The Lee and Rose Warner Nature Center is proud of our tradition of science-based learning. As part of our mission and history we seek to use our site for research so visitors can have the opportunity to learn about scientists and our staff can learn more about the site we teach on.
With over 50 years of data, bird banding is the longest running research project at the center. Bird banding involves catching migratory and resident birds in fine, nearly invisible nets and then "banding" then by giving then a numbered bracelet. When the birds are recaptured we learn about how long they live and where they migrate. Bird banding at WNC is done as part of the federal bird-banding program. In the 50 years of banding we've captured, banded and collected data on over 45,000 birds.
Warner Nature Center is taking part in the Minnesota Odonata Survey Project (MOSP), a citizen science-based project throughout the state of Minnesota (started by naturalist Kurt Mead). At Warner, MOSP is led by Director Ron Lawrenz, who trains volunteers in the basics of odonate ecology and behavior. Volunteers also learn where and when to best look for dragonflies, techniques in tracking, approaching and netting dragonflies, proper handling and distinguishing characteristics of the various species. Warner staff are focusing on discovering which species of odonates inhabit the property and are specifically looking for rare and uncommon species suspected to be at Warner. The findings will be submitted to the MOSP.
To learn more about the MOSP, and how to participate, please visit the MOSP website.
NestWatch is a Cornell Lab of Ornithology citizen-science program that is designed to monitor nests continent-wide. NestWatch aims to educate people about the breeding biology of North American birds and then get them involved in monitoring the birds' nesting success and submitting the data. Warner nature Center is a partner site on the project, over two years WNC will hold four workshops covering breeding behavior, nest types, bird identification, and how to collect nest data. WNC also sets up a web camera on active bird nests in the spring so the public can actively monitor nest behaviors.
For WNC workshop information call Paul at (651) 433-2427 ext. 14.
PhD student Kathleen LaCasse is conducting research to examine the invasion of European buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) in Minnesota hardwood forests, and how buckthorn abundance is influenced by native plant diversity, light, maple abundance, and European earthworms. She set up study plots on the nature center property as part of her research.
Buckthorn is also actively managed on the property with the help of schools, scouts and other volunteer help.
Garlic Mustard Research
University of Minnesota PhD student, Laura Phillips, is studying the direct effects of garlic mustard on native woodland herbs by comparing differences in plant growth and mycorrhizal colonization in plots planted with garlic mustard and unplanted controls. The study also examines whether interactions with buckthorn influences garlic mustard germination and performance.
She is also studying the effect of garlic mustard removal by planting native woodland plants and seeds into invaded and uninvaded plots. This study will allow her to determine whether garlic mustard's effects on native plants persist following removal and/or at low garlic mustard densities. This research will provide insights into the potential recovery of native woodland plants following garlic mustard control.
In 2007, WNC hosted the Minnesota Bioblitz. Scientists descended upon the nature center to catalog as many species as possible within a 24 hour period. By the end of time limited event, scientists had identified over 1,300 species and we're sure there are many more than that. On an exciting note, scientists may have discovered a new species of diatom that had never been described by science. We're still awaiting verification. Botanists identified 327 plant species and 7 of them were the first ever records for Washington County!
Blanding's Turtle Tracking
WNC staff have tracked the movements of the endangered Blanding's turtles on the property since 1988. Staff worked with a local company to design a transmitter especially for these turtles. The transmitters are battery powered and can even transmit under water and ice. Using radio telemetry the staff has been able to better understand the seasonal movements of these elusive creatures. Kids get in on the research too and help locate the turtles in the summer. We have uniquely identified 20 Blanding's turtles on the property and there are likely more we have yet to ID.
Bog Ecology Research
During the summer of 2007 Warner staff and volunteers worked with Dr. Jan Janssens to collect a core sample of Bernie's Bog, one of Warner's most unique natural features. The sediment that fills a bog or lake acts like a time capsule that preserves plant and animal remains, and chemical traces, layer by layer. The oldest sediments lie at the bottom and the youngest at the top. Samples of the sediment can be analyzed, dated, and then used to interpret the history of the bog and surrounding landscape. A specialized core sampling device was used to push a stainless steel tube straight down into the peat in Bernie's Bog. The resulting "core sample" in the tube was then extruded and refrigerated for analysis at a later time. A series of core segments were collected to a depth of about 16 feet where the researchers hit the original glacial sand and gravel at the bottom. Prior research indicates that Bernie's Bog was originally a lake more that 30 feet deep at its deepest point. Samples of the sediment from the new core are being submitted for carbon 14 dating. The lake was most likely formed in the basin shortly after the last glacier left about 10,000 years ago. Analysis of the core samples will fill in some of the details and we will use this information to develop exhibits and educational programs about the bog. This research has also inspired us to work with Dr. Jannssens and his colleague, Dr. Jerry Wheeler, to conduct a complete inventory of the plants now living in the bog. That work has already revealed a number of surprises and new records. Our thanks go out to volunteers Steve Mizuno, Carol Mizuno, and Erna Janssens-Verbelen for helping us collect the core samples, and to Maddie Macindoe for helping to conduct the bog plant surveys.
Prairie Restoration Research
Scientist Shawn Shottler from the St. Croix Watershed Research Station is working with WNC to create prairie habitat in old farm fields on the property. Shawn's research aims to discover what initial mix of native forbs and grasses works best to establish long term healthy prairie habitats. Shawn has collected and grown much of the seed used on the site by himself and it has all been collected within 20 miles of the nature center making it "local ecotype" seed.
Weather and Phenology
Naturalists at the center have tracked the phenology of the site for years. Phenology is the science and study of appearances in nature and how they change with the seasons. Students and volunteers help us collect phenology data that we enter on a giant monthly calendar in our exhibit hall. To this collection of data we now also are adding weather data collected from our weather station. You can monitor weather data at the nature center live.
The Water Strider Research Pontoon
The "Water Strider" was the world's first solar power pontoon boat. It was built in 1999 by engineer Mert Lammi and WNC staff. The pontoon is used by staff as a research vessel so students can get out on the lakes and perform aquatic sampling. It is also used to teach about alternative energy and for quiet morning birding trips on the lake. Animals often swim quite near the boat which lacks the typical roar of engines. The pontoon features three solar panels, two electric motors, a deck hatch for aquatic sampling and seeing under the boat, mid deck light baffles and a highly modified open design to minimize wind resistance. The public is welcome aboard during our Fall Color Blast or one of our Water Strider events during the year.