Monthly Chapter Meeting | 09/2020

Annie Bracey using MOTUS to track juvenile Common Terns.

Annie is interested in full life-cycle conservation of migratory birds. Her research will focus on studying Common Terns in the Great Lakes region, where populations are threatened or endangered in most states. She studies migratory connectivity and improve understanding of Great Lakes migration routes through use of geolocators. She is also interested in estimating colony productivity and determining the importance of different variables, such as predation and weather, on nesting success.

Topic: Monthly Chapter Meeting | 09/2020
Time: Sep 10, 2020 07:00 PM Central Time (US and Canada)

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SPAS Board Meeting

SPAS Board Meeting

Monthly Chapter Meeting | 10/8/2020

Have you been to Elk River’s newest outdoor gem? The William H. Houlton Conservation Area is a 335-acre property located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Elk rivers in Sherburne County. It was one of the largest undeveloped family-owned riverfront properties between Elk River and Hastings. Since 2014, Friends of the Mississippi River (FMR) has been working with the city of Elk River to protect and restore Houlton into high-quality wildlife habitat.

Now, 180 acres of farm fields and degraded grassland have been converted to diverse native prairie and savanna habitat, and 155 acres of floodplain and mix hardwood forests is being restored through invasive plant removal and native seeding and planting. This work not only restores important habitat types that have experienced a tremendous historical decline, but replaces a monoculture system (primarily soybeans) with a high-diversity native plant community that benefits wildlife from the ground up.

Now in its third growing season, the expansive prairie is starting to yield results. Reptiles and amphibians are using the newly installed wetland habitats, and pollinator surveys have shown steady increases in abundance and diversity, with 2019 surveys finding 16 species of bumblebees and 25 species of butterflies. Bird surveys are also showing exciting results, as species like grasshopper sparrows and savanna sparrows are now using the restoration.

Join FMR ecologists Alex Roth and Karen Schik to hear about the stunning changes happening at the site, learn about the experimentation and partnerships that are driving conservation research, and see how this restoration is benefitting wildlife, water quality, and the public.

Karen Schik

Karen Schik, FMR Senior Ecologist


Alex Roth, Ecologist with Friends of the Mississippi River

Alex Roth, FMR Ecologist

SPAS Board Meeting

Monthly Chapter Meeting | 11/2020

Dr. Sushma Reddy, the Breckenridge Chair of Ornithology at the Bell Museum of Natural History and the University of Minnesota. In her presentation, “The Dramatic Evolution of Birds on Madagascar,” Dr. Reddy will outline her team’s work so far in uncovering the remarkable diversity of birds on Madagascar and investigating the biogeographic mysteries of how they got to this island.

November Series Recording

Swans and Other Waterfowl, Brownsville, MN


From 2-3 p.m. and again from 4-5 p.m. on November 22, Chase and Ed Davies will be at the Brownsville Overlook to talk about what swans and dabbling ducks are in sight, the life histories of the swans, and management challenges of the constantly changing river.  Sundown is at 4:37; the sight of swans returning from feeding areas to congregate overnight in Pool 8 is an unforgettable experience and the reason for this late-day meeting.

From 3-4 p.m., Chase and Ed will be at the Hwy 26 overlook, a mile south of the Brownsville Overlook. Diving ducks feed in this part of Pool 8, possibly including canvasbacks and mergansers.

DIRECTIONS The time and travel distance are nearly the same whether you travel to Rochester, then use I-90, or if you travel along the river on US 61 in MN or partly in WI to I-90 North of LaCrescent MN, I-90 crosses the river between MN and WI. Take US 61 and/or I-90 to MN 16 South; about 3 miles south of LaCrescent, on a curve stay left at the junction with MN 26. Stay on MN 26 to the Brownsville Overlook, which is 3 miles south of Brownsville. The Hwy 26 Overlook is another 1.5 miles south of the Brownsville Overlook.

INSTRUCTIONS Dress for cool temperatures and probable winds on the river bank, including a warm hat and gloves.

SAFE BIRDING GUIDELINES Wear a face mask and observe social distancing. Sharing equipment is not safe, but bring a spotting scope for your own use, binoculars, a field guide, or a camera with a telescopic lens.

DIFFICULTY Overlooks are curbside to parking and are handicap accessible.

AMENITIES In the past, Brownsville Overlook has had a handicap-accessible portable outhouse.

RESERVATION not needed

REGISTRATION Please sign in at the overlooks.

LEADERS Chase and Ed Contact: 651 246 9754

SPAS Board Meeting

Monthly Chapter Meeting | 12/2020

(Video Recording)

“For Love of a River: The Minnesota” is a holistic biography of our state’s namesake river written by Darby Nelson with assistance from his wife, Geri, and editor John Hickman. Published in 2019, it was a finalist for the Midwest Book Publishers Award in the Nature category. Darby and Geri paddled the Minnesota River all the way from its source near the South Dakota border to its confluence with the Mississippi in St. Paul. Along the way, they examined the unique geological history of the river basin, admired the diverse flora and fauna, explored some of the basin’s many lakes, learned about the Dakota-US War and subsequent transformation of the landscape to agriculture, and encountered numerous people who share Darby’s passion for this special place and his dedication to addressing the river’s pollution problems. The program will feature photographs from Darby and Geri’s paddling adventures and readings from the book, which is available on Amazon in soft cover and e-book formats. For more information, see

Darby Nelson fell in love with the Minnesota River as a boy growing up in the river town of Morton. He is an aquatic ecologist and biology professor emeritus at Anoka-Ramsey Community College. Darby has been a tireless advocate for the environment, serving on boards for Conservation Minnesota, the Freshwater Society, and the Nature Conservancy, and he was a charter member of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. He has received the Sigurd Olson Award from the Izaak Walton League, Environmentalist of the Year from the North Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, Willard Munger Award from the Minnesota DFL, Steve Chapman Environment Award from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and several teaching awards. Geri Nelson has a BS in biology and secondary education from the University of Minnesota and an MS in gifted and talented education from St Thomas. She taught physical science for 25 years in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, coaching science fair students and advising National Honor Society and the Girls’ Science and Math Retreat. She is proud to be Darby’s typist, first reader, events coordinator and, now that Darby is experiencing the effects of dementia, his spokesperson. John Hickman assisted in the writing of For Love of a River: The Minnesota. John is a writer and documentary film producer and a longtime advocate for the Minnesota River. From 1992–94, he served on Governor Arne Carlson’s Minnesota River Citizens’ Advisory Committee and wrote the recommendations for the committee’s influential final report, Working Together: A Plan to Restore the Minnesota River. In 2011, he was executive producer of the film River Revival: Working Together to Save the Minnesota River, which premiered in prime time on the Twin Cities’ NBC affiliate.

SPAS Board Meeting | January 2021

Fellow Board Members:

The Board will meet on Monday, January 11 at 6:00 pm because that is when almost everyone will be able to attend. I will ask Ben to send everyone a Zoom call invitation. The purpose of the meeting is to decide on Society priorities for 2021. Please note I have listed several proposed priorities but we are not limited to that list or that order. In addition, it is unlikely we will want to have more than 3 or 4 priorities.

I have attached a Proposed Agenda and Jane’s Project Plan form. I am also forwarding emails from Jo Morse (December 9) and Cathy Croghan (December 28) since I don’t know how to attach them to this memo.

Of course, if you cannot attend the meeting you are welcome to send your comments on priorities by email to the Board.  Thanks everyone, hope to see you on Monday, January 11.