Dr. Baisakhi Bandyopadhyay, a researcher and senior fellow of the government of India, is the next speaker in the UW-Green Bay Natural and Applied Sciences Seminar series at 3 p.m. this Friday (April 17) in Room 301 of the Environmental Sciences Building. Her topic is “The Evolution of Traditional Ecological Knowledge in India: An Overview.” She’ll discuss how ecology is addressed in India’s native communities as something that encompasses several fields including sustainable forest management, biodiversity conservation by sacred groves, sacred landscape and sacred plant species, crop management, farm management, animal management and therapeutic role of Ayurveda. Some traditional ways are seen as having great relevance for sustainable resource management. The program, which is free and open to the public, will be followed by a social at approximately 4 p.m. in ES 317.
For the millions of outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy hiking on the trails, kayaking down the rapid rivers, and biking through national parks, forests and wildlife refuges, there are the few who work to both study and protect the natural landscape of our public lands.
Morgan Gantz, a 2012 UW-Green Bay Environmental Science graduate is working to do just that in an Interagency Wilderness Fellowship program with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and American Conservation Experience.
“Generally speaking, Wilderness Fellows are educators and advocates of wilderness stewardship,” said Gantz. They have much to steward with over 100 million acres set aside in a land preservation system since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into the law the Wilderness Act 50 years ago.
Gantz is spending six months working at two national wildlife refuges in Minnesota, Rice Lake and Tamarac. Out of 250 applicants for the fellowship, Gantz was one of eight selected. Her position began in May 2014.
Through this position, Gantz is working to establish a baseline condition and long term monitoring protocol for each refuge based on the five qualities of wilderness character. She is identifying measures specific to each location that quantify change over time. The goal is to create a tool land managers can use to better understand the wilderness they manage and to track trends over time.
“So my job is to evaluate a broad suite of biological indicators relating to water quality, air quality, climate change, and composition of native and invasive species among others,” Gantz said.
The program has also given her the chance to gain experience working with federal land management agencies.
“As Wilderness Fellows we are exposed to all aspects of land management from office work and project management, to interacting with and educating staff, to fieldwork and regular maintenance. I have assisted biologists with counting bird population’s productivity success, banding birds, blowing up beaver dams to alleviate water flow, invasive plant surveys, ecological restoration activities, visitor services, and numerous education and outreach events.”
The broad range of practices that Gantz has taken part in have provided her with new challenges and learning experiences.
“It has really been a challenging position because I’ve had to independently identify what wilderness character means to each location. There is no ‘black and white’ on how to measure and assign values to the qualities that make up a wilderness within the framework, there can be a lot of greyness to creating protocols and is often left up to a judgment call of the local staff.”
Previous to this experience, Gantz worked on the Exotic Plant Management Team in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska during the summer of 2013, which actually has the largest wilderness in the whole National Wilderness Preservation System.
“Hiking along glaciers and enormous mountains was unreal,” Gantz, said, “It felt like a huge fantasyland up there. It was actually my mentor from that position, who is the ecologist for the Park that emailed me the job announcement for the Wilderness Fellowship program and urged me to apply because she thought it was a good fit.”
Gantz had several experiences during her time at UW-Green Bay that helped her to achieve what she has today. Of those, Gantz served as a terrestrial invasive species intern with the Shawano County Land Conservation Division, which she feels was the stepping-stone to achieve her position in Alaska.
“I took Restoration Ecology as my senior thesis class and it was one of my favorites,” she said. “The concepts learned in that class I am constantly using and applying to my career development. I was fortunate to serve as a research assistant under Professor Mat Dornbush, which enhanced my technical skills and made my resume more competitive when applying for science related jobs.”
The relationships Gantz formed while a student here have influenced her as well.
“I made lasting connections with UWGB faculty, many of which I still use as references on job applications and whom I contact for professional advice. My education at UWGB was very rewarding and gave me all of the valuable skills that are helping me succeed in this fellowship today.”
When looking to the future, Gantz is interested in various options.
“I am currently looking for job opportunities within the field of wilderness management, habitat restoration and management, or conservation related work but also considering further education into graduate school. I have been enjoying traveling and working seasonal jobs but often times I am looking for more of a challenge and feeling an eagerness to learn more.”
Gantz is thankful for the opportunities that she’s been given.
“As a Wilderness Fellow, I am proud to support our nation’s most wild lands,” she said, “The Wilderness Fellows program has been the opportunity of a lifetime for me, and a valuable resource for our federal land managers.”
For more information.
