Cynthia Osmundson, Nongame Wildlife Program Supervisor. As the leader of the Nongame Wildlife Program, I provide strategic direction as we strive to sustain the health of rare wildlife populations, and I do my best to address the many day-to-day challenges.
Cynthia’s wildlife story: As a young teen, I traveled with my parents north to the Gunflint Trail in February for an overnight stay in a cabin alongside a frozen and snow covered lake. My mom and I cross-country skied across the lake, enjoying the sense of a new world created by the fresh snow and diminishing daylight. The full moon made an early appearance. As we turned back towards the cabin, we heard and then saw a lone wolf also crossing the lake ice. The wolf sat and watched us as we went on our way. It felt strangely intimate, the three of us observing each other as we traveled through the magical winter dusk.
Clara Brown, Nongame Wildlife Specialist. I assist staff in various projects such as field work, data entry, and other nongame related tasks.
Clara’s wildlife story: In January (2022) I was offered the opportunity to spend a week helping the Forest Service track Lynx in the Superior National Forest. We spent five days following Lynx trails in snow up to our waists and negative temperatures. The goal was not to find the Lynx but to instead learn about their behavior and collect DNA samples from scat that could be used to identify the individuals later in a lab. Even though I never got to see the Lynx that I was following, I felt like I was able to get to know them on a very personal level as I saw where they slept, ate, and played. This experience taught me how important it is to protect and care for the incredible wildlife that we share our state with, even if we don’t get to see them every day.
Alison Cariveau, State Wildlife Grants Coordinator. I manage federal grants and supports projects to conserve Minnesota’s Species of Greatest Conservation Need.
Alison’s wildlife story: Awesome wildlife moments include wolf puppies playing in Denali, a troupe of baboons eating in Tanzania, a brand-new elk calf standing for the first time, a warbling vireo singing while weaving its nest, startling a young brown bear onto hind feet, and floating on a wooden raft amongst giant river otters in Manu, Peru.
Daren Carlson, State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) Monitoring Coordinator. I coordinate monitoring and data activities related to Wildlife Species in Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) and their habitats. I basically deal with everything data related and is the staff historian for SWAP; an important plan first developed in 2005 and updated every 10 years for conserving Minnesota’s rare wildlife.
Daren’s wildlife story: When I was about 5 years old, my parents returned to their home state of Minnesota to a new housing development in a Twin Cities suburb. What had once been an oak forest with numerous wetlands was now some remaining oak trees with houses, roads and wetlands in between. Shortly after moving in, my brother and I came across a big turtle walking down the bike path between two ponds behind our house. It was beautiful with yellow on its face, and it looked and acted more like a wise old tortoise. We brought it to my dad, who contacted a reptile expert. We learned it was a female Blanding’s turtle about 80 years old and probably looking for a place to lay its eggs. Since its habitat was now mostly gone, it was relocated. That was a pivotal moment in my life’s interest in herps (reptiles and amphibians), and in my understanding of the importance to conserve habitat for all wildlife.
Gaea Crozier, Nongame Wildlife Specialist. I conduct surveys, monitoring, and research projects and provide technical guidance for nongame wildlife species in northeastern MN.
Gaea’s wildlife story: When I moved to northern Minnesota, I fell in love with this area for its beauty, wild areas, and amazing wildlife. From seeing my first moose during a northern goshawk survey to kayaking a remote lake looking for loons and finding a colony of black terns instead to the intense stare of a great gray owl peering down from its nest as I tried to sneak away, I knew this was where I wanted to be and this was the type of work I wanted to do. You never know what you are going to see or learn when you walk into the woods, which makes this work so exciting!
Mags Edwards (they/them), Community Science Program Coordinator. I’m responsible for developing Community Science projects that support at-risk wildlife and provide opportunities for Minnesotans to participate in Conservation Science.
Mags’ wildlife story: I’ve been a wildlife enthusiast since I was old enough to wander around trying to catch lions in the field and woods behind our house, using the pool skimmer as a net. Although no lions were encountered (probably for the best) I did see plenty of trees, flowers, fish, turtles, salamanders, birds, butterflies, and other native wildlife. Scientific exploration is a way of life for me, and I’m very fortunate to have a career where I can pursue my passion and share it with others.
Lisa Gelvin-Innvaer, Nongame Wildlife Specialist. Like nature, my work in the southern region is highly diverse. It’s aimed at studying and conserving wildlife as well as the habitats they need to survive and thrive, primarily in the tallgrass prairie. My major focus is on monitoring wildlife populations to better understand their status, conservation needs, and how they respond to habitat changes. I then help to translate those findings into technical guidance and outreach that helps others to conserve, restore, restore, appreciate and enjoy.
