Today: Nicole Menard, urban biologist at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.


I am reading the North American Bat Monitoring Program Plan for work to develop survey routes in our urban areas that can be incorporated into this continentwide, multiagency bat conservation program. I am excited to conduct some mobile acoustic surveys while driving roads (just call it my batmobile!) to record the high-frequency calls of bats. We’re not capable of hearing them otherwise. The survey helps us determine what bat species are present and what types of urban habitats they are using. We are testing this procedure this summer to see if it is feasible to invite public volunteers to help. I know there are a lot of bat enthusiasts in the Twin Cities.


I am a huge supporter of noticing and appreciating the everyday nature that is all around us. It’s important to recognize our urban spaces as habitat for different plants and animals. Which is why I love the annual City Nature Challenge happening this week. This citizen science event encourages residents to document their nearby nature to better understand urban biodiversity. Cities around the world “compete” against each other to get the most participants, species and nature observations recorded using the app iNaturalist. An informal gathering to comb through the observations is from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the visitor center in Bloomington.

The Twin Cities team consists of the seven-county metro, so any iNaturalist observation recorded in the Twin Cities area from Friday through Monday will help our team. Drop by the refuge event Saturday, beginning at 10 a.m., to participate, learn about other events going on near you, or just check out your own backyard.


My partner, Toby, and I enjoy watching shows that incorporate his love of cooking and my insatiable travel wanderlust. So we gravitate toward shows that explore other countries and cultures through food. Some of our favorites are David Chang’s “Ugly Delicious,” Eddie Huang’s “Huang’s World,” and Samin Nosrat’s “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat,” along with Anthony Bourdain.


Historically, I’ve conducted breeding bird surveys each spring, so I am accustomed to brushing up on bird calls this time of year. It’s very meditative to listen to Stan Tekiela introduce birds and their songs on my morning commute.


I am enthralled with the arrival of spring! I delight in witnessing new plant growth and observing the first sightings of animals I haven’t seen in months. These leave me hopeful that the season of snowstorms is behind us.

I watch these changes unfold through weekly visits to see what’s blooming at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary in Minneapolis, and through observations on Nature’s Notebook, a program we use at the refuge to track the effects of climate change on migratory wildlife species and their habitats.

I also participate in our prescribed fire program on the refuge. We burn in the spring and fall to manage our prairie and oak savanna habitats. Burnings support native plant species and invigorate new growth. It’s exciting work that benefits our wildlife habitats.