CITY BUZZ | Fall 2023

MSP LTER City Buzz Banner - Fall 2023

View the Fall/Winter 2023 'City Buzz' online via MailChimp.

City Buzz is the semi-annual newsletter of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan Area Urban Long-Term Ecological Research Program (MSP LTER), produced to inform interested partners and community members of our work. Sign up to receive the City Buzz newsletter here!

From the Director

Sarah Hobbie Headshot

It has been a busy summer and fall at the MSP LTER! The summer months saw our team of 100 faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, postdocs, and other personnel conduct field research throughout the Metro Area, catching the eye of journalists and communications partners who covered projects in print and video (see "MSP LTER in the News" below). We expanded our community engagement efforts, as well. Throughout the summer and fall, MSP LTER researchers connected with communities across the Twin Cities through large public events like Open Streets gatherings and the Minnesota State Fair—as well as at the Bell Museum Solution Studio (see "MSP LTER News & Updates" below). Our research teams also held smaller gatherings centered on particular themes. Among these was a workshop led by our Urban Contaminants team with community partner Tamales y Bicicletas that built awareness around the risks of lead contamination in the soil of urban farms and gardens.

As daylight ebbed throughout the fall, our events moved inside. MSP LTER art-science facilitators Kim Boustead and Jessie Merriam hosted a buckthorn wreath-making event with over 30 of our community partners, faculty, students, postdocs, and other team members. We look forward to opening up events like this to the larger MSP LTER network in 2024.

- Sarah Hobbie, MSP LTER Director and Lead Principal Investigator

Featured Stories

Charlotte Devitz Field Work

Beyond the Pavement: Expanding Access to Field Science

By Charlotte Devitz, PhD Student with University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences & MSP LTER

There is a wealth of existing solutions that have improved the ability of disabled individuals to work and participate in outdoor recreation for decades; so why is accessibility in field science lagging so far behind? Read more.



Urban Pollination is Everybody’s ‘Buzziness’ in the Twin Cities

By Meghan Klasic, Postdoc with University of Minnesota Dept. of Forest Resources & MSP LTER

Klasic Bee Lawn Photos

With the help of colleagues on the MSP LTER Bee Lawn team, we reached out to residents who have expressed an interest in alternative lawn management with an extensive survey of questions on how they manage their lawns, their opinions of pollinators, what local rules and expectations their neighborhoods have for lawn management, and what ways (if at all) they promote “pollinator-friendly” lawn management in their community. We received 256 partial and complete surveys—a 53% response rate (a higher response rate than what is typical).
Read more about the results.

MSP LTER News & Updates

New Videos Featuring MSP LTER Research
University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences communications staff Adara Taylor and Stephanie Xenos produced three short videos on the research our grad students and postdocs are doing as part of the Urban Contaminants and Urban Lakes & Streams research teams. Shout out to Lindsey Kemmerling, Skyler Hawkins (from Urban Roots), Katie Polik, Daniel Stanton, and Natalia Mossman Koch for their contributions!

2023 MSP LTER REU Students Share Their Research!
The NSF funds undergraduate research opportunities a number of ways, including through its Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Sites Program. The MSP LTER hosts a small group of REU students each summer, pairing them with a research team to conduct field work and learn from faculty, grad students, postdocs, and other researchers. In Summer 2023, the Watershed Team welcomed undergrads Frankie Mele (University of California-Los Angeles), Summer Omar (University of Minnesota-Rochester), and Aidan Reynolds (Macalester College) for several weeks of hands-on ecological research experience. To learn about their experience, check out their posters and story maps and read the November 2023 SSALTER / US LTER Network Blog Post: "An REU Summer at the MSP LTER" by Xiating Chen, Frankie Mele, and Aidan Reynolds.

