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April 17, 2018

Citizen science blooms in Twin Cities with City Nature Challenge

ST. PAUL, Minnesota (April 16, 2018)—People of all ages and science backgrounds can take part in an international nature challenge set for April 27 to 30 across the Twin Cities metro area.

During that time, participants are encouraged to photographs plants, animals and fungi anywhere within the 7-county area, then upload them to a free app as part of the third annual City Nature Challenge. The global event is expected to bring together more than 10,000 citizen scientists in more than 60 participating cities to help assess the state of urban nature.

“Minnesotans care deeply about the environment and we’re knowledgeable, too. This is a great chance to strut our stuff on the world stage while helping science understand the green spaces and wildlife we love,” said Andrea Strauss, University of Minnesota Extension educator in fish, wildlife and conservation education. Extension is hosting the Twin Cities area event.

Participants in Hennepin, Ramsey, Dakota, Scott, Carver, Washington and Anoka may identify species in the photos if they can. Other iNaturalist users and experts are lined up to help. This type of crowdsourcing helps strengthen the observations; the results will be announced on May 4.

With humans increasingly concentrated in cities, the study of urban biodiversity is essential to the future of plants and wildlife on Earth, Strauss said. Large pools of data help authorities make informed conservation decisions that allow humans to coexist sustainably with the plants and animals in their neighborhoods.

“One of the reasons this is so exciting is because it’s so easy,” Strauss said. “You can participate in your yard, a park or at the many City Nature Challenge events going on in the Metro area that weekend.”

During last year’s challenge, participants added over 125,000 observations of nature to iNaturalist.

This year, organizers estimate that a half million observations will be made by over 10,000 people in over 65 participating cities. The data collected gives scientists, educators, urban planners, and policymakers insight into the biodiversity of urban locales throughout the world. The City Nature Challenge is organized internationally by the California Academy of Sciences and the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum.

Learn more:

· Visit the site detailing the Twin Cities challenge for updates and tips:

· Visit

· Visit or download iNaturalist app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

· Follow the event on social media: Twitter handle is @citnatchallenge; hashtag is #CityNatureChallenge

Participating organizations include:

City of St. Paul Natural Resources Department, Como Woodland Advisory Committee, Conservation Corps of Minnesota and Iowa, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Minnesota Wildlife Tracking Project, Minnesota Zoo, Science Museum of Minnesota, Three Rivers Parks District, Twin Cities PBS, U.S. Forest Service, University of Minnesota (Bell Museum, Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve Extension, Extension, Master Naturalist program, Minnesota Bee Atlas, Monarch Lab, Wasp Watchers).


Media Contact: Allison Sandve, Extension news media manager,, 612-626-4077 (office) or 651-492-0811 (mobile); Andrea Strauss, Extension educator,, 507-280-2863 (office)

For more news from U of M Extension, visit or contact Extension Communications at University of Minnesota Extension is an equal opportunity educator and employer.

April 10, 2018

Help identify an invasive species before it spreads to crops, gardens

ST. PAUL, Minn. (4/10/2018)—Minnesotans are encouraged to use a new app to help researchers identify an unwelcome invasive insect—the brown marmorated stink bug—and prevent its spread.

Although the insect has been identified in Minnesota, it has not yet spread widely to commodity crops, fruits or vegetables.

“We’re concerned. This insect can cause considerable damage to Minnesota corn, soybeans, sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers, blueberries and grapes, among others,” said Extension entomologist Bill Hutchison. “The brown marmorated stink bug has caused millions of dollars in crop losses in both the East and Pacific Northwest and we want to avoid that here.”

“Because the insect overwinters in Minnesota, researchers encourage use of the app in early spring and summer. In recent years we have observed the bug begin emerging in May, with activity increasing in summer and fall,” Hutchison added.

The app is for free for both Apple and Android users. It was developed by University of Minnesota Extension, and Purdue University, with funding from the Minnesota Invasive Terrestrial Plants and Pests Center.
Midwest stinkbug assistant

Insect can produce two generations per year

Hutchison said he and his colleagues particularly encourage farmers, gardeners and crop consultants to use the app. The app features high-quality illustrations, side-by-side comparisons of insects and an easy-to-use photo function to report suspected brown marmorated stink bugs. Once a user reports the bug, an expert in each state will be contacted to verify the identification. If confirmed, the new specimen will be added to a national database (EDDMapS).

The brown marmorated stink bug was first found in Minnesota in 2010 and it’s known to overwinter in the state. Hutchison and his colleague, Byju Govindan, recently discovered the insect can produce two new generations per year in Minnesota. This finding indicates the bug is adapting to Minnesota’s climate, and more adults may overwinter in homes and heated structures. In some years, more crops will be at risk due to the added pest pressure.

Support for the app was provided by the Minnesota Invasive Terrestrial Plant & Pest Center (MITPPC) with funding from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR). Artwork, photographs and text were developed by Theresa Cira, and Bill Hutchison, both with the Extension integrative pest management program (E-IPM funding via USDA-NIFA), and Department of Entomology. IT support was provided by Eileen Luke and staff, at Purdue University Extension.


Media Contact: Allison Sandve, Extension news media manager,, 612-626-4077 (office) or 651-492-0811 (mobile).

For more news from U of M Extension, visit or contact Extension Communications at University of Minnesota Extension is an equal opportunity educator and employer.

April 03, 2018

For farmers and citizen scientists, ways to promote healthy crops and landscape

ST. PAUL, Minn. (4/2/18)—Invasive species cast a damaging shadow in whatever environment they occupy. 

With growing season on the horizon, Extension scientists are asking for Minnesotans help to better understand invasive plants and insects and reduce the harm they cause.

March 27, 2018

Farm incomes take another dip in 2017

ST. PAUL, Minn. (3/27/2018)—Bumper crops and spotty upticks in earnings were not enough to save most sectors of Minnesota farming from the fifth consecutive year of thin profits.

February 02, 2018

Extension educator Carlson recognized by corn growers as Friend of Agriculture

ST. PAUL, Minn. (Feb. 2, 2018)—University of Minnesota Extension crops educator Brad Carlson was recognized recently with the Minnesota Corn Growers Association’s annual “Friend of Agriculture” award.

December 07, 2017

Overindulgence and good hearts: Parenting during holidays and beyond

ST. PAUL, Minn. (12/7/2017)—If holiday shopping feels like being stuck in a pressure cooker, here are some good questions for families to ask and open a valve:

November 03, 2017

Wheat harvest shatters previous yield records

ST. PAUL, Minn. (11/1/2017)— Minnesota is on track to break its wheat harvest record and, for the first time in nearly 30 years, the number of acres planted with University of Minnesota-developed varieties edged over the 50 percent mark.

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