Story by Katelyn Staaben, editorial intern, Marketing and University Communication
Profs. Amy Wolf and Bob Howe of Biology and Natural and Applied Sciences participated in the fourth Diversity and Forest Chance Workshop at the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden in southern Yunnan Province, China, from July 28 to Aug 8. The event, funded by the National Science Foundation and Chinese Academy of Sciences, brought together 48 field ecologists from 16 countries to share information and ideas from large forest research plots in the Smithsonian Institution’s “ForestGEO” network including the UW-Green Bay Cofrin Center for Biodiversity’s Wabikon Forest Dynamics Plot near Crandon. In addition to giving a research presentation, Wolf and Howe worked with colleagues from other plots on collaborative research papers. After the workshop, they visited the Danum Valley Conservation Area in eastern Borneo (Sabah, Malaysia), location of a ForestGEO plot established in 2010.
Educational Television Productions of Northeast Wisconsin’s (ETP-NEW), located on the UW-Green Bay campus, is proud to announce that its latest documentary has been honored with a Telly Award. Robert Howe and Gary Fewless of the Cofrin Center for Biodiversity are among those featured in interviews in the “Emma Toft: One with Nature” documentary. The program was a silver winner in the 35th Annual Telly Awards, which attracted 12,000 entries from all 50 states and numerous countries. The documentary highlights Emma Toft, described as Wisconsin’s First Lady of Conservation, and tells how she and her family saved one of the most pristine areas of Wisconsin from development. Her work helped Door County’s Toft Point, near Baileys Harbor, remain a haven for wildflowers, birds, animals and white pine to this day under the management of UW-Green Bay. “The positive feedback we have received from people all over Wisconsin about our documentary has been truly overwhelming,” said Dean Leisgang, documentary producer. “Now, to learn that our work has been honored on a national stage is a true source of pride for all involved.” For the full news release and specifics on the award.
The Wild Phoenix Project of this semester’s Democracy and Justice Studies senior seminar concluded last weekend with a successful prairie-grass planting at the Baird Creek Parkway. Led by Assistant Prof. Eric J. Morgan, the senior seminar focused on historical and contemporary issues related to wilderness preservation and Aldo Leopold’s land ethic ideal. As part of their semester-long civic engagement project, seminar students raised nearly $300 to purchase Indiangrass seed for the Baird Creek Preservation Foundation, visited the Aldo Leopold Center in Baraboo, and held a Wilderness Day consciousness-raising event on campus. Last Saturday, April 26, seminar students joined dozens of community members and area high school, middle school and fellow UW-Green Bay students for the Baird Creek Preservation Foundation’s spring restoration day project. In the tradition of Aldo Leopold’s ethic of land stewardship, seminar students and friends spent the morning along the Mars loop trail planting the grass seed, which will grow by next summer to become a bit of tallgrass prairie interspersed with native wildflowers to replace various invasive plant species.
Something is very fishy around here. And by that we don’t mean suspicious. With hundreds of miles of shoreline and its tributaries, UW-Green Bay students have an outdoor lab nearly anywhere they look. Assistant Professor Patrick Forsythe (Natural and Applied Sciences) and his students are taking advantage.
On Tuesday, April 22, students from Forsythe’s Ichthyology class joined the Department of Natural Resources, Brown County Land Conservation and the Shedd Aquarium to rescue 41 northern pike trapped in spring spawning grounds near Suamico. The pike travel upstream into wetlands and ditches, but cannot make the return trip when water levels subside.
UWGB students were able to help in every aspect of the rescue, Forsythe said. The fish are temporarily stunned, netted, measured, tagged and returned to the bay. Fox 11 featured the rescue.
On a separate day, Forsythe and a few students worked with Environmental Science and Policy graduate student Rachel Vandam, whose research goal is to determine contributions of restored wetlands to native Great Lakes fish, with northern pike as a surrogate for the wetlands’ success (prompting the 360° of research image).
“Various organizations have been involved for many years in creating or restoring degraded wetland areas on the west shore of Green Bay,” Vandam says. “The goal of these wetlands is to support spawning activity for northern pike, and ultimately improve the population of the fish in Green Bay. However, many of these spawning wetlands were built without knowing what the northern pike prefer in them, and the contributing groups are interested in finding out how successful the wetlands are.”
Vandam’s project is looking at three sites that represent a range of variation in the restorations, to determine important features to incorporate into future wetlands, as well as features that perhaps the pike don’t prefer. She monitors the adults moving into and out of each wetland.
“I measure their length, take a fin clip to do genetic analysis (both between adults, and also with the young fish that will swim out of the wetland once they hatch), and I place a floy tag in each fish to monitor how long it stays in the wetland, when it leaves, and if it comes back.”
Her works also involves surveying the types (species) and amount of vegetation at each site, since the pike will only spawn in vegetation such as grasses or sedges. She then monitors where the adults are spawning within the wetlands, and compares it to the vegetation and the water temperature. After spawning and egg hatch, she uses box traps to determine how many fish leave the wetland, when they leave, and measures how big they are when they leave.
