Policies & Best Practices

The MSP LTER is guided by values of collaboration, transparency, integrity, inclusiveness, respect, and humility.

The items below are part of the evolving handbook document for all MSP LTER personnel. Please direct any questions to Sarah Hobbie, [email protected] , or Meredith Keller, [email protected].

Expand all

MSP LTER Code of Conduct

The Minneapolis-St. Paul Long Term Ecological Research program (MSP LTER) is committed to fostering research, education, and community engagement in an inclusive, supportive, and equitable environment. All people, including all researchers, students, postdocs, and staff, are expected to treat each other in a respectful and professional manner. We are all responsible for holding our community to standards of conduct. In addition to following our own institutional policies, we ask all members of the MSP LTER community to support and adhere to our norms of respectful and professional conduct. Policies are defined by–and in accordance and/or in addition to–the policies of the University of Minnesota (UMN or “University”). Members of the MSP LTER are also held accountable to the LTER Network’s Code of Conduct.

Members of the MSP LTER community should also refer to this Handbook for an overview of the program and best practices for operating within it. Please note that the Handbook is a living document and is always being updated with new information.

Expected Conduct

MSP LTER has established the following standards of conduct:



MSP LTER will take disciplinary action for misconduct, including but not limited to:

  • Behavior that gives rise to an unreasonable risk of harm to others
  • Sexual harassment, sexual assault, stalking, and relationship violence
  • Discrimination
  • Retaliation
  • Abuse of power dynamics
  • Illegal or unauthorized possession, use, or sharing of weapons, drugs, or alcohol
  • Unethical research, including falsification of data or information
  • Scholastic dishonesty
  • Unauthorized use, including misuse, of facilities, equipment, or services
  • Theft, property damage, or vandalism
  • Violation of University policies
  • Violation of Local, State, or Federal Laws


Sanctions for Misconduct

The MSP LTER expects that any offender of misconduct will take responsibility for their actions and work to prevent further harm, including education and self reflection. The MSP LTER may assign education materials to hold offenders accountable.

Sanctions will be commensurate with the nature and severity of the offense, whether violations have been persistent, and the impact of the offense on any other people involved. Sanctions may include one or more of the following:

  • Education 
  • Warning
  • Probation
  • Confiscation of goods possessed, used, or shared illegally or in an unauthorized manner
  • Restitution
  • Reassignment of work activities
  • Paid or unpaid leave of absence
  • Suspension from MSP LTER
  • Expulsion from MSP LTER
  • Termination of employment


Reporting Misconduct

Report suspected or alleged misconduct to any or all of the following:


University of Minnesota (UMN or “University”)

If you report suspected or alleged misconduct, then the University has a policy that will protect you from retaliation. Note that all University employees are required to report sexual misconduct to the Title IX office. University supervisors are generally required to report possible discrimination to their campus Equal Opportunity office. See below for guidance and other resources:


USDA Forest Service

Every employee is required to report actions by other employees that they know, or have a reasonable basis to believe, are violations of law or regulation. A report may be made to the USDA Office of Inspector General, the employee’s supervisor, or any appropriate USDA management official.


University of St. Thomas


Note on Reporting Concerns/Misconduct

Some concerns or violations to the Code of Conduct may not be actionable at the University or institution level. Examples of such instances include, but are not limited to, consistent demeaning behavior by an MSP LTER member, an instance of discriminatory behavior by an MSP LTER member that may not be deemed to rise to the level of an institutional violation, consistent harassment by a non-MSP LTER community member at an MSP LTER field site, or an instance of misconduct committed by a community partner. 

We strongly encourage reporting of such instances to a supervisor, and/or Sarah Hobbie. Please note that all UMN employees are mandatory reporters for sexual misconduct. The person who is alleged to have committed misconduct has the right to be given notice and opportunity to respond before any responsive action will be taken, other than providing supportive measures and resources to the person filing a complaint.

Conflict Resolution Option for UMN Students

The UMN’s Student Conflict Resolution Center is available for conflict mediation and problem solving. 


See Also

LTER Network’s Code of Conduct

MSP LTER Handbook


Agreement to Code of Conduct

All MSP LTER members must abide by this Code of Conduct.

Note: This Code of Conduct was modified from the Cedar Creek LTER Code of Conduct.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice

Links to DEIJ and DEI statements, resources, and plans in our University & LTER networks

We all share responsibility for diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. We honor this responsibility in our scholarship, teaching, community engagement, and daily practice. We are committed to a community where every member feels respected, valued, and supported as their whole self and is given the opportunity to flourish, unobstructed, in our pursuit of a sustainable social and ecological urban system.

