The young biologists, researchers, managers, conservation officers and others charged with protecting our lakes, rivers and lands are highly qualified and as impassioned in their work as any previous generation of Minnesota conservationists. Stewards of fish, wildlife and open spaces, they energetically safeguard the state’s most valuable assets — its natural resources. Here, then, are snapshots of seven of these young conservation pros:
Right training gets her feet in door
Rachel Hoveland, 30 • Pheasants Forever web developer • St. Paul
Before I came to work for Pheasants Forever, I volunteered for the organization. I’m an avid trap shooter, and some friends and I started a fundraiser shoot, “Clays for a Cause,” to raise money for public land with our PF chapter. Then, about four years ago, a job opened up at PF headquarters that fit my training — my undergraduate degree is in conservation and resource management and my master’s is in GIS, or geographic information systems — and I’ve been with the organization since. I’m fortunate to be able to utilize my technology background toward my passion for conservation. My husband, Matt, and I have a Deutsch Drahthaar named Luke. When we first met, Matt was a bird hunter. He’s since pulled a bait and switch on me and now prefers big-game hunting. So I hunt birds a lot with my friends, many of whom will be at Pheasant Fest in Minneapolis in a couple weeks.
Biologist well-versed on animals and habitat
Kassy Dumke, 28 • Ducks Unlimited Waterfowl biologist • Windom, Minn.
I grew up on a hobby farm near Grand Rapids, Mich. It’s where I first became interested in animals. In college at Northern Michigan University I studied wildlife management and worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. After college, I interned with Ducks Unlimited in conservation policy before heading to South Dakota State University for graduate school, where I studied grassland birds while earning my master’s degree. I’ve been with DU four years. I coordinate public land acquisitions, wetland and grassland restorations, shallow lake surveys and enhancements, public policy, and waterfowl surveys. It’s all part of my job, which I love. My husband, Nick, and I have four dogs, two French Brittanys and two Labs. We hunt and compete with them in hunt tests. We love everything outdoors, including hiking, camping, fishing and especially hunting and working with the dogs.
Farmland serving a dual purpose
Alex Nelson, 31 • Pheasants Forever habitat restoration manager • New London, Minn.
I was born and raised on the 320-acre Kandiyohi County farm I now own. It’s been in our family since the 1860s. My parents were dairy farmers on it until 1996, when it was no longer economically feasible to operate a small dairy operation. Now on about half the acres I grow corn and soybeans and have a small beef cattle herd. The other half is in the Conservation Reserve Program. I studied environmental sciences at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, and got a job with PF soon after graduating. Initially I was a Farm Bill biologist. Now I oversee habitat restorations on acquired lands. I also write budgets, apply for grants and work with contractors. It’s all good work. I believe there’s room for conservation on every farm. But I know how hard farmers work to maximize their bottom lines. Everyone has to make the best decisions they can to feed their families.
Restoring home state is a privilege
John Lindstrom, 30 • Ducks Unlimited Waterfowl Biologist • Hutchinson, Minn.
I’m from Zimmerman originally and grew up hunting mostly in west-central Minnesota with my dad, uncle and grandpa. I come from a hunting culture, but also a strong conservation culture. At Valley City State University in North Dakota, I graduated with a double major in fisheries and wildlife management. Later I took a master’s degree in zoology with an emphasis on wildlife ecology. I got my first job with DU in 2015 in North Dakota. Now I’m happy to work here in Minnesota, my home state, conserving and protecting wetlands and other resources for future generations. Even in my short life I’ve seen a lot of changes to the landscape, many of which aren’t good for our water or wildlife. Helping to guide DU’s “on the ground’’ conservation work in central Minnesota, where my wife, Emily our young son, Benson, and I live, along with our two dogs, is very satisfying.
Grouse become student's project
Katherine Glodoski, 22 • University of Minnesota senior • Minneapolis
It wasn’t until I enrolled at the U that I decided to study fisheries and wildlife, intending to become a veterinarian. Since I was young growing up near Hayward, Wis., I’ve always loved animals. Research has been an interest of mine, too, and with the help of my professors, I’m studying data to determine whether West Nile virus is impacting ruffed grouse populations. I have looked at the population cycles of 10 distinct grouse populations to determine if the cycles experienced noticeable decreases after 2001, when West Nile started appearing here. So far, the impact does not appear to be significant. I’m doing the study for fun, not credit. Whatever I do after graduation, I’ll be outside a lot. Our closest neighbor when I was a kid was a quarter-mile away, so I spent a lot of time playing outdoors. I still do.
Family's lead angler fit for the job
Eric Sanft, 29 • DNR Fisheries Section specialist • St. Paul
Growing up in White Bear Lake, my family was outdoors a lot. We camped and had a cabin, and while my parents didn’t fish much, I got into it in the sixth grade. I did my undergraduate work at the U and my master’s at the University of Southern Illinois. Working for the DNR, I started in the East Metro, then worked in Hinckley for four years before transferring back to the East Metro. I do all kinds of fisheries-specific work: lake surveys, walleye stocking, river work, invasive carp work, special projects — everything. Also, I still fish a lot and consider myself a multispecies angler. I used to fish bass tournaments quite a bit, but don’t so much anymore. The one thing I realized while in school in Illinois is how many good fishing opportunities Minnesota has. I try even to incorporate fishing into my vacations, sometimes to the frustration of my wife, Carly.
Freedom a perk of North Shore gig
Kylan Hill, 27 • DNR conservation officer • Tofte, Minn.
Growing up in Aitkin, in north-central Minnesota, I fished, hunted, trapped and snowmobiled. In college at the University of Minnesota Morris, where I majored in political science and philosophy, I thought I would become a lawyer. Instead, I became a DNR conservation officer, originally working in our Zumbrota station, in the southeast, but now in Tofte, on the North Shore. My wife and I love it here. I’ve always wanted to work up north, where there is so much openness and no constraints, essentially, where you can go. It’s true that law enforcement officers often encounter people on their bad days, or in a crisis. Thankfully, in what I do, I most often see people on their good days, when they’re having fun. There are exceptions, and the days can be long. But it’s a fun and satisfying career, and I’m working in a great part of the state.