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Meet the Fellows!

Howdy folks! 

I’m so excited to be working with the Crane Trust over the next year! I graduated from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities (Ski-U-Mah!) last May with a Bachelor’s of Science in Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology. I grew up in Southeastern Minnesota just along the edge of the Driftless Area, tucked between forests and prairies. A lot of my past work took place in these ecosystems. My experience includes collecting vegetative data, removing invasive plant species, and interacting with the public. I’m super excited to get some more experience with wildlife surveys and publishing research! Right now, I’m most excited for small mammal trapping and tracking Greater Prairie Chicken (Tympanuchus cupido pinnatus) leks. I have never seen a wild prairie chicken before and want to add one to my life list. Unfortunately, I arrived a little too late to catch this season’s leks (womp womp), but I’ll be here for next season! 

It’s been so much fun getting to know the surrounding landscape of the Crane Trust. I expected the Platte River Valley to feel similar to the Minnesota River Valley, but the topography, soils, and even hydrology are all so different. The landscape is much more open, allowing you to see for miles, and making bird surveys much more hectic! In addition, I’ve never seen a braided river system before. Braided river systems are characterized by their high sediment loads and ever-changing islands and sand-bars. This system is perfect for creating small wetland pockets that look so different to the floodplain forests that I’m used to seeing. When I think of rivers, I usually imagine the roaring Mississippi, St. Croix, or Minnesota Rivers, which eat through the landscape and demand recognition. The Platte River has a very different attitude. Instead of slicing through the land, it raises new islands and sandbars, slowly fading out old ones as the water sees fit. The Platte River just feels more integrated into the land. Less pushy and more blended. Even dry areas feel shaped by the river. Despite having huge differences in structure, many of the plants and animals I learned back home live here as well. It’s comforting to see the familiar faces of Little BlueStem (Schizachyrium scoparium), Large Flowered Penstemon (Penstemon grandiflorus) and even Common Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) peaking through the prairie; or hear the familiar song of the less common Field Sparrow. It’s gratifying to see the hours I spent studying these species are still paying off! 

Overall, I’m super excited to kick off my year with the Crane Trust! I can’t wait to see more of the property and watch the prairie change as different plants bloom and set seed. It’s going to be an exciting year! 

Eleanor Muzzy, Saunders Conservation Fellow 


I’m Emma, the new Lila O. Wilson Biological Monitoring Fellow. I grew up in southeastern Wisconsin, which is where my passion for the outdoors began. I graduated in April 2023 from Grand Valley State University near Grand Rapids, Michigan and majored in Wildlife Biology and Natural Resource Management with a minor in Biology. During my undergraduate studies, I had internships in which I conducted bird banding, breeding bird surveys, tracked the federally endangered Rusty Patched Bumblebee, and participated in the reintroduction of native orchids in Wisconsin. I also contributed to a graduate research project that involved tracking/locating head-started Eastern Box Turtle individuals in Michigan. Since graduating, I have worked with the US Forest Service in Idaho as a Forestry Technician (fire) or wildland firefighter, focusing on wildfires and prescribed burns. Recently I just finished working in Southern Georgia as a gopher tortoise management technician. I got to assist on wildlife surveys but primarily worked on conducting prescribed burns to help improve Longleaf Pine ecosystems and improve habitat for gopher tortoises as well as the federally listed Eastern Indigo Snake.

Overall, I love spending time outdoors and adding new species to my lifer list (I have already added a few since I started!!). One of the interesting finds for me is that I found both a Common Gartersnake and a Plains Gartersnake on a walk on the property! Can’t wait to see what else I find and see. I am extremely excited to work with the Crane Trust and gain valuable experiences/skills throughout all the different monitoring programs.

Emma Richards, Lila O. Wilson Biological Monitoring Fellow

 Plains Gartersnake
Photo by: Emma Richards

Common Gartersnake
Photo by: Emma Richards