Lisa’s wildlife story: I spent every summer of my childhood at my family’s woodland cottage along a lake. Nearly all of my time was spent outdoors, often exploring. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by whatever creeped, crawled or flew. A budding scientist, I even took notes on where I found them, what they looked like and how they behaved. I never outgrew my curiosity nor my desire to make a difference for the wildlife and wild places I so loved. For me, being a biologist is not just what I do but a way of life.
Kristin A. L. Hall, State Wildlife Action Plan Coordinator. I coordinate the implementation of the MN Wildlife Action Plan, a statewide plan to collaboratively maintain and enhance wildlife populations and habitat.
Kristin’s wildlife story: I’ve always been an outdoor person, from being a farm kid, to camping and hiking in as an adult, but my wildlife story came into focus thanks to a western tanager. It was the first (non-backyard) bird I identified on my own. I was a freshman in college at the University of Montana, taking ornithology and it wasn’t clicking. I was having lunch outside by the river near campus and a male western tanager perched on a branch above me, singing and preening like I wasn’t even there. I had such a clear and amazing view. I finally got it! I credit that specific bird with changing my career path!!
Bridget Henning-Randa, Endangered Species Consultant. I work on policies and procedures regarding endangered species and provide technical guidance to DNR staff and the public on compliance with state and federal endangered species law. I also run the permitting program for state endangered and threatened species.
Bridget’s wildlife story: As a graduate student, I conducted research in a village in Papua New Guinea. While there, I was almost always accompanied by one of my assistants from the village. On my very first solo excursion, I headed up to a ridge top where I could get cell phone service, and as I reached the top of a hill found myself face to face with a northern cassowary- as known as one of the most dangerous birds in the world. My heart raced as I backed away and let it pass. I was amazed by what I saw and excitedly called home after I reached the ridge top. Later that day when I returned to the village and relayed my brush with death, my assistants from the village broke out in laughter. It was actually a tame cassowary that one of the villagers had raised, and I was at no risk at all.
Andrew Herberg, Nongame Wildlife Specialist. I work in northeastern MN to monitor rare species, coordinate on forest management, restore habitats of threatened species, engage with citizens, and organize the volunteer Loon Watcher Survey.
Andrew’s wildlife story: Much of my childhood was spent knee deep in our neighborhood pond catching amphibians, fish, and aquatic insects. Days spent filling my minnow net and checking species off in my field guides built a curiosity for the natural world that continues to this day. I’m still happiest with a dip net in hand, meandering through wetlands trying to get a glimpse into world just below the surface.
Chris Jennelle, Wildlife Action Plan Biometrician. I work with Biologists to design studies, analyze data, and assess population trends of Minnesota Species in Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN).
Chris's wildlife story: One of my favorite moments connecting with the natural world was on the day of my son’s birth when I accidentally discovered a ruby-throated hummingbird nest in my backyard. Despite looking very hard for one for many years, they always eluded me, and on this special day when I was not even trying to find one, a female hummingbird simply showed it to me. Nature speaks to us every day if we would look and listen.
Krista Larson, Nongame Research Biologist. I design, coordinate, and implement research, survey, and monitoring projects on nongame wildlife around the state with a focus on species that are rare or declining to better understand their status, distribution, abundance, natural history, and management needs
Krista's wildlife story: I’ve always been fascinated by animals that fly. As a kid, each summer I spent two weeks near Bemidji fishing with my dad. Admittedly at that age I preferred sitting on the dock and watching the eagles and osprey dive-bomb the water to catch fish rather than fishing myself. Some years the horseflies were just brutal. Until I was saved…by a dragonfly. One year, sitting very still, I had (what I know now to be) a massive, beautiful dragonfly called a Dragonhunter land on my big toe. It flew off, intercepted a horsefly in mid-air, and then landed back on my toe to consume its meal. I was not bothered by the horseflies again because I had my dragonfly protector. And there began my fascination with one of the most amazing, agile, zippy fliers in the animal world. To this day, every summer I look forward to the return of dragonflies to my big toe -- and for many, many more reasons than their choice of diet.
Elizabeth Nault-Maurer, Information Officer. I develop the program’s social media and web presence.
Elizabeth’s wildlife story: When I was a kid, I used to go camping every summer with my extended family at Father Hennepin State Park. One of my favorite memories was when my grandpa would gather all the young cousins up and take us down a trail to a fenced-in field. If we were lucky, out in the field we’d see “Snowball”, a white deer. I’m sure we weren’t seeing the same deer every time, and sometimes there were multiple deer, but they were always “Snowball”.
Lori’s wildlife story: I grew up close to a lake with lots of undeveloped wetland and woods around it. As kids, my siblings and I spent a lot of time exploring the wild area, finding everything from baby toads and salamanders to raccoons and deer, and catching large catfish in the lake. It was magical experiencing an untamed wilderness so close to home and learning about wildlife from the time I was a young child.
Robert Rabasco, NR Program Coordinator for the Minnesota Loon Recovery Program. I coordinate the MN Loon Recovery Program.
