Science Sidebar Archives

Learn more about our science work at the Minnesota chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

May 2009
December 2008

May 2008

February 2008
August 2007
May 2007
January 2007
September 2006

May 2009 
Research at Glacial Ridge

The Nature Conservancy is collaborating with scientists from the University of Minnesota to assess the success of revegetation at Glacial Ridge.

A 24,500 acre project, Glacial Ridge poses challenges both for restoration and monitoring.

Fortunately, Dr. Susan Galatowitsch, Professor of Horticulture and Co-Chair of the Conservation Biology Program at the University, welcomed the opportunity to think big.

The Conservancy developed methods for assessing vegetation recovery across tens of thousands of acres through a Master Planning process and tested the approach at Glacial Ridge in 2007. Dr. Galatowitsch and Master's student Genevieve Brand refined and enhanced the protocol in 2008.

After a successful field season, Glacial Ridge is on its way to serving as a model not only of large-scale restoration, but also the role of solid ecological assessments for adaptive management.

Back to top

December 2008
Writing Workshop in Stillwater a Success!

The Nature Conservancy is a hotbed for conservation innovation. We test new solutions to old problems, apply ecological modeling to new problems, and bring partners together to tackle issues that no single organization can accomplish alone. How can we best close the loop by documenting and communicating results both to internal and external audiences?

For most organizations outside academia, the scarce resource of time is the main bottleneck for getting our stories out there. Pushing through the time barrier allows us to seize key opportunities: advancing and shaping the field of conservation biology, building TNC’s scientific credibility, and marketing and fundraising for conservation around the world.

A well-established approach to supporting creative writers in their endeavors comes from the realms of literature and the arts: the writers’ workshop. By borrowing principles from this old standby and applying them to scientific writing, TNC has taken great strides toward providing scientists the time and space to pursue the crucial step of publishing. TNC writing workshops represent a home-grown remedy: harnessing the energy of a group and applying it to what can otherwise be the loneliest of tasks.

Over the last five years, the World Office has organized ten TNC writing workshops held around the globe.  At the most recent of these, held in December, 2008 in Stillwater, Minnesota, twelve TNC scientists gathered from the far-corners of the Central U.S. Region. The Stillwater gathering focused on producing scientific, peer-reviewed articles. Over the years, participants have also generated popular articles, books, and materials for the web. Chief Scientist Peter Kareiva co-led the Stillwater group with Joe Fargione, Central US Regional Scientist.  

In addition to launching publications, workshops provide a unique venue for conservation peer learning. Seldom do practitioners have a chance to learn about each others’ projects in such depth. Look for these as they appear in your favorite publications over the next few years!

Back to top

May 2008

Identifying Lake Conservation Priorities for The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota

Known as the land of 10,000 lakes, Minnesota actually has more than 13,000 lakes larger than 10 acres.

Ranging from the crystal clear waters of the state's boreal forest to prairie potholes in the west that host thousands of nesting and migrating birds, the variety of the region's lakes is also impressive. 

The Nature Conservancy's 2008 Lake Conservation Portfolio will assist practitioners, decision makers and communities in setting priorities for lake conservation.

The region's first comprehensive, ecologically-based lake classification system, the portfolio identifies the full range of lake plants, animals and natural communities, and our best opportunities to conserve them for future generations. 

Download the full report (PDF, 2.3 MB)
Find out which priority lakes are in your county (XLS, 115 KB)
Download a fact sheet (PDF, 252 KB)
See a large version of the priority lakes map shown above (JPG, 282 KB)

Back to top

February 2008

Climate Change and Northern Minnesota Forests

Climate change likely will have dramatic impacts on forest ecosystems in northern Minnesota. The Conservancy is working with research collaborators at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Forest Landscape Ecology Laboratory to look at the potential changes in Minnesota’s northern forests under climate change. We are using state of the art forest computer modeling tools that are linked with projected future climates to better understand how forest ecosystems may change over the next 200 years


  • Even under the low greenhouse gas emissions scenario, characteristic boreal forest species such as paper birch, white spruce, black spruce, jack pine and balsam fir may decline dramatically over the next 200 years.
  • Boreal forest species likely will be replaced by forests dominated by red and sugar maple.
  • Ecologically based forest management may be a useful tool that can help maintain species and habitat diversity in Minnesota’s northern forests.

Read an interview with Mark White about this study on Minnesota Public Radio's Web site.

