Prairie Pod

view of tallgrass prairie - Podcast logo

The Podcast

The Prairie Pod is a podcast that communicates the science surrounding prairie conservation, restoration/reconstruction, and management. Each episode covers a prairie-focused topic, and offers insights on related literature and places to explore Minnesota's beautiful prairies and other amazing natural areas. You'll hear discussions from a variety of experts, tackling the complexity, challenges and beauty of Minnesota's prairie landscape.

This work is part of the Minnesota Prairie Conservation Partnership, which works underneath the Minnesota Prairie Conservation Plan to protect, restore and enhance prairie and wetland habitats.

 


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The Episodes

New episodes are available weekly. Episodes are available to download or listen to in iTunes.

Season Three

Episode 1: Mussel Mania

Today’s podcast is going to talk about mussels! Caution, if you listen to this podcast, you will get mussel mania (extreme excitement over all things mollusk).

Resource List

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Links

Mussel videos for your learning and enjoyment:

Native mussels displayed on the shoreline as part of the Statewide Mussel Survey where DNR scientists are gathering information to guide mussel conservation efforts.

(Native mussels displayed on the shoreline as part of the Statewide Mussel Survey where DNR scientists are gathering information to guide mussel conservation efforts.)

Listen to Episode 1

Episode 2: Let’s get our feet wet (Restoration series: Prairie Streams)

In today’s podcast we’re getting our feet wet (not literally, I hope). We’ll be talking with River Ecologist, Luther Aadland and Clean water Specialist, Brooke Hacker about stream restoration in the prairie landscape.

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DNR River Ecologist, Luther Aadland (left) and Clean Water Legacy Specialist, Brooke Hacker (right) take measurements to assess the channel for two stream restoration projects.

(DNR River Ecologist, Luther Aadland (left) and Clean Water Legacy Specialist, Brooke Hacker (right) take measurements to assess the channel for two stream restoration projects.)

Listen to Episode 2

Episode 3: Diversity makes the world go round (Restoration Series: seed mix design and research update)

Today’s podcast is talking about my favorite subject: diversity! After all, it makes the world go round. We’ll be highlighting key updates about seed mix design including the latest research findings, plant and pollinator relationships, wildlife benefits, and more.

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Whorled milkweed framed by hoary vervain and goldenrod in the background of a DNR-wildlife prairie reconstruction near Marshall, MN

(Whorled milkweed framed by hoary vervain and goldenrod in the background of a DNR-wildlife prairie reconstruction near Marshall, MN.)

Listen to Episode 3

Episode 4: A Legacy of Love for the Prairie Landscape: A Landowner’s Perspective

Today’s podcast is going to feature a very special prairie enthusiast, yes, we mean that literally. Prairie enthusiasts are not just people who drive around getting excited any time they see grasses and wildflowers blowing in the wind. They are groups of dedicated individuals who take their personal time to educate, protect, and restore prairie and savanna habitats in the Upper Midwest.

Resource List

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Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) blooms in front of the Kasota SNA sign. Kasota is one of the landowner featured today, Henry's favorite prairies.

(Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) blooms in front of the Kasota SNA sign. Kasota is one of the landowner featured today, Henry's favorite prairies.)

Listen to Episode 4

Episode 5: What’s Buzzing on the prairie: the Minnesota bee survey

Today’s podcast is going to talk about bees! They’ve been in the news, they’ve been in your garden, and most importantly they’re on the prairie! We’ll chat with a familiar voice in Invertebrate Ecologist, Jessica Petersen, joined by MBS Bee Survey Specialist, Nicole Gerjets, to hear about their work surveying bees, why these tiny fliers are so busy, and all the incredible things they’re doing right under our noses.

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Bee Survey Specialist, Nicole Gerjets (left) and Invertebrate Ecologist, Jessica Petersen (right) survey for bees on public land in Minnesota.

(Bee Survey Specialist, Nicole Gerjets (left) and Invertebrate Ecologist, Jessica Petersen (right) survey for bees on public land in Minnesota.)

Listen to Episode 5

Episode 6: Farming for Pollinators

Today’s podcast is going to talk about bees! Wait, didn’t we just do this one? We did talk about surveying for bees during our last episode, but bees are so important we’re covering them again and this time we’re going to focus on what you can do on and around the farm to help provide habitat for these winged beasties! We’re joined by Karin Jokela with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation to hear about how she works with farmers and land managers to spread the buzz (literally).

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Flowering insectary strip providing pollen and nectar to support local pollinators and beneficial predators, which in turn plays a role in crop production at the Sogn Valley Farm in Cannon Falls, Minnesota.