Rob’s wildlife story: I grew up in spending my time split between a tiny house in Minneapolis, and the woods and water around the farm that my mother grew up on in Garrison, MN. I much preferred the woods and water.So many experiences stand out: shooting my first deer, seeing my first moose in the BWCA, calling in my first tom turkey, and every time a new lab pup of mine retrieves its first duck. Now, my highlights are focused on watching my son (James) and daughter (Corrina) have their first interactions with nature. My son shot his first deer this firearms season, and my daughter has caught many trophy size smallmouth bass already (she is 11 years old).
Liz Rasmussen, Loon Specialist. I work on the MN Loon Restoration Project including acquisition, developing loon-friendly lake management plans, and loon monitoring.
Liz’s wildlife story: I've been fortunate enough to have had many awe-inspiring interactions with wildlife. Some favorites include quietly observing a moose on the Gunflint Trail, spending time on Interstate Island in Duluth watching Ring-billed Gulls and Common Terns hatch, and keeping a tiny black bear cub warm in my jacket while accompanying DNR researchers.
Spencer Rettler, Loon Specialist. I work on the MN Loon Restoration Project and assist with the acquisition of loon habitat, develop Loon-Friendly Lake Management plans, and conduct surveys.
Spencer’s wildlife story: The deep, rumbling growl said it all…I was face-to-face with my first wolverine while working on a research project in the frozen boreal forests of NW Alberta, Canada. Throughout that cold, dark winter, I was extremely fortunate to encounter several more of these mysterious, and often misunderstood, mustelids. Experiences like these always leave me with a sense of awe and motivate me to learn how we can conserve and protect our natural world.
Bridgette Timm, Nongame Wildlife Specialist. I work in the SE corner of MN in Region 3. I help develop surveys and studies that will assistance us in better understanding the populations of species of great conservation need in this area. I also work on habitat improvement projects for those same species.
Bridgette's wildlife story: To me every wildlife encounter is a special one no matter how common the species may be. But one experience that I will never forget is having the opportunity to work in the cloud forest in the Andes Mountains in Northern Ecuador on avian research. We spent time capturing and banding various species of birds as well as observing Andean Cock-of-the-rock at their lek. It was quite a treat to handle numerous birds species from large toucans to tiny hummingbirds.
Jim Wanstall, Conservation Focus Area Coordinator. I facilitate the formation of locally led partnership efforts to maintain and improve habitat within and adjacent to the state’s 36 designated Conservation Focus Areas.
Jim’s Wildlife Story: When I was 12 years old, I went to visit my Aunt and Uncle in Colorado. While I was there, I summited Mount Bierstadt. This was my first 14,000 foot peak (14nr), and my first time in the high country of the Rocky Mountains. My heart was captured. I knew I wanted to have a career that allowed me to spend time in the high country learning its habitats, and the wildlife species that inhabit them. Most of my adult life since then has been spent wandering around the high places of New Mexico and Colorado for either professional or recreational reasons. Over the last 7 years I have visited Minnesota often, and in all seasons. The diversity of habitat types, and the wildlife species associated with them are very interesting to me, and I am looking forward to learning about Minnesota’s lands, and people.
Amy Westmark, Nongame Wildlife Specialist. I conduct nongame resource conservation in northwest Minnesota.
Amy’s wildlife story: Growing up, I went on many camping trips to the Boundary Waters with my family. We often spent our evenings relaxing around a campfire. One evening we were sitting by the fire and heard splashing along the shore, followed by heavy footsteps coming toward our camp. Looking in the direction of the noise we saw a moose entering our campsite. We all sat quietly for a moment to watch. The moose neared the fire and then paused for a moment, stunned by our presence, before running off into the woods. Sharing the campfire, briefly, with such an impressive animal is a moment I’ll never forget.
Michael Worland, Nongame Wildlife Specialist. I work in the southern region. There’s not much I don’t do in the name of wildlife conservation. A big focus though for me is monitoring the status of wildlife populations and studying how species are affected by changes to their habitat. And much of my work goes toward managing and restoring tallgrass prairie, one of the world’s most endangered ecosystems, to benefit the wildlife that depend it.
Mike’s wildlife story: One of my most memorable moments in the Minnesota prairie was my first sighting of a Marbled Godwit. I heard it call from far away and was immediately excited. I lifted my binoculars, thinking I would be happy to get even a distant glimpse of it. What I saw instead was this bird flying right at me, trumpeting its call (sort of a loud, piping gar-whet) all the way. I watched as it gradually filled up the view in my binoculars! It then proceeded to fly around me in tight circles, maybe twenty yards away, calling the entire time. I could see perfectly its extremely long bill (over half the length of its body). Finally after what seemed like a full minute, it flew back toward where I originally heard it, presumably satisfied with its investigation of this strange creature walking through its home. I’d never had such a fun and surprising introduction to a bird.
Call 651-296-6157 or 888-MINNDNR (646-6367) or email: [email protected]