Back to top 

August 2007

When multiple organizations need the same type of information to help manage lands for conservation, differences in missions, protocols and personnel can get in the way. The Nature Conservancy works hard to overcome such barriers, and the 2007 Grassland Monitoring Project is a successful example

To learn more about aquatic communities and related The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Concordia College joined the Conservancy in a pilot project to assess the health of native grasslands. All parties have similar needs and goals, namely to determine broad changes to plant community structure and composition that occur in response to grazing, fire and other land management techniques. Using a rapid assessment approach, the group intends to cover as much ground as possible in August 2007.

The Conservancy is testing the methods in the Agassiz Beach Ridges, Prairie Coteau and Ordway-Glacial Lakes landscapes of Minnesota. After analysis and evaluation over the winter, the approach will be refined for wider implementation in 2008.

Back to top

May 2007

The Border Lakes Project
Scientists at The Nature Conservancy, in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service Northern Research Station, are assessing the future of the Border Lakes region in northern Minnesota and northwestern Ontario. This forested, lake-filled landscape covers 5.1 million acres centered around Voyageurs National Park, Quetico Provincial Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and also includes lands managed primarily for forest resources. Several highly fire-dependent eforest types exist here, including jack pine-black spruce, dry-mesic white pine-red pine, and jack pine-aspen-oak, but current fire regimes are highly altered due to fire exclusion and past land uses.

As part of an interagency group known as the Border Lakes Partnership, our goal is to help land management agencies and other organizations understand the effects of long-term forest disturbance dynamics, especially fire and timber harvest.

By simulating various management scenarios using computer modeling, we can identify collaborative, cross-boundary strategies to manage forest resources, reduce hazardous fuels and conserve biodiversity. For example, the modeling shows projections of future forest composition, potential fire fuel loads and catastrophic wildfire risk—information that should prove useful when developing strategies for effective long-term management of fire and forest fuels.

Initial modeling results indicate some scenarios resulted in an unacceptable risk of wildfire and continued loss of key forest types in need of restoration (e.g., white pine). Future work will focus on improving these trends through increased collaborative management across boundaries, prescribed and wildland fire and forest restoration.

Back to top

January 2007

As the land of 10,000 lakes (actually, more than 15,000 lakes > 10 acres), Minnesota is known for its diversity of aquatic resources, scenic beauty, and accompanying recreational opportunities. Minnesota’s abundant lakes provide habitat for a range of aquatic and terrestrial species, and influence the structure and function of neighboring terrestrial ecological communities. They are also much in demand for seasonal cabins, year-round residences, water supply, and recreational activities such as boating, fishing, and swimming. The Nature Conservancy is currently working on a statewide lake classification and conservation prioritization to aid in the development of landscape-level conservation action plans that will address threats to lakes as freshwater ecosystems.

As part of this project, the Conservancy is working with available datasets and aquatic experts across the state to answer a number of questions:

  • How many unique lake systems are there?
  • How are fish, aquatic plant, and other aquatic dependent ecological communities distributed across these lake systems?
  • How well do existing lake classifications developed for other purposes represent the diversity of aquatic conservation targets on the landscape?
  • How can the Conservancy best contribute to the conservation of representative lake ecosystems and their biota?

Once a comprehensive classification system has been developed, Conservancy scientists will use inventory and assessment data to identify the most viable or best examples of each system type to develop a comprehensive lake conservation portfolio.

To comment on or participate in this process, please feel free to contact kblann@tnc.org.

Back to top

September 2006

Scientists and land managers from The Nature Conservancy and several of its partner organizations—the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, St. John’s University, the University of Minnesota and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—met in late September for a conservation strategies workshop held in Paynesville, Minnesota. This group is developing focused, innovative strategies that together will lead to conservation success for six central Minnesota landscapes:  Brainerd Lakes, Lake Alexander, Ordway/Glacial Lakes, Avon Hills, Weaver Dunes and the Root River. The September workshop was one of a four-part series and took place in the heart of the Ordway/Glacial Lakes Landscape. Highlights included field trips to the Leif Mountain and Ordway Prairie preserves, where participants discussed the potential of ecologically-compatible grazing, brush removal, prescribed fire and other strategies for achieving conservation objectives.

Back to top

Back to main Science page


x animal

Sign up for Nature eNews!

Sign Up for Nature e-News

Learn about the places you love. Find out
how you can help.

Thank you for joining our online community!

We’ll be in touch soon with more Nature Conservancy news, updates and exciting stories.

Please leave this field empty

I'm already on the list!

Read our privacy policy.