Faces of Cedar Creek

People behind the research and the research behind the people
Getting the Cedar Creek camera trap grid up and running was a monumental undertaking – there are over 100 cameras spread out across the 2,200-hectare reserve which need to be checked on a regular basis! So why do we do it? And who are the researchers who trek through the wilderness, braving the flies and ticks and mud to bring back these images? Here, we’re going to introduce you to the different people who keep this trail camera project going and give you a little bit of an idea as to what that data you’re helping us process is being used for.

Dr. Meredith S. Palmer
Predator-prey interactions in a complex community   

How to prey animals avoid becoming lunch? Meredith is interested in trying to understand the behavioral repertoire that large mammalian herbivores, like our Cedar Creek white-tailed deer, use to minimize their risk of predation. She uses the trail cameras at Cedar Creek to track the behavior of deer and other prey animals across areas that vary in levels of predation risk, and pairs these observations with on-the-ground sampling of plant and soil communities to see what consequences these deer behavioral decisions have for ecosystem processes. In addition to working with wolves and deer here in Minnesota, she explores the same kinds of questions in African ecosystems (Meredith also works with the flagship SnapshotSerengeti and WildCam Gorongosa citizen science cameras projects!). Comparing animal behavior across these different types of communities helps her to pick apart the mechanisms underlying all predator-prey interactions and draw conclusions about what forces shape these types of relationships. You may see her in the camera traps working at some of her herbivore exclosures at Cedar Creek, or – if you’re very lucky – catch a glimpse of her spraying wolf urine at our camera trap sites to simulate predator presence! You can read more about Meredith’s research on her website.

Dr. L. David Mech
Wolf recolonization in northern Minnesota

Dave Mech is a world-renowned expert on wolf biology, having studied these predators and their prey for over 60 years! He has worked in some of the most famous wolf recolonization sites, including Isle Royale National Park, Denali National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and Ellesmere Island, and literally written the book on wolf behavior and ecology. While his overarching interests include wolf behavior, ecology, population dynamics, and interactions with their prey, Dave is particularly interested in tracking the recolonization of gray wolves in Minnesota. Humans extirpated wolves from almost all of the United States in the 1960s, except for small remnant populations in the far north. Over the last few decades, the wolf population in our state has been recovering and slowly expanding its range. In 2015, a pack of wolves began denning at Cedar Creek, just 25 km north of the Twin Cities! Dr. Mech will be using the trail camera images to track the spread and reestablishment of these packs, so keep a sharp eye out for wild canids in our pictures! You can read more about Dr. Mech’s research here, or check out (cartoon) Dr. Mech explaining wolf misconceptions in this episode of Adam Ruins Everything

Dr. Forest Isbell
Animal interactions in heterogeneous habitat  

Forest is obsessed with biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. In addition to being a highly-cited researcher, he is the Associate Director at Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve. He uses data from this site and others around the globe to understand how changes in biodiversity alter ecosystem functioning, stability, and services, as well as how biodiversity and ecosystem functioning response to global environmental changes. Before now, the focus of research at Cedar Creek has revolved around plant and soil communities; Forest has helped set up the camera trap grid to begin to understand how animal communities might further influence these other ecosystem elements. Different animal species interact with members of their own species (e.g., competition), other species (e.g., predator-prey interactions, more competition), and the landscapes they live in (e.g., habitats to eat, sleep, mate, and hide from predators!). The trail camera data will be used to document the distribution of species across Cedar Creek, and figure out which social and environmental factors might have shaped that distribution. If we can understand what drives the biodiversity of animal species at the reserve, this can help us learn more about how biodiversity of the entire ecosystem might respond to losses or gains of keystone species such as bison or wolves!

Dr. Caitlin Potter
Education and outreach

Caitlin is the education and community engagement coordinator at Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve. Her day job involves organizing field trips for thousands of local K-12 students a year, providing tours of Cedar Creek’s long-term research experiments, guiding nature hikes, running citizen science projects, and more. Caitlin did her Ph.D work studying monkeys in Ethiopia and her true passions involve animals, conservation and connecting people to wildlife. She brings expertise in animal behavior, development and conservation to the team at Cedar Creek! She is involved with all aspects of the trail camera project, from helping to install and check the cameras, recruiting and assisting citizen science volunteers, and working with educators and students to learn about the glories of wildlife work and trail cameras!

Many other Cedar Creek staff assist with maintaining the camera grid and keeping images flowing to our volunteers. These include Megan Lauzon and Tillery Bailey (education and outreach staff), Jim Krueger (buildings and grounds supervisor), Cristy Portales (graduate student in the Isbell Lab) and undergraduates from our summer intern staff. We also have a social media intern starting after finals wrap up: the lovely Emma Bubliz, a UMN undergraduate!

Megan Lauzon

Tillery Bailey

Jim Krueger

Cristy Portales (and an amazing intern!)

Emma Bublitz
(our new social media intern - we'll get her on a trail camera soon!)

Hopefully you can catch some (not too embarrassing!) photographs of these researchers out and about, doing some science! Tag photos with #researcher if you find us!