Natural History Discussion Series and Workshop

led by Dr. Melinda Knutson
Regional Biologist (Retired), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

 

Bird Series:   Bird Biology and Bird Watching
Thursdays, January 25 - February 15, 2018      1:00 - 3:00 pm
Limit: 20   Class is full - Please Register for Waiting List

Plant Series:   Plant Biology and Identification
Thursdays, March 1 - 29, 2018   1:00 - 3:00 pm
Limit: 20   Class is full - Please Register for Waiting List

Native Plant Workshop:   Landscaping with Native Plants to Attract Birds and Butterflies
Saturday, March 17, 2018 OR Saturday, March 24, 2018 (workshop on the 24th is full)
10:30 - 3:30 pm   Limit: 30    *Bring your Lunch!

All classes are free and open to the public.
Registration is required
. Scroll Down to Read Class Descriptions and to Register


Discussion Series:  Bird Biology and Bird Watching:

led by Dr. Melinda Knutson, Regional Biologist (Retired), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

  • Jan. 25 - Feb. 15, 2018
  • Thursdays 1-3 pm
  • Refuge Visitor Center
  • Limit: 20  Class is full - Please register for waiting list

In 2011, there were 47 million adult birdwatchers in the United States – about 20 percent of the population, contributing more than $75 billion to the U.S. economy.  Wisconsin ranks second in nation for avid birdwatchers – 33% of the adult population watches birds.  If you are looking for a new hobby or you want motivation to get outdoors, stretch your legs, and visit some refuges, parks, and state natural areas, bird watching is for you!  Bird watching can be learned at any age and the local Coulee Region Audubon Club welcomes new members and offers field trips. 

In the discussion series we will use The National Geographic Guide to Birding in North America video course, offered by The Great Courses and taught by internationally respected birding expert James Currie, as the basis for our discussions.  The course focuses on the astounding wealth of bird species found in North America.  We’ll explore important components of birding, such as

  • the essentials of bird anatomy and taxonomy, and how this knowledge helps you in the field;
  • how to identify birds, including birding by ear and birding at night;
  • optical equipment for birding, highlighting binoculars and spotting scopes, and how to use them;
  • and the exciting activity of locating, approaching, and observing birds in the field.

The format will include viewing a 30-min. video, followed by 15-20 min. discussions, two videos per session.  Dr. Knutson will lead the discussion, expanding the content and adding examples from her research and experiences.  There will be ample time for questions and exploring ideas.  When the weather permits, we’ll do some outdoor bird watching, practicing what we’ve learned in the course.  Three sessions, 5 weeks long, are needed to complete the course, tailoring the content to address the interests of the participants.  Those who attend all three sessions will learn the most, but you can also register for a single session.    


Discussion Series:  Plant Biology and Identification

led by Dr. Melinda Knutson, Regional Biologist (Retired), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

  • March 1- 29, 2018
  • Thursdays 1-3 pm
  • Refuge Visitor Center
  • Limit 20  Class is full - Please register for waiting list.

Plants are all around us, from house plants, to trees, to the grasses in your lawn.  Have you ever wondered what’s growing in your back yard, your neighborhood park, or in the hills around La Crosse?  Learning about the different plant families will help ‘grow’ your appreciation of local natural areas as well as help you to avoid planting or spreading invasive species.  Plant identification is a practical skill that can be learned at any age and several local and state organizations offer field trips and workshops.  If you are looking for a new hobby in the outdoors, botany is for you!

People with expertise in botany and plant identification are rare and the numbers are declining.  Most people have no training in plant biology or identification, even those with biology degrees.  In 1988, nearly three-quarters of the nation's top 50 universities offered advanced degree programs in botany. But, by 2009, more than half of those universities eliminated their botany programs.  More than 50,000 students received undergraduate degrees in general biology in 2008, while only 196 received botany degrees.  There is a strong need for citizen scientists who understand and can identify plants!

In the discussion series we will use the Plant Science: An Introduction to Botany video course, offered by The Great Courses, taught by Dr. Catherine Kleier. The course focuses on plant biology, inviting us into the mysterious and surprising world of plants.  With almost 400,000 known species and thousands more identified every year, the variety of plant life is almost overwhelming—from the microscopic to the largest organism on Earth. We will explore the astonishing adaptations that allow plants to live in an enormous variety of ecosystems, from deserts and the ocean floor to thousands of feet above sea level and on every continent.

The format will include a 30-min. video, followed by 15-20 min. discussions, two videos per session.  Dr. Knutson will lead the discussion, expanding the content and adding examples from her research and experiences.  Although the video focuses on how plants live and adapt, Dr. Knutson will add instructions on how to key out plants and what field guides are the most useful.  There will be ample time for questions and exploring ideas.  When the weather permits, we’ll do some outdoor botanizing, practicing what we’ve learned in the course.  Three sessions, 5 weeks long, are needed to complete the course, tailoring the content to address the interests of the participants.  Those who attend all three sessions will learn the most, but you can also register for a single session.


Native Plant Workshop:  Landscaping with Native Plants to Attract Birds and Butterflies

led by Dr. Melinda Knutson, Regional Biologist (Retired), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

  •  March 17, 2018
  • Class Repeated on March 24, 2018
  • Saturday,  10:30 -3:30 pm. 
  • Refuge Visitor Center
  • Limit: 30

This workshop will focus on how to use native plants to enhance the wildlife value of your urban or suburban yard.  Dr. Melinda Knutson, retired regional biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will lead the workshop.  Dr. Knutson has more than 20 years of experience practicing ecology and gardening.  She has studied birds, frogs, and their habitats, and worked with National Wildlife Refuges to design monitoring and conservation plans.  In her younger years, she was a beekeeper and a farmer in southeastern Minnesota.  She also enjoys incorporating native plants into her own yard. 

 

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, home is where the habitat is

  • About one-third of our food comes from plants that require pollinators in order to set seed or fruit, yet pollinators are at risk.
  • Honeybee colonies around the world have suffered unprecedented losses in recent years, and many once-common native bumblebees and butterfly species are disappearing.  Examples include the monarch butterfly and rusty-patched bumble bee; both species were once common in the Midwest.  Populations of the monarch butterfly have plummeted by approximately 90 percent in just the last two decades and the rusty-patched bumble bee was listed as federally endangered in 2017. 
  • Native plants offer pollen and nectar for bees, butterflies, and other insects and fruit and seeds for birds and mammals. The pollinators they attract also visit neighboring vegetable and fruit crops, which can increase food production.
  • Heavily developed agricultural and urban landscapes generally lack the habitat to support pollinators.  Many nonnative trees, shrubs, and plants are pretty, but they have little or no wildlife value. Even those nonnative plants that do have nectar, pollen, or berries are often blooming or fruiting at the wrong time for native bees, birds, and butterflies.
  • Research has shown that even small flower gardens can provide important food and shelter for wildlife.  Larger suburban lawns, rights of way, and commercial settings, properly planned, can provide even more wildlife value in urban or developed areas.

In this workshop, we’ll provide an overview of landscaping with beautiful native plants, how to get started, how to plan your planting areas, avoid invasive species, and how to maintain your sites.  We’ll discuss how geography, soil type, amount of sun and shade, and your personal desires affect your choices of native plants.  We’ll also discuss wildlife habitat for birds, bees, and butterflies and why planting native plants adapted to a specific geographic location will best meet their needs.  Participants will receive information on resources, plant nurseries, and how to find additional help with ‘going native’.