She will also be doing some genetic analysis, to determine if all the adults or only a few have contributed to the young-of-year in the wetlands.
“Ultimately, I am hoping that the information I get on where the adults spawn and the young-of-year congregate, will help me to determine important features of the wetlands, in combination with the vegetation and temperature information. Then I will be able to inform the groups constructing the wetlands on the best features to include.”
This semester’s Democracy and Justice Studies Senior Seminar is hosting a pair of related events in conjunction with Earth Day. The first, a Wilderness Day event featuring a competition around the theme “What Does Wilderness Mean to You?” will be held from 3-7 p.m. Tuesday, April 15 in Phoenix Room A of the University Union. Students will share art, photographs and poetry on the central question for the event, which also will double as a fundraiser (the event is free; ice cream is just $1) for Baird Creek Restoration Day on Saturday, April 26. During the latter event (also free and open to the public), DJS students will pair with area high schoolers and others to plant prairie grass seed at Baird Creek, with all funds raised going directly to the Baird Creek Preservation Foundation. It’s been dubbed the Wild Phoenix Project (check it out on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram), and organizers tell us they’re jazzed about the experience. An initial $200 fundraising goal has been met, but students still are collecting funds to purchase more prairie grass seed for Baird Creek. Full details.
“Conservation in the Great Lakes, Green Bay and the Gems of Door County” will be the topics at 3:45 p.m. (note this spring’s new time) Friday, Feb. 7, in Room 301 of the Environmental Sciences Building, when the Natural and Applied Sciences Seminar Series resumes for the second semester. The presenters are staff members of The Nature Conservancy, Nicole Van Helden, the Green Bay watershed conservation director, and recent UWGB grad Kari Hagenow of the Door Peninsula Land Stewardship program. The programs are free and open to all.
A UW-Green Bay alumnus and current master’s student is investigating a much-maligned invasive species in Green Bay’s backyard — and exploring the idea that efforts at eradication might not be what’s best, after all. Matt Peter, a 2011 graduate of the University’s environmental science program, is working to broaden the knowledge of Phragmites on Door County shores, studying not just the loathed invasive plant, but also the native species. Extensive efforts to kill exotic Phragmites could have important implications for the native plants, as well, Peter says. He’s working with The Nature Conservancy to study the differences between the two and how each responds to various natural stimuli. Our new feature story has more.
University of Wisconsin-Green Bay graduate student Matt Peter is out to broaden the base of knowledge of a currently understudied subject — the effects of native phragmites on Door County shores.
You see, it is the exotic invasive plant that seems to take over shorelines in a matter of a few years and are the scorn of naturalists, tourists and homeowners. The native species may be getting a bad rap, right along with it. Maybe.
Peter, a native of Rothschild, Wis. near Wausau, and a graduate of UW-Green Bay’s environmental science program in 2011, is working with The Nature Conservancy to study the differences between the two and how each responds to various natural stimuli. A recent feature in “Pulse,” a print and online resource for Door County art, news and entertainment, featured Peter’s work earlier this fall.
The feature explains an extensive effort to kill the exotic species in Door County and a possible indifference, and the effect it could have, if the native phragmites are destroyed along with the exotic.
“Native species, such as native Phragmties, have co-evolved with the other species in their ecosystem,” Peter explains. “Over time, each species has established its own niche within the natural environment and has developed a set of services that it provides to the surrounding ecosystem. Essentially, each native species is a small piece of a very complex puzzle. Therefore, by eliminating the native Phragmites you may also be weakening the health of the ecosystem.”
He says that many organizations including The Nature Conservancy and “even the United States government” aim to protect and promote biodiversity.
“By definition, this requires them to focus on specific species genotypes (aka subspecies). Laws, like the Endangered Species Act, recognize the importance of protecting genetic diversity. Through an understanding of the importance of genetic diversity, the goal of our project is to determine differences in the native and exotic genotypes of Phragmites to help shape effective and efficient management strategies for conservation groups and land managers.”
Peter said he chose UW-Green Bay for its environmental science program. He chose to stay and pursue his master’s degree in Environmental Science and Policy because of the faculty and graduate students he had an opportunity to interact with as an undergraduate.
“The ES&P faculty is outstanding and being able to work with many of them as an undergrad is really what drove me to stay here for grad school. Also, as an undergrad I interacted with many previous grad students and I was really impressed with the work that they were doing. I admired how challenging the program is and the quality of the work that is produced from the ES&P program.”
Peter is working toward a spring 2015 graduation date, and possible future career as a land manager or restoration ecologist.
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