(Flowering insectary strip providing pollen and nectar to support local pollinators and beneficial predators, which in turn plays a role in crop production at the Sogn Valley Farm in Cannon Falls, Minnesota. )

Listen to Episode 6

Season Two

Episode 1: A lost prairie butterfly gets reintroduced (Dakota Skipper Reintroduction at Hole-in-the-Mountain Prairie)

Today's podcast is going to talk about Dakota skippers, a rare prairie butterfly, and their reintroduction into a Minnesota prairie.

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Episode 2: We’re in this for the long haul (Restoration Series: Long-term management)

Guests: Joe Stangel, Jeanine Vorland.

Today’s podcast is going to talk about long-term management of prairies and grasslands! Some people say diamonds are forever, well we say, prairies are forever. With the right management tool we can keep them thriving and healthy for many generations to come. We’ll chat with Asst. Regional Wildlife Manager, Joe Stangel, and Area Wildlife Manager, Jeanine Vorland, to hear how they prefer to manage prairies and grasslands and cover some of the basics in terms of management tools and timelines.

Resource List

Episode 3: A Legacy of Conservation with the Service

Feature Conservationist: Marty Baker, USFWS

Today's podcast is going to feature a very special conservationist, Marty Baker. Marty has worked for the USFWS for 28 years and he mostly works on prairie and wetland restorations. There is no substitute for practitioner experience—those who know by getting their hands dirty and trying new things. Marty is one of those rare gems who has an incredible wealth of knowledge to share and we’re excited to learn all we can from him during today's episode!

Resource List

Long-time conservationist, Marty Baker stands above a complex of reconstructed and remnant prairie on the Wolf Lake Waterfowl Production Area in Windom, MN.

(Long-time conservationist, Marty Baker stands above a complex of reconstructed and remnant prairie on the Wolf Lake Waterfowl Production Area in Windom, MN.)

Listen to Episode3

Episode 4: Going Native: Native Prairie Bank Easement Program—The Deets

Guest: Rhett Johnson

In today's podcast we are going to talk about the Native Prairie Bank Easement Program. Did you know if you have remnant prairie (never been broken by a plow) on your land, you may qualify for an easement program that can keep that prairie land for future generations? How awesome is that? More Prairie, More Awesome is what we always say. We'll be chatting with DNR Private Lands Specialist, Rhett Johnson about all the details. You may even get to hear about his magical vest!

Resource List

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A Native Prairie Bank Easement sign marks the border of a remnant prairie (a prairie that has never been broken by a plow or other means) on private land in southern Minnesota.

(A Native Prairie Bank Easement sign marks the border of a remnant prairie (a prairie that has never been broken by a plow or other means) on private land in southern Minnesota.)

Listen to Episode 4

Episode 5: Herp Tracking in the Minnesota River Valley—Snakes, Skinks, and More!

Guests: Lisa Gelvin-Innvaer, Carol Hall, Jeff LeClere

Today’s podcast is going to talk about everyone’s favorite subject: snakes and skinks! That’s right, we’re going reptile folks and we aren’t going back! We’ll talk with Nongame Biologist, Lisa Gelvin-Innvaer, Herpetologist, Carol Hall, and Animal Survey Specialist, Jeff LeClere to hear about their work tracking gopher snakes and five-lined skinks in the Minnesota River Valley.

Resource List

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A rare five-lined skink (Plestiodon fasciatus) shows off its striking blue tail while a biologist collects data on its health and population status.

A rare five-lined skink (Plestiodon fasciatus) shows off its striking blue tail while a biologist collects data on its health and population status.

Listen to Episode 5

Episode 6: Bringing Diversity Back, Baby (Restoration Series: Interseeding)

Guests: Jeff Zajac, Curt Vacek

Today's podcast is going to talk about Interseeding! This is the practice of adding wildflowers or other missing guilds to an already established stand of grass. How can we bring lower diversity established stands of grasses up to a higher level of diversity that will ultimately benefit more species and help with grassland function? What we really want here is MORE FLOWERS.

Resource List

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A high-diversity forb mix was used to benefit a variety of wildlife including pollinators, pheasants, and grassland birds on this MN DNR prairie reconstruction near Lamberton, Minnesota.

A high-diversity forb mix was used to benefit a variety of wildlife including pollinators, pheasants, and grassland birds on this MN DNR prairie reconstruction near Lamberton, Minnesota.

