2021 Virtual Sessions

Gathering Partners: A conference for friends of Minnesota's natural resources

All registrants for the 2021 Gathering Partners virtual conference will receive full access to our online conference platform, including three days filled with concurrent sessions for every interest. See our schedule below to see what we have planned for you!


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Thursday, May 13, 2021

10:30 - 11:30 a.m.

Hawk Ridge: Counting for Conservation
Presenter: Margie Menzies; Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory

Description: Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory is counting migratory birds in one of the largest flyways in North America. Both fall and spring migrants are counted annually with an average of about 90,000 raptors, as well as hundreds of thousands of other birds. Hawk Ridge is involved in a number of ongoing bird conservation research projects. Join us to learn what nearly 50 years of counting and research have taught us. This will be a fun, interactive look at everything Hawk Ridge, as we compare fall and spring counts, talk bird trends, and then head outside to view the migration in action.

Offal Wildlife Watching
Presenter: Ellen Candler; University of Minnesota

Description: Offal Wildlife Watching has collected three seasons of data and we are excited to continue! We aim to understand what and when species use deer gut piles provided by hunters across Minnesota. Minnesota offers a unique opportunity to look at this across biomes, different scavenger assemblages, and different human land use types. All of these likely affect what and when scavenger species visit gut piles. Citizen Scientists have made this research possible, not only in the data collection and analysis, but in the ideas generated through conversation. Come learn about what we have done so far and where we are going.

Learning about Minnesota's terrestrial gastropods
Presenter: Katherine Marchetto; University of Minnesota

Description: Did you know that Minnesota is home to over 50 species of terrestrial gastropods (slugs and snails)? Most are very small and easy to overlook. You might be amazed to observe the number of species you can find in a small part of your favorite forest. We will cover terrestrial gastropod diversity and identification, how to find them in the field, how to use them in educational activities, and preservation of specimens for nature interpretation and study.

1:00 - 2:00 p.m.

Moths: Nighttime Neighbors
Presenter: Clinton Dexter-Nienhaus; Head Naturalist, Friends of Sax-Zim Bog

Description: Moths are all around us, but often difficult to observe due to their nocturnal habits. This talk will cover basics of moth evolution and biology, introduce identification, and suggest tips for observing moths at your home or further afield!

An Overview of Chronic Wasting Disease and Minnesota’s Response to Detection in Wild White-tailed Deer
Presenter: Christopher Janelle; Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Description: Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease of cervids (e.g., moose, elk, deer) and was first detected in wild deer in the late 1960s in Colorado. This prion-based disease has spread unabated through wild deer herds in North America, and in 2016 it was detected in Fillmore County, Minnesota. In this talk, I provide an overview of what the scientific community knows about CWD, general management strategies, and Minnesota’s approach to managing this disease in wild white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus).

Barriers and opportunities for sustainable aquaculture in the Midwest
Presenter: Amy Schrank; University of Minnesota Sea Grant

Description: The Great Lakes comprise one of the world’s largest freshwater ecosystems and there has been increasing interest and support for developing a robust freshwater aquaculture industry in the region. Aquaculture production in the Great Lakes region is currently small and does not keep pace with increases in consumer demand for fish and seafood and the increasing desire for local food sources and food security. Barriers to aquaculture include negative consumer and public perceptions of aquaculture, complicated regulatory structures, and lack of producer education and business planning. The Sea Grant Great Lakes Aquaculture Collaborative (GLAC) was formed in 2019 to address potential barriers and develop opportunities for sustainable, land-based aquaculture in the region. The project’s primary goal is to provide relevant, science-based initiatives that support an environmentally responsible, competitive, and sustainable aquaculture industry in the region. We do this through both a focus on outreach and research with an emphasis on building strong relationships between Great Lakes Sea Grant programs and aquaculture producers.

2:30 - 3:30 p.m.

Be a Turtle Hero!
Presenter: Misi Stine; Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer

Description: Come and learn more about turtles, one of the primary threats to turtle populations, how you can help reduce this threat and participate in citizen science. The presentation will include a sneak peek at a new video that is about to debut.

Invasive Plants of the North Shore
Presenter: Mari Hardel; Minnesota Department of Agriculture

Description: Are you curious about what non-native plants are invading the north shore? Come learn about some common invasive plants and others that take advantage of the unique landscapes and ecosystems near Lake Superior. We'll also look at projects from Duluth to Grand Marais and cover simple management techniques.

The Indigenous Roots of Sustainable Forestry in the USA
Presenter: Michael Dockry; Department of Forest Resources, University of Minnesota

Friday, May 14, 2021

9:00 - 10:00 a.m.

Silent Invasion of the Great Lakes
Presenter: Doug Jensen; Aquatic Invasive Species Program Coordinator, University of Minnesota Sea Grant

Description: This epic story is about incredibly rich resources, ruin, recovery and protection. Invasion of the Great Lakes has been a catastrophe both accidental and intentional. When did things start going wrong? What are the worst Great Lakes invaders? Why did we go “salmon happy”? How are we doing today? Learn how this story starts at Niagara Falls and ends on the North Shore of Lake Superior. Come get up close and personal with some of the most notorious invaders of our time.

