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St. Croix River Institute Receives McKnight Foundation Grant

AUG. 23, 2007--Collaborative research, student internships, organization partnerships and outreach courses are part of the plan for the new St. Croix River Institute at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, and a $50,000 grant from the McKnight Foundation will help make that plan a reality.

"In addition to helping us launch the institute, this generous grant enhances the university's efforts to strengthen our position as the learning nucleus of the St. Croix Valley," said UWRF Chancellor Don Betz.  

Formally established in 2006, the St. Croix River Institute is a collaborative effort between UWRF and the National Park Service's St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. The institute aims to increase understanding and promote stewardship of the river and its watershed.

Bill Campbell, director of grants and research at UWRF and an institute steering committee member, says the grant shows a strong support for the region as well. "We're especially pleased to receive this support from the McKnight Foundation, a staunch supporter of environmental initiatives in Minnesota," said Campbell, of River Falls. "This grant is a clear sign of McKnight's growing interest in the St. Croix Valley, an ecosystem critical to the greater metropolitan area and the university's backyard."

The grant will help establish the institute's outreach efforts, says Jill Greenhalgh, an institute steering committee member from Stillwater. "The McKnight funds will help us to create a solid framework as well as a sampler of classes for university credit, experiential learning programs, research partnerships and projects, and service-learning opportunities," she said.

Research partnerships similar to those already established between the NPS and the University are a good fit for the institute, says UWRF biology Professor John Wheeler. For example, Wheeler and NPS biologist Robin Maercklein are co-advisors on a research project conducted by UWRF student Chelsie Harder, a senior biology major from Colfax, Wis.

"Chelsie's current research project is funded by the NPS, thanks to a grant written by Robin, and that's why I was excited to hear about the McKnight grant," said Wheeler. "This is great news for the institute because I think that this grant might ultimately promote more projects like Chelsie's."

Harder says she hopes to get involved in future research opportunities offered by the institute. Currently she is completing a summer resource management internship for the NPS in St. Croix Falls, Wis., where she is developing an inventory of invertebrates found on a remnant prairie on NPS St. Croix River bluff lands near Osceola, Wis. She has found between 20 and 40 species of ants alone, and is finalizing the identification of the collected specimens. Her project is the first extensive inventory of its kind on the NPS properties and is ecologically important, say her advisors, because insects form a link in the food chain between plants and larger animals such as birds.

Kate Hanson, chief of resource management with the NPS St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, says that future partnerships made possible by the institute are vital as the St Croix River, with more than three million people in close proximity, is a significant tributary of the Upper Mississippi River.

"It's great for the NPS to be able to collaborate with the university on this effort," Hanson said. "The rich diversity of life found on the river bluff land indicates the quality of the St. Croix River eco-system. We need to monitor environmental indicators continuously to ensure that we keep the St. Croix in pristine condition."

The McKnight Foundation, a Minnesota-based private philanthropic organization, seeks to improve the quality of life for present and future generations through grant-making, coalition-building, and encouragement of strategic policy reform. The foundation's Environment Program is intended to maintain and restore a healthy environment in the Mississippi River Basin and promote and develop renewable energy in Minnesota and the Midwest.  

For more information about the St. Croix River Institute, visit its Web site at , send an email to or call 715-425-3256.

Photo, above: Something to smile about: People working with the University of Wisconsin-River Falls St. Croix River Institute programs and projects celebrate receipt of a $50,000 grant from the McKnight Foundation. The grant will help the institute embark on program activities and research projects like a St. Croix insect inventory project already being conducted by UWRF student Chelsie Harder. L to R: Bill Campbell, director of grants and research at UWRF, Kristen Allen, outreach program manager at UWRF, Chelsie Harder, UWRF biology major from Colfax, Wis., John Wheeler, UWRF biology professor, and Jill Greenhalgh, SCRI steering committee member.


Last updated: Thursday, 22-Apr-2010 16:08:26 Central Daylight Time


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