native flowers and tree seedlings. Left unchecked, it can create a dense monoculture in the landscape.

Rochester’s Master Naturalists connected with city and neighborhood associations to raise the $11,000 match required for a LCCMR grant of this size. They also garnered support from state, local sponsors, and community partners such as the Zumbro River Audubon Society, Silver Creek Housing, Olmsted County Youth Commission, Quarry Hill Nature Center, Nurse Practitioners, Friends of Indian Heights Neighborhood Association, Prairie Smoke of Minnesota, City of Rochester Parks and Recreation, DNR Scientific and Natural Areas, and a commitment of 475 hours of volunteer time by the Rochester Area Chapter of Master Naturalists led by Terri Dugan.

Master Naturalist volunteers work to remove invasive species.

Local Master Naturalists are excited about the ripple effects of a grant of this size to help restore the landscape and enhance wildlife (and human) habitat. Two years ago, a smaller LCCMR grant for a nearby city park restored several habitats so that visitors, after many years of absence, now enjoy the new appearances of a Red-headed woodpecker, frilly puccoon (a flowering native plant), and beautiful native orchids called Nodding ladies’ tresses. Nodding ladies’ tresses have not been seen before in Olmsted County. The Bell Museum is excited by this find and a specimen has been requested for the University of Minnesota Herbarium.

Environmental leadership, project planning and volunteer commitment is an extension of Rochester Master Naturalists’ passion to protect, teach about and conserve Minnesota’s extensive biodiversity.
Visit the University of Minnesota Extension Master Naturalist website to learn more about the program. For more information about this project, contact Dawn Littleton, Extension Invasive Plants Coordinator. 

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