Ecological Restoration Training Cooperative for Habitat Restoration
$550,000 is from the trust fund to the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota for improving ecological restoration success in Minnesota by developing and offering training programs for habitat restoration professionals. This appropriation is available until June 30, 2013, by which time the project must be completed and final products delivered.
Click on "Final Report" under "Project Details".
Click on "Final Report" under "Project Details".
Restoration work is increasingly relied on as a conservation strategy in Minnesota even though project failure rates remain high. Although there are many competent professionals working in the field, the quality of work varies across the profession and lack of expertise contributes to failures, partly because there is currently a lack of professional restoration training available. In order to help improve the success rates of restorations, scientists and educators at the University of Minnesota's Department of Horticultural Science are using this appropriation to develop an ecological restoration education program and cooperative. The effort will make training opportunities for practicing restoration professionals available statewide and facilitate improved and increased communication amongst the restoration community.
OVERALL PROJECT OUTCOME AND RESULTS
Ecological restoration is increasingly relied on as a conservation strategy in Minnesota even though project failure rates remain high. To improve ecological restoration success in Minnesota, this project developed training opportunities for practicing restoration professionals. We established the Ecological Restoration Training Cooperative (ERTC), which is based at the University of Minnesota, and coordinated as a partnership between state agencies and the University. A program of web-based, instructor-guided learning, combined with field sessions offered at multiple locations, are the first of its kind in the US for restoration. As part of this project, the training cooperative developed and offered five application-oriented online courses accessible statewide. These courses covering site assessment, seeding, planting, vegetation management and monitoring, were taken by 113 people during the "pilot phase". Each course will be offered at least twice a year through the U of MN College of Continuing Education. In conjunction with the online courses, field training sessions were developed for the seeding and vegetation management courses. These sessions focus on hands-on restoration skills introduced in the online courses. A four-year agreement with DNR Parks and Trails will allow each of the two field sessions to be taught by DNR natural resource specialists at four out-state locations each year in order to facilitate access to the training opportunities by individuals from around the state.
In addition to the five training courses, the ERTC developed several other ways for restoration practitioners to learn skills and stay current. A webinar series, an annual workshop, social network, and website were all launched as part of ERTIC programming. During this grant period, five webinars were held, which were attended by over 1000 people. These presentations were recorded and are available on the practitioner's network, which has 187 members to date. The first annual conference, focused on restoration monitoring, was held in May 2013. Information on all upcoming events, including online courses can be found on the ERTC website, www.restoringminnesota.umn.edu. Details about the content of online courses, field sessions, webinars, and the workshop are presented in a supplemental report.
PROJECT RESULTS USE AND DISSEMINATION
Information from this project has been made available in the following ways:
- Information on training opportunities is made available through the ERTC website, which was accessed over 2600 times in the past 18 months.
- Recorded webinar presentations are available through the ERTC practitioner's network, which is also linked to the website.
- Course and workshop information has been (and will continue to be) disseminated to over 6000 people, which is part of an active marketing effort led by the College of Continuing Education.
- The innovative approaches taken to the online courses have been communicated by press-releases connected to the R1Edu national university network.
- The innovative suite of training opportunities will be communicated with restoration researchers and practitioners at a talk to presented to the Society for Ecological Restoration International Congress to be held in October 2013.
Of the 140 people that completed the course as beta-testers or in the pilot phase, many were middle-level managers responsible for contracting and program coordination. These individuals have first-hand experience with the course and are in a position to recommend it to colleagues that need/want to advance their skills.