Meet our Volunteers

Volunteers for the DNR

Fall 2018

Minnesota River Fisheries Assessments - Garrett Ober

Garrett Ober volunteered for five weeks last year for the learning opportunity with DNR Fisheries in Hutchinson. He assisted with hoop net surveys for Minnesota River Channel Catfish and Flathead Catfish that provided data used to estimate relative abundance, growth, and survival.

Tony Sindt, DNR Minnesota River Specialist, explains it like this: “Hoop nets are like trap nets for fish (made with circular hoops and 1” mesh) that we set in rivers. They are particularly good at catching catfishes. We use them to measure the abundance and size structure of Channel Catfish and Flathead Catfish in the Minnesota River. The nets are set one day and then retrieved the next day. Some nets will catch more than 100 catfish in one night. Garrett would help set and retrieve the nets which included measuring the length and weight of each fish caught.”

Garrett also assisted with boat electrofishing for the index of biotic integrity fish community assessments. Essentially they would use electricity to sample all species of fish in a given stretch of the Minnesota River. Garrett would help net stunned fish and then identify and measure each fish. The Minnesota River is home to more than 80 species of fish so it takes a bit of time to learn all the species!

Garrett Ober with catfish

Garrett was instrumental in completing this vital fieldwork and always had an excellent attitude and willingness to learn. Thank you, Garrett!

Bullsnake Research Program - Kris Backlund

Kris Backlund spends her working hours managing the operations of Wild River and Interstate State Parks as park manager. But on her own time, she loves to volunteer with other volunteers and have college students shadow her work on the Wild River State Park bullsnake research program. Kris can be seen after work and on her days off walking through prairies or riding her bike in search of bullsnakes, as well as other species, to contribute important data and findings which will contribute to the research on the health of the population at the park.

Kris Backlund with snake on shoulder

According to Mike Dunker, Wild River State Park Naturalist, “In addition to her research, Kris can be found sharing her knowledge and enthusiasm with park visitors on the research project and helping people overcome their fear of these cute reptiles.”

Thank you, Kris, for being a great snake advocate!

Photo shoot - Mary Schreier, Alison Vail and Shawn Flinn

Last fall, photos were needed for some new recruitment materials for the DNR Volunteer Program. Looking for some volunteers that were representative of the Millennial Generation (born between 1981 and 1996) that make up 30% of Minnesota’s volunteers, Mary Schreier, Alison Vail and Shawn Flinn were called upon to be in a photo shoot. Outdoor enthusiasts, volunteers and active users of state parks, photos were taken in Afton State Park and the Stillwater area just days shy of the first snowfall. There photos can now be found on large pullup banners for displays and on brochures.

Thank you, Mary, Ali and Shawn for volunteering with us!

Mary Schreier Photo shoot

Mary Schreier Alison Vail Shawn Flinn

Pelican Lake Enhancement Project, Wright County, MN - Doug Claseman and Dave Meyer

About 3 years ago, Doug Claseman and Dave Meyer, members of the Ducks Unlimited Full Choke Chapter, went on a tour of the Pelican Lake Enhancement Project near St. Michael. This project is a partnership between DNR and Ducks Unlimited. Afterwards, Doug and Dave approached Fred Bengtson, DNR Area Wildlife Manager, Sauk Rapids, to offer their assistance.

According to Fred, “It just so happened that the water control structure and pumping facility had just been completed and efforts were underway to drawdown the 3,800 acre lake. One issue that DNR staff were facing was periodic cleaning of a grated entrance to an underground pipeline where lake water flows downstream. Because of the large volume of water leaving the lake, a sizeable amount of debris consisting of lake vegetation and driftwood was finding its way downstream and piling up at the slant box.”

Doug Claseman Dave Meyer Pelican Lake Enhancement Project

(Pictured L to R: Doug Claseman and Dave Meyer standing at the Pelican Lake Enhancement Project.)

Doug and Dave came to the rescue and set up a weekly schedule to visit and clean the slant box, freeing up a sizeable amount of time so DNR Wildlife staff could work on other land and lake management issues. For three years now, both men have dependably been keeping the water flowing such that the lake is down nearly five feet with just three feet to go.

The results of their efforts are quite noticeable:

  • Lake water quality has improved dramatically over the past couple years
  • Thick beds of important aquatic vegetation that waterfowl depend on are everywhere in the lake
  • The number of breeding and migrating waterfowl using Pelican Lake has noticeably increased
  • Hundreds of species of other wildlife are benefiting from this project, and
  • The area has become a birding destination.

With Doug and Dave’s help, the DNR will keep the lake at a low point for two years and then allow it to come back to approximately the level it is at today. Future drawdowns may happen every 10 years, but work at the water control structure and slant box will continue and both men are determined to keep helping and pulling their weight.

Thank you, Doug and Dave, for your outstanding volunteer assistance!

What do DNR Volunteers do?



Download the 2017 DNR Volunteer Annual Report for a listing of all the different kinds of projects volunteers do throughout the state.

Since creating a department-wide DNR Volunteer Program in 1982, citizens have engaged in more than 11 million hours of volunteer service focused on managing our state's natural resources.

How does Minnesota rank for volunteering?

  • Minnesota ranked #2 in the nation for volunteering in 2015 with 1,560,667 volunteers donating 155.41 million hours of service at a value of $3.3 billion.
  • Minneapolis-St Paul was ranked #1 in volunteering among large cities in the U.S. The Twin Cities was ranked #2 in college students and #2 in Millennials volunteering.

Source: Corporation for National and Community Service

Minnesotans show a passion for volunteering - Fox 9 News, 6/28/17

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