It wasn’t what she was looking for, but noting the presence of the golden-winged warbler was a special treat for Alexis Grinde this spring. Research has shown that this tiny feathered friend is experiencing one of the steepest population declines of any bird species in the past 45 years.
With a yellow cap and eyes masked like Batman, the golden-wing has been designated a "species of greatest conservation need" by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Elsewhere it’s been put on "threatened" or "endangered" lists.
"But there are a lot of golden-winged warblers in here now," said Grinde from a study site in UPM Blandin Paper Mill’s experimental "large plot," about 20 miles outside of Grand Rapids, Minn. The site was harvested 20 years ago and is now considered an early successional forest. "Before the harvest, only a few were detected," she added.
Thanks to NRRI’s decades of work breeding tree species in the greenhouse, the United States will be ready with fast-growing energy crops to fuel alternative energy resources. NRRI’s Populus deltoides species and other hybrids are in the line-up with sorghum, switchgrass, willow, energy cane and others that are being tested for conversion to biofuels for alternatives to gasoline and diesel fuel.
Brian Herman is a believer in serendipity — the phenomenon of unintentionally making desirable discoveries — and that cross-disciplinary, collaborative research encourages those serendipitous connections. As Vice President for Research for the entire University of Minnesota system, Herman is working to integrate that philosophy through a web of 19 collegiate units and five campuses.
It’s time to do more than walk the talk. It’s time to tango! NRRI is taking its overarching mission of sustainability and integrating it into every nook and cranny of the institute.
"What is the benefit of natural chemicals over synthetic chemicals?"
The short answer is that we know nature better than we know the man-made world. The information might not be stored on a computer, but it’s stored in the collective memory of thousands of years of human development.
Both animals and humans have used the chemicals in nature throughout their evolution and have learned what works, what their side affects are, what is poisonous, and how to use them effectively. Synthetic drugs, we’ve only had for about 50 years.