Recap: Buckthorn Wreath-making Gathering on December 8th
Around 30 MSP LTER researchers and families gathered to make festive wreaths out of locally harvested materials. They were joined by folks from the Backyard Phenology project (thanks to Chris Baeumler for facilitating the event space in the art school!), University of Minnesota Extension, and Cedar Creek LTER colleagues. Attendees connected with each other while bending buckthorn, affixing adornments, and enjoying Afro Deli snacks and tea. Kim Boustead and Jessie Merriam, the MSP LTER's new art-science facilitators, led the event. Do you have ideas for art-science events? Reach out to Jess (email) or Kim (email) with ideas and inquiries for 2024!

Bell Museum Solution Studio
From June to September, the Bell Museum showcased the MSP LTER through its Solution Studio! The innovative exhibit-meets-makerspace allowed museum-goers to learn how to engage in urban ecology research. Check out the photos below of our Community Engagement Team interacting with the space.

"Squirrels!" at the Bell Museum
The 2023 Solution Studio featured MSP LTER PhD student Charlotte Devitz's research on urban squirrels. Charlotte's work is also a cornerstone of the Bell Museum's new classroom curriculum on urban ecology research borne out of an ongoing collaboration with middle school teachers. The Bell Museum's Emily Dzieweczynski covered this work in a recent blog post.

MSP LTER Public Engagement
Over the summer, MSP LTER researchers and other staff brought its new public engagement/outreach kit into the community by participating in public events across the Metro, including at the Minnesota State Fair and at three Open Streets events in the Glenwood, Cedar-Riverside, and West Broadway neighborhoods. We handed out Bell Museum STEM kits, discussed the STEW Map project, and answered questions about our work! Below are some event photos.

MSP LTER in the News

Sahan Journal: Minneapolis Will Distribute $8 Million to Help Residents with Ash Tree Removal. But There’s No Relief for Homeowners Who’ve Already Had Trees Condemned
From Andrew Hazzard and Cynthia Tu, Sahan Journal, November 21, 2023: "Ash tree removals are an expensive burden caused by an invasive beetle. A new grant will help Minneapolis homeowners cover the costs, but many feel more must be done for people currently paying off removals." Read more at Also picked up by MPR and the Star Tribune.

Postdoc Natalia Mossmann Koch's Research Featured in the Star Tribune
The article—“University of Minnesota researcher digs into hidden world of lichen to measure the air we breathe” (Chloe Johnson, September 7, 2023)—discusses Natalia's use of lichen as a low-cost way to measure air pollution.

Sahan Journal:  U of M Researchers Investigate Role Trees Play in Stormwater Management
From Andrew Hazzard, Sahan Journal, August 3, 2023: The MSP LTER Watershed Research Team, including Professor/Co-PI Xue Feng and PhD student Xiating Chen, was featured in an article over the summer discussing their research on trees, stormwater management, and emerald ash borer: "Trees can play a critical part in helping manage stormwater in cities. University of Minnesota researchers are helping build understanding that could help planners and foresters make better decisions." Read more.

About Us

MSP is an urban LTER program in the Twin Cities studying how urban stressors – such as climate change, pollutants, invasive species, habitat fragmentation – affect the ecological structure and functioning of urban nature, including pollinators, forests, watersheds, and lakes and streams. We also study how diverse residents interact with and experience the benefits and burdens of urban nature. Ultimately, we aim to better understand urban nature and related policies and practices, to improve environmental out­comes for all residents.

Who: 100+ researchers, educators, and community organizers from the University of Minnesota, University of St. Thomas, USDA Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy, and Water Bar.

What: Long-term research on ecological relationships between humans and nature in cities.

How: A six-year, $7.1 million, renewable grant from the National Science Foundation to establish a new site as part of the US LTER Network. The grant began in March 2021 and primarily supports postdocs, students, and staff in research, education, and engagement efforts.

Where: Seven-County Twin Cities Metropolitan Area in the State of Minnesota, or Mni Sota Makoce in Dakota. What we now call the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area are the traditional, historical, and contemporary lands of the Dakota People.

To learn more, visit our website at, or contact Sarah Hobbie (Director) [email protected] or Meredith Keller (Program Manager) at [email protected].