University of Minnesota

Other affiliate organizations

DEI Publications and resources for specific contexts

Safe Fieldwork Demery and Pipkin (2021)  Nature Ecology & Evolution

Field Work Best Practices in the Natural and Social Sciences

Natural Science Research

Working in an urban setting presents unique challenges because of the potential for negative interactions with residents. Therefore it’s important that all LTER personnel adhere to the following guidelines for conducting field work, be good ambassadors for the LTER and its home institutions (the University of Minnesota, University of St. Thomas, USDA Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy) and to stay safe while conducting field work. Supervisors should review these best practices with all new graduate students, postdocs, staff, undergraduate research assistants, REUs, and anyone else doing field work as part of MSP LTER.

Wear identifying information/clothing. LTER personnel (including undergraduate research assistants and REUs) should wear a “uniform” that identifies them as belonging to an organization. This could include a logo hat, a homemade laminated “badge” on a lanyard, or matching logo clothing. Supervisors should provide this clothing for their field crew members.

Obtain proper permissions/permitting. LTER personnel must obtain appropriate permits/permissions to work at public and private locations within the Twin Cities, and should follow any specific requirements for accessing and working in research sites required by site owners/managers, such as notifying appropriate personnel prior to conducting field work. Copies of permits/permission letters should be carried when doing field work. Field staff should also carry with them contact information for their supervisors as well as for any state, local, and/or agency staff with whom they are working or who would have knowledge of the permits or permission granted to carry out the work.

Some entities may require that field researchers obtain a Certificate of Insurance from the University of Minnesota for their work. This certificate can be obtained from the UMN Controller’s Office (Risk Management and Insurance), using this application form.

Wear high visibility clothing if appropriate. When working along roadsides or in other locations with traffic hazards, LTER personnel should wear high visibility and reflective clothing such as safety vests (to be provided by supervisor). Vehicles may need to have flashers (the portable lights you can put on top of your car) if working along state roads.

Work with a partner or use the buddy system. When conducting field work, LTER personnel should work with a partner whenever possible. If not possible, they must obtain special permission from the supervisor and develop a plan to ensure safety. For example, they could use a buddy contact system, whereby they let someone know when they are starting field work and when they are finished.

Be prepared to describe the research. Supervisors should provide LTER personnel with talking points that describe the research, so that LTER personnel are prepared to describe their work in concise, easy-to-understand terms when approached by passersby.

Have a restroom plan in place. Personnel should have a plan to access restroom facilities during the day and supervisors should make sure all personnel feel comfortable asking to locate restroom facilities. Best practices can be found here.

When in doubt, leave. Whenever LTER personnel are made to feel uncomfortable by interactions with passersby, they should immediately leave the area.

Be polite and respectful at all times. LTER personnel should remember that they are representatives of the research program and of their home institutions. Because of that, they should be especially conscientious about being polite and respectful at all times. Thus, they should be sure that they are responsive to questions from passersby, communicative with landowners/managers, pick up after themselves and never leave equipment or “field trash” behind, and otherwise leave a favorable impression with everyone with whom they interact.

Tick-borne diseases. Ticks are prevalent in this region, particularly during the spring and summer. Several tick-borne diseases are also common in this area, including Lyme disease. Personnel should take precautions to avoid contact with ticks, including wearing long pants and tucking them into your socks, and using bug spray. Permethrin is a tick repellant. Check yourself thoroughly after each day outdoors. If you see what appears to be a bullseye rash on your body, please consult a medical professional.

Safety equipment. Teams should carry a First Aid Kit with Benadryl (provided by supervisor), and have a charged cell phone along, if possible. Team members and the PI should share cell phone contact information.

Coordination with other researchers. When possible personnel should coordinate with other teams for trips to common sites. Within project teams, consider a weekly group schedule (e.g., using a shared Google calendar) for fieldwork that includes information on when, where, who.

Tetanus and COVID shot recommendation. We strongly recommend that tetanus and COVID (if possible) vaccinations are up-to-date.

Heat, sun, and storm warnings and procedures. Researchers will often be outdoors, sometimes in locations with little to no shade protection. Be aware of exposure to sun and heat. Sunscreen, a sun hat, loose-fitting clothes, drinking plenty of water, and taking breaks, as needed, are highly recommended. Summer weather can result in violent thunderstorms, producing severe winds, hail, and occasionally tornadoes. If you are in the field and weather appears threatening, if you see lightning, or if you hear severe weather sirens, seek shelter immediately. Do not continue field work when lightning is present.


Social Science Research

Required compliance with human subjects research regulation. Federal law and university policy require that all research that involves human subjects - including any research in which the researcher interacts with or obtains information from any person regardless of whether the research goals are social or natural science - be reviewed by the Institutional Review Board for compliance with federal law and ethical practice. Information on this process is available in detail here. Broad ethical principles, discussed in more detail in required IRB training, include that involvement in research should be voluntary, there should be informed consent from the participant about their involvement, that participants should not be deceived, and that participants should have the opportunity to keep their involvement in the study confidential. 