Listen to Episode 6

Episode 7: How do I know if I’m doing a good job? (Prairie and Grassland Monitoring)

Today’s podcast is going to talk about monitoring! It’s hard to know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been. We all know prairies change through time and that is a normal and natural process—albeit frustrating when you are trying to re-build them! Monitoring plays a key role in understanding what’s happening on your site and how that piece of land is being affected by the surrounding landscape. Once you know that, then you have the incredibly difficult job of trying to decide what to do next and sometimes that right next step is the hardest thing of all…having patience while you let nature go through the magic and change of succession.

Resource List

USFWS' Biologist, Sara Vacek, uses the grassland monitoring protocol to assess a native hillside prairie in southwest Minnesota

USFWS Biologist, Sara Vacek, uses the grassland monitoring protocol to assess a native hillside prairie in southwest Minnesota.

Listen to Episode 7

Episode 8: The hills are ablaze (Restoration Series: Fire Management in Prairies)

Guests: Joe Blastick, TNC, Chris Smith, Wildlife Research & Consulting Services, LLC

Today's podcast is going to talk about prescribed fire! We call it prescribed because even though anyone who does fire management as part of their job loves the thrill of fire, these are controlled burns for the purpose of disturbance-based management. Prairies are a disturbance-based habitat, which means they need disturbance in order to persist. Without it, they will change into a forest or become overgrown with non-prairie species. Joe Blastick (TNC) and Chris Smith (MNDOT) will share their experiences with fire management and how we can use this tool more effectively to achieve healthy, functioning grasslands that have a diversity of wildlife using and living in them.

Resource List

Episode 9: Holiday Bonus Episode! (Stories from the field)

Too many cookies, chilly weather, and frostbite already have you in a winter funk? Fear not, there’s sunshine on the horizon because this is a HOLIDAY BONUS EPISODE of the Prairie Pod. Listen in to hear stories from the field that will warm you right up with the storytellers’ love for the prairie and their descriptions of Minnesota’s golden season.

Stiff goldenrod covered in snow. Habitat-friendly solar planting in the background.

Stiff goldenrod covered in snow. Habitat-friendly solar planting in the background.

Listen to Episode 9

Season One

Pilot: How to Grow a Prairie from Scratch (Restoration and Reconstruction)

Today's podcast is about our favorite subject - prairies and how to grow them from scratch.

Resource List

  • The Tallgrass Restoration Handbook: For Prairies, Savannas, and Woodlands (The Science and Practice of Ecological Restoration Series) by Stephen Packard (Editor), Cornelia F. Mutel (Editor)
  • Sluis et al. 2017 Multiscale metrics differentiate among tallgrass prairie restorations and remnant ecosystems along a restorative continuum. Restoration Ecology.
  • Chris Helzer: The Prairie Ecologist Blog

Visit a Prairie

carved images in rock at jeffers petroglyphs

Listen to the Pilot Episode

Episode 2: Walking into the Prairie (Walk-in Access Program)

On today's podcast, we'll chat with Scott Roemhildt, from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and Megan Howell, with Pheasants Forever. We'll cover the Walk-in Access Program - what it is, how it works, and how to hunt on these awesome private lands.

Resource List

  • The Land Ethic by Aldo Leoppold
  • Drum, R. G., C. A. Ribic, K. Koch, E. Lonsdorf, E. Grant, M. Ahlering, L. Barnhill, T. Dailey, S. Lor, C. Mueller, D. C. Pavlacky, C. Rideout, and D. Sample. 2015. Strategic grassland bird conservation throughout the annual cycle: Linking policy alternatives, landowner decisions, and biological population outcomes. PLOS ONE 10:1-16.
  • Iowa STRIPS project

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Episode 3: Where Can I get that Prairie Seed? (Restoration Series: Seed Sourcing)

We'll discuss sourcing seed for prairie restorations. Should you mix or match seed? How far is too far? And general guidelines for safe seed sourcing.

Resource List

  • Espeland, E. K., N. C. Emery, K. L. Mercer, S. A. Woolbright, K. M. Kettenring, P. Gepts, and J. R. Etterson. 2017. Evolution of plant materials for ecological restoration: insights from the applied and basic literature. Journal of Applied Ecology 54: 102-115.
  • Meissen, J. C., S. M. Galatowitsch, and M. W. Cornett. 2015. Risks of overharvesting seed from native tallgrass prairies. Restoration Ecology 23: 882-891.
  • Native plant suppliers in Minnesota.
  • Iowa Tallgrass Prairie Center - Technical guides
  • Tallgrass prairie center video on basics of seed collecting
  • Seed Sourcing for Resilient Reconstructed Prairies

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Episode 4: A Legacy of Conservation at Lac qui Parle

Today's podcast features a special conservationist, Dave Trauba. Dave worked as the Lac qui Parle Wildlife Management Area manager for 24 years.

Resource List

  • Augustine, J. K., & Trauba, D. R. 2015. Potential for behavioral reproductive isolation between greater prairie-chickens and sharp-tailed grouse in west-central Minnesota. Journal of Ethology 33: 15-24.
  • Johnson, R. G., and S. A. Temple. 1990. Nest Predation and Brood Parasitism of Tallgrass Prairie Birds. Journal of Wildlife Management 54:106-111.
  • Schlicht, D. A., Swengel, and S. Swengel. 2009. Meta-analysis of survey data to assess trends of prairie butterflies in Minnesota, USA during 1979-2005. Journal of Insect Conservation 13:429-447.

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Episode 5: What Goes in the Mix, Makes the Cake (Restoration Series: Building a Seed Mix)

Today we'll talk about one of our favorite subjects - building seed mixes. We'll explore how to evaluate your site, why diversity matters, seeds per square feet, and general guidelines for success.

Resource List

Episode 6: Putting Prairie Back is Hard

Today's podcast features a prairie in Nobles County and the challenges of restoring an entire section of land to prairie and wetland habitat. We're joined by Bill Schuna and Kent Schaap with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Resource List

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Episode 7: What you do Now, Matters Later (Restoration Series: Establishment Phase Management)

Today, we'll talk about the establishment phase of restoration, with Area Wildlife Manager, Jeff Zajac.

Resource List

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Episode 8: Pheasants, Feathers and Guns

This week, we'll talk pheasants, grassland birds and the fall hunting season.

Resource List

  • National Geographic Fierce, Furry Fisher Article
  • Pheasant Action Plan
  • Roadside Survey
  • Pheasant Hunting
  • Wszola, L.S., Simonsen, V.L., Stuber, E.F., Gillespie, C.R., Messinger, L.N., et al. 2017. Translating statistical species-habitat models to interactive decision support tools. PLOS ONE 12(12): e0188244
  • Benson, T.J., Chiavacci, S.J., and M.P. Ward. 2013. Patch size and edge proximity are useful predictors of brood parasitism but not nest survival of grassland birds. Ecological Applications 23:879-887.
  • Leonard A. Brennan and William P. Kuvlesky, Jr. 2005. North American Grassland Birds: An Unfolding Conservation Crisis? The Journal of Wildlife Management, 69(1): 1-13.

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Interested in more Science?

Check out these great podcasts and audio files to keep the knowledge flowing like the wind through the prairie:

NPR Short Wave Podcast logo

NPR Shortwave

The pod covers new discoveries across all of the science disciplines. It’s only 10 minutes and natural resources’ hot topics and discoveries cycle through quite a bit. You may not know this, but the ‘NR’ in DNR stands for natural resources so we’re pretty excited about this pod!

DNR Podcast logo

Whitewater State Park

This audio file is part of an oral history project about one of our beloved Minnesota State Parks. Tune in to hear naturalist, Sara Holger, share the history of the park and how it came to be a southeast Minnesota treasure.

Three Park District Podcast logo

The Wandering Naturalist by Three Rivers Park District

The pod explores the natural and cultural history of the 27,000-acre Three Rivers Park District and the surrounding Twin Cities area. Tune in to “wander” the parks. We particularly like this pod’s dedication to diversity and preserving nature.

The Department of Natural Resources supports and promotes podcasts that share and uplift our mission to work with Minnesotans to conserve and manage the state's natural resources, to provide outdoor recreation opportunities, and to provide for commercial uses of natural resources in a way that creates a sustainable quality of life.

The Voices

Jessica and Megan met on the prairie in 2016. From there, they formed a fast friendship and launched the Prairie Pod in 2018. Mike joined the pod-squad in 2019 and is featured as co-host starting in season 3. They all share a passion for prairie, natural lands, and the wildlife that live there.

Megan is a regional ecologist who is fascinated by the science of restoration and the challenge of building better, more resilient prairies with diversity always as the backbone.

Mike is a nongame wildlife biologist who has developed a love of all things prairie, and strives to protect prairie and the wildlife who depend on it through monitoring and science-based habitat management.

Jessica is an invertebrate ecologist with a passion for communicating science to land managers and prairie practitioners.

Photo who's who - (Jessica, top left, Megan, top right, Mike, bottom)

 

Jess: Jessica (left) and Megan (right) get ready to conduct field surveys at Hole-in-the-Mountain prairie in western MN.

Mike checks his net to see what he caught while assisting with wild bee surveys in southeastern MN