Explore the Driftless with WSU’s Ecological History Series


The Driftless area of Minnesota is quite unique. Filled with rare plants, animals, and various ecosystems, the Driftless area is worthy of exploration, and that’s exactly what attendees will do during the Ecological History Series. With events extending out until late April, Winona State University (WSU) along with the Winona County Historical Society (WCHS) are hosting a virtual lecture series that will explore topics like mapping the ecological history of the Driftless area, exploring how fires shaped and maintained ecosystems until the 1900s, and how Indigenous roots of sustainable forestry can give perspective to ecological restoration and community healing. 

In addition to hosting a lecture series, WSU and WCHS also worked to share resources, digitize and preserve items that highlight the Driftless area. In one instance, the group teamed up with Saint Mary’s University’s Geospatial Services to create a GIS story map that reconstructs a 1855 land survey into a map of the vegetative communities in Winona.  

All virtual lectures are hosted through Zoom, are free, open to the public, with no registration required, and are recorded to be viewed after the event. Two events in March that were part of the series were also recorded and are available. One was a presentation by Dakota writer and Mdewakanton descendent Diane Wilson who talked about indigenous seeds and work being done to reclaim Indigenous seeds as food for communities. Another was a presentation by Michael Lee from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on the rare plant and animal species in the Driftless Area based on results from a biological survey.  

These events are made possible in part by the people of Minnesota through a grant funded by an appropriation to the Minnesota Historical Society form the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. 

The lecture series — which was originally planned for last year but was postponed due to the pandemic — is supported by the Heritage Partnership grant which WSU and WCHS collaborated on applying for in order to support educational projects that explore the unique ecological history of the Driftless area of Minnesota.  

For more information on this event series including the Zoom links, visit the schedule in OpenRiver at openriver.winona.edu/ecologicalhistorylectureseries/ 

and the Winona County Historical Society’s website at winonahistory.org/to-do. 


A View from the Minnesota Woods - April 20

Little green bugs, warming winters, changing markets and humans, all have an impact on wildlife habitats.  

During a 6:30 p.m. Zoom presentation on April 20, Extension Specialist Dr. Eli Sagor, from the University of Minnesota’s Cloquet Forestry Center, will talk about how emerging research is helping people to better understand shared, collective history and how human life has shaped forests and how in turn, that has shaped culture and history. Steps will be offered on how to ensure the continued health, productivity, and beauty of forests of the Driftless and beyond. 


Learning from theIndigenous Roots of Sustainable Forestry - April 21

Contemporary sustainable forestry, ecological restoration, and community healing can learn a lot from Indigenous ways.  

At 6:30 p.m. April 21 through a Zoom presentation, University of Minnesota Assistant Professor Dr. Michael Dockry, a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, will talk about how the sustainable forestry in the USA began with the Menominee Nation in Wisconsin and how that experience can inform contemporary sustainable forestry, ecological restoration, and community healing. Dr. Dockry will also discuss how developing partnerships with tribes and tribal communities can serve as the foundation for integrating Indigenous knowledge with western natural resource management science. A goal of Dr. Dockry’s talk is to support WSU’s efforts to build partnerships with Indigenous peoples to enhance ecological and social restoration to meet 21st century challenges. The event is co-sponsored by the All-University Arboretum and Land Stewardship Committee as part of the annual Arbor