If it is your first time dealing with human subjects review at UMN, you may want to consult with one of the many experienced social scientists on the LTER team who may provide you with advice and examples of past applications. Be aware that there are two required elements of this process: (1) researchers must undergo training in human subjects research ethics, currently an online training that takes 3-4 hours to complete, and (2) trained researchers submit an application containing detailed information on the study format and protocols which is then reviewed by the IRB. Review of the application for simple low risk activities (such as common survey questionnaires or interviews which do not touch on controversial or deeply personal subjects) may take 1-4 weeks, while higher risk studies, such as those involving children, prisoners, or other vulnerable populations, involve deceiving or experimentally manipulating subjects, or otherwise involve higher risk, can take substantially longer.

Ethical concerns not addressed by IRB/Human subjects rules. IRB protocols focus on avoiding harm to individuals from research activities. Some research activities may not harm individuals, but may harm groups of people collectively by, for example, portraying that group in a negative light or changing the way they are treated by society. Social scientific researchers should be aware of these risks which are widely discussed in scholarly literature, and work to mitigate these risks. Two strategies to address these risks are addressed elsewhere in this document: (1) social scientific research should be conducted under the supervision of trained social scientists and (2) all research should be conducted in partnership and consultation with affected communities.

Work under the supervision of trained social scientists. In the past some environmental scientists have launched social scientific research projects without working closely with trained social scientists. In addition to ethical concerns raised above, this can lead to methodological errors. As there are many trained social scientists involved in the LTER, you should consult with these scientists in the design of research that involves people.

Coordinate with other members of the LTER team. Certain research subjects may be in high demand from the LTER team due to their positions. For example, many LTER researchers may want to speak with city foresters or parks managers. We want to avoid “exhausting” our research subjects with our requests for information and interviews, therefore we should coordinate within the team to insure that when we do meet with people, we take advantage to obtain information needed across the team.

Pay attention to personal safety while in the field. 

Many of the safety guidelines described above for natural scientists also apply to social scientists. However social scientists by the nature of their work are more likely to work in social settings, such as homes and offices or heavily used public outdoor spaces, and are more likely to work alone. When doing so, researchers should inform others, including their supervisors, where they are going, and use common sense to avoid potentially dangerous interpersonal situations.

Working with Citizens, Community Groups, and Other Partners

Communicating with Potential Partners

Prior to reaching out to potential community partners, it is imperative that you first reach out to the team leaders of all of the MSP LTER research teams, to find out if potential partners have received prior requests from our group so that we can reduce burden on our partners and ensure coordination among projects. When reaching out to potential community partners, we suggest that you modify this text, which introduces the MSP LTER. Also consider including this handout, which provides a more comprehensive overview of the MSP LTER. If you are requesting data, please continue reading.

Data Consent Template

If you are requesting data, modify the following paragraph to ensure that you and partners have shared mutual understanding of how data will be used and attributed. Special consideration should be taken when working with Traditional and Indigenous Knowledge-holders to ensure that researchers are following the C.A.R.E. principles. In these cases, the following template may not be appropriate. Research institutions must comply with customary laws and practices of Indigenous and local communities throughout the data documentation process, and data use agreements will be established on a case-by-case basis.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) site is part of a network of LTER sites supported by the National Science Foundation to generate and share useful and accessible information to broaden our understanding of the nation’s ecological services. Data generated from the information you provide in our interaction may be shared with the research community or general public as part of the LTER mission to produce science advancing the health, productivity, and welfare of our communities and the global environment. While the LTER prioritizes freely accessible and reusable data, sensitive data may be subject to additional restrictions to protect confidentiality interests. Please see the LTER data access policy for more information about data use, attribution, and access restriction policies. 


University of Minnesota Codes of Conduct

Students: The University's Student Conduct Code applies to all students and student groups at the University of Minnesota, whether or not the University is in session.

Others: The University's Code of Conduct applies to: members of the Board of Regents; faculty and staff; individuals employed by the University using University resources or facilities, or receiving funds administered by the University; and volunteers and other representatives when speaking or acting on behalf of the University.

Equity, Diversity, Equal Opportunity, and Affirmative Action Policy

The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer. The University of Minnesota shall provide equal access to and opportunity in its programs, facilities, and employment without regard to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, gender, age, marital status, disability, public assistance status, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. For further information, see the University's Policy addressing Equity, Diversity, Equal Opportunity, and Affirmative Action. Suspected or alleged discrimination can be reported with any or all options listed in MSP LTER’s Code of Conduct.

Sexual Misconduct Policy

The University of Minnesota and MSP LTER are committed to taking prompt and effective steps intended to end sexual harassment, sexual assault, stalking, relationship violence, and related retaliation, prevent their recurrence and, as appropriate, remedy their effects. For further information, see the University’s Policy for addressing Sexual Harassment, Sexual Assault, Stalking and Relationship Violence. Suspected or alleged sexual misconduct can be reported with any or all options listed in MSP LTER’s Code of Conduct.

If you report suspected or alleged misconduct, then University policy protects you against retaliation. For further information, see the University’s Policy addressing Retaliation. Suspected or alleged retaliation can be reported with any or all options listed in MSP LTER’s Code of Conduct.