Student Research at U of M Crookston Crosses Disciplines and Engages Community in Study of American Kestrel

The American Kestrel, sometimes known as a sparrow hawk, has a declining population and 
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student research at the University of Minnesota Crookston is taking a closer look. The study of the American Kestrel, the smallest falcon in North America, has become a community bird conservation and citizen-science research project.  

Andy Albertsen, a senior from Nelson Minn., majoring in natural resources, has been working with Associate Professor John Loegering, who teaches natural resources and conducts bird research, on a long-term project that would involve assistance from the Crookston community. The plan is to place ten nesting boxes in the city of Crookston, some on private property and some on public land. 

Retired telephone poles from PKM Electric and installed by Otter Tail Power Company will be used to place the nesting boxes built by students in the U of M Crookston Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society. A meeting held on Tuesday, March11 at the Lake Agassiz Regional Library in Crookston, introduced the project to the community and enlisted the help of community members to observe and gather information about the nesting boxes. 

The research project began last fall under Loegering's guidance. Spring semester, when Albertsen enrolled in Dani Johannesen's Writing in Your Profession class, the project took on additional depth and a team of peers. Skylar Reed, a sophomore majoring in agronomy from Lafayette, Minn.; Michael McMahon, a senior double majoring in natural resources and aviation from St. Paul. Minn.; Mitchell Lundeen, a senior majoring in natural resources from Little Falls, Minn.; and Jake Otto, a senior majoring in natural resources from Lester Prairie, Minn.; under the leadership of Albertsen, have expanded the outreach. Creating a team charter, a proposal, mission statement and a Crookston Kestrel Watch Facebook page were all a part of Johannesen's class project. The goal is to increase awareness about the kestrel, monitor the population and engage the community.  

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Johannesen has collaborated with Heidi Hughes of the Middle-Snake-Tamarac Rivers Watershed District in Warren, Minn., on class projects to increase tourism and bring the natural resources of the region to light. Albertsen's research project involved meeting with Hughes to determine appropriate sites for the nesting boxes. 

Albertsen is pleased with the way the project has crossed from natural resources to the liberal arts and he is excited about its potential. "My undergraduate research project has allowed me to take a broad approach and involve classmates, community members, local businesses, and club members," Albertsen says. "As I prepare to graduate in May, I look back on my experience on this campus as a great one. I have been involved in some powerful hands-on learning experiences and opportunities for leadership."

As Albertsen moves on to graduate school or a career, he will be watching the project he started as it takes shape, and no matter what he does, he plans to use what he has learned to make a difference in the field of natural resources. 

This long term monitoring effort is conducted in cooperation with the American Kestrel Partnership. To find out more, visit the Crookston Kestrel Watch on Facebook at (www.facebook.com/crookstonkestrels).

Today the University of Minnesota, Crookston delivers 29 bachelor's degree programs, 20 minors, and 36 concentrations on campus--as well as 13 degrees online--in the areas of agriculture and natural resources; business; liberal arts and education; and math, science and technology.  With an enrollment of 1,800 undergraduates from more than 20 countries and 40 states, the Crookston campus offers a supportive, close-knit atmosphere that leads to a prestigious University of Minnesota degree.  "Small Campus. Big Degree."  To learn more, visit www.umcrookston.edu.

In the photo, at top: Andy Albertsen holds one of the kestrel nesting boxes. 
At bottom, left: Albertsen presents at the Lake Agassiz Regional Library. 

Contact: Dani Johannesen, lecturer, Liberal Arts and Education Dept, 218-281-8250 ( johan259@umn.edu); Elizabeth Tollefson, University Relations, 218-281-8432 (ltollefs@umn.edu)

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