Tracking Jumping Worms in Minnesota...Volunteers Needed!
Presenter: Ryan Huffmeier; Program Director, Boulder Lake Environmental Learning Center 

Description: Do you garden, compost, landscape? Do you have earthworms in your soil? Do you know there is another layer to the earthworm story? Earthworms have been introduced to our glaciated region and are impacting the forest ecology. Now we are dealing with a new earthworm (the jumping worm) from Asia impacting created ecosystems such as your vegetable or flower gardens. In this presentation we will discuss how citizen scientists can be on the front lines of this research in Minnesota. Assisting researchers in documenting their current locations and helping to find ways to control their spread.

Mushrooms: Edibles and Lookalikes
Presenter: Gene Kremer; President, Paul Bunyan Mushroom Club

Description: Basic training in identifying the "Safe Six" edible mushrooms as well as possible lookalikes. The group will learn simple anatomy and growth types of fungi. We will also look at characteristics of common toxic mushrooms and how to get help with identification.

10:30 - 11:30 a.m.

Accessing information on Minnesota plants and animals through the Minnesota Biodiversity Atlas
Presenter: Britt Forsberg, University of Minnesota Extension

Description: The Minnesota Biodiversity Atlas is an online, searchable interface integrating an extensive set of over 5 terabytes of data from the Bell Museum on birds, mammals, fishes, plants, and fungi as well as data from citizen science projects like the Minnesota Bee Atlas and HerpMapper. In addition to date and location information, many records incorporate photos of museum specimens. In this session, we will walk through how to use the Biodiversity Atlas to answer your own questions about Minnesota's plants and animals. For the best experience, participants should feel comfortable opening the Biodiversity Atlas website in a separate browser window or tab and navigating back and forth between the Atlas and the presentation.

Dragonflies of Minnesota
Presenter: Kurt Mead; Tettegouche State Park, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Description: Based on our location on the North American Continent, Minnesota has a great diversity of dragonflies and damselflies (the Odonata). While some work has been done on the ranges and the distributions of these charismatic microfauna, there is still a great need for more observations.

Leave No Trace
Presenter: Teri Fick

Saturday, May 15, 2021

9:00 - 10:00 a.m.

Soak Up Minnesota's Unknown with the Quest for the Freshwater Sponge
Presenter: Tony Schroeder; Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota Crookston

Description: When people hear the word “sponges” they usually think about what they use to clean their kitchens, or the colorful salt-water animals, or even Sponge-Bob. It turns out that sponges also reside in freshwater and play a significant role in the aquatic ecosystem. They are filter feeders and good bio-indicators of clean water. Little is known about freshwater sponges anywhere, but especially in Minnesota. This presentation will introduce you to freshwater sponges, learn what has been found in Minnesota, and how citizen scientists and you can help learn more about these important animals in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.”

Wolf Reintroduction on Isle Royale
Presenter: Misi Stine; Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer

Description: The longest predator/prey study has been on Isle Royale National Park on Lake Superior, exploring the relationship between wolves and moose. In recent years that study and the health of that island ecosystem has come into question, with the functional extinction of the wolves. After much deliberation the National Park Service decided to introduce 20-30 new wolves to the island starting in 2018. We will explore a brief history of the work, the decline of the wolf population, and the reintroduction efforts to date. This talk promises to be filled with conflict, drama, ups and down, like any other aspect of managing this complex predator.

AgroPhenology adapting to Climate Change
Presenter: David Abazs; Executive Director, Northeast Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, University of Minnesota Extension

Description: Using a standard calendar to determine when we plant our crops has become less reliable due to more variable and extreme weather patterns. We will share our experimentation with crop plantings as they relate to "wild" indicator species to create a nature based planting calendar that can be more reliable than the standard calendar we currently use. Come learn about phenology and agriculture.

10:30 - 11:30 a.m.

Our lake, our state, our backyard: Engaging students by observing plant phenology
Presenter: Jessica Savage; Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota Duluth

Description: Discover how Lake Superior and the climate shape plant phenology in the Twin Ports and more broadly in Minnesota. We will talk about the Lake, climate change and the exciting place we live at the interface of many biomes and climatic zones. Together we will discuss techniques and activities to bring phenology into the classroom and connect students with the natural environment. This seminar is for everyone whether you are an experienced educator, an expert phenologist or just getting interested in plant phenology. We will highlight resources we developed for our continuing education workshops in Duluth and engage participants in a discussion about their own experiences and ideas.

A deadly case of mistaken identity: Nuisance plants and their look-a-likes
Presenter: Gary Wyatt; Extension Educator, University of Minnesota Extension

Description: Can you tell your parsnip from poison hemlock? Many nuisance plants have native or cultivated look-a-likes that pose no problems to humans or animals, but one mix-up could spell trouble if you don't know the difference! Learn about the plants on Minnesota's Noxious Weed List, what native and garden plants are common look-a-likes, and how you can manage these pesky plants if they show up in your landscape.

Hands-on Bluebirding: Everything You Want to Know to Get Started and More
Presenter: David Schmidt; Bluebird Recovery Program of Minnesota

Description: Want to learn about the beautiful Bluebird? When they arrive, how we can help by providing them with nesting habitat, weekly monitoring to keep them safe, tips, tools and reporting your success at season-end. All this and more, whether you’re already a Bluebird enthusiast or want to become a Bluebirder this class is for you.