Minnesota Master Naturalist

Annual Conference

Nurturing a Healthy Big Woods, Big Rivers Biome
A collaboration of University of Minnesota Extension Forestry and Minnesota Master Naturalist programs
May 20-22, 2016
Saint Mary's University of Minnesota, Winona, Minnesota


Keynote Speaker:  Dr. Karen Oberhauser

Karen Oberhauser is a Professor in the Dept. of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota, where she and her students conduct research on several aspects of monarch butterfly ecology. Her research depends on traditional lab and field techniques, as well as the contributions of a variety of audiences through citizen science, and she and her students have published over peer-reviewed 100 papers that focus on monarch biology and conservation. Her strong interest in promoting a citizenry with a high degree of scientific and environmental literacy led to the development of a science education program that involves courses for both formal and non-formal educators, and opportunities for youth to engage in research and share their findings with broad audiences. In 1996, she and graduate student Michelle Prysby started a nationwide Citizen Science project called the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project, which continues to engage hundreds of volunteers throughout North America. Karen is passionate about the conservation of the world’s biodiversity, and believes that the connections her projects promote between monarchs, humans, and the natural world promote meaningful conservation action. She is the chair of the Monarch Joint Venture, and a founding officer of the Monarch Butterfly Fund. In 2013, Karen received a White House Champion of Change award for her work with Citizen Science.

Dwindling numbers for an iconic insect: A conservation biologist ponders moving beyond the documentation of declines

Monarch butterflies populations have been declining over the last 20 years. Because insect numbers are notoriously difficult to assess, and because they often show large year to year fluctuations, simply documenting this decline has been a challenge. It is now important to move beyond simple documentation, and toward responding to the challenge posed by monarch conservation, and insect conservation in general. Monarchs are negatively impacted by many human activities, and various scientists and monarch advocates have implicated habitat degradation and loss, pesticide use, climate change, vehicular collisions, invasive species, and pathogen spread in their dwindling numbers.

In this presentation, I’ll describe the amazing biology of migratory monarch populations, and the work of citizens and scientists in documenting monarch numbers at all stages of their migratory cycle.  I’ll then discuss threats to monarchs, and potential responses to these threats. Because conservation biology must be, at its essence, a science of hope, my focus is on positive changes as well as on the challenges posed by declining monarch numbers.

Conference Schedule 
Friday, May 20
Day 1 features pre-conference full and half-day field trips, concurrent sessions, and an MFA membership meeting. The conference kicks off with a welcome address and dinner beginning at 6:30 pm, followed by the keynote by Karen Oberhauser
Saturday, May 21
Take an early morning guided walk, and then meet us for breakfast at 7:00 am. Elect to take a half-day field trip or join a couple of on-site sessions. A picnic lunch will be followed by an afternoon of more field trips and sessions. A cash bar and hors d'oeuvres will be open until the evening banquet and awards ceremony begins. End the night with one of our planned social activities, including a movie, games, bonfire, cash bar and dessert bar.
Sunday, May 22
Early morning walks and breakfast will be followed by another set of learning sessions. At noon, we will have lunch and listen to closing remarks. Then it's goodbye until next year!
Schedule of Events

General Conference Information

Sessions and Field Trip Descriptions

Presenter Biographies

Registration Form

Sponsors and Donors

Silent Auction Donation Form

Photo Contest Entry Form

Exhibit Booth/Display Table Application Form - Deadline is May 1, 2016

Master Naturalist Scholarship Application