The DNR communications team works with agency experts to develop the weekly questions and provide the answers. This feature addresses current DNR issues, interesting topics, or the most frequently asked questions from around Minnesota.
July 2, 2012
Q. What are spiny waterfleas and what impacts do they have on the states aquatic resources?
A. Spiny waterfleas are zooplankton (microscopic animals) that are native to Europe and Asia and were introduced into the Great Lakes by ballast water discharged from ocean-going ships.
They eat small animals (zooplankton), including Daphnia, which are an important food for native fishes. In some lakes, they caused the decline or elimination of some species of native zooplankton. Although the spiny water flea can fall prey to fish, its spine seems to frustrate most small fish, which tend to experience great difficulty swallowing the animal.
Spiny waterfleas can spread by attaching to fishing lines, downriggers, anchor ropes and fishing nets, and can be unintentionally transported in bilge water, bait buckets or livewells.
For more information, visit http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/invasives/aquaticanimals/spinywaterflea/index.html.
Christine Herwig, Northwest Region invasive species specialist
July 16, 2012
Q: I understand western prairie fringed orchids are in flower in southwestern Minnesota. Are these rare in Minnesota?
A: Yes, this federally-threatened prairie plant is one of Minnesota's rarest orchids. Typically it flowers in northwestern Minnesota in late June or early July and in southwestern Minnesota in mid-July. This year the Red River Valley plants suffered from fall and spring drought and were hit by late frosts. Very few plants will flower north of I-94.
Photographers and wildflower lovers would do best to head to southwestern Minnesota, where plants are in flower in the vicinity of Luverne and Pipestone. The most easily seen plants are near the road at Touch the Sky National Wildlife Refuge in Rock County. People can also see the orchids in the Sheyenne National Grassland in North Dakota.
-Nancy Sather, botanist/ecologist, Minnesota Biological Survey
July 23, 2012
Q: The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the University of Minnesota Extension offer a Master Naturalist Program. What is the program and how does a person become a master naturalist?
A: The Master Naturalist Program is a community-based natural-resource volunteer program that is open to any adult who is interested in learning more about the natural world. This program is different than the Master Gardener program as it provides participants a broader based understanding of the state's natural environments. Those who sign up for the program have the opportunity to be trained in any one, or all, of Minnesota's three major biomes – prairie, deciduous forest or coniferous forest. However, in order to be certified as a master naturalist, volunteers must complete 40 hours of training and a supervised sponsored outreach project. Following training, these conservationists will assist the DNR, U of M Extension and other partners with public outreach and management of the state's diverse natural environments.
For more information, go to www.minnesotamasternaturalist.org.
- Dawn Flinn, DNR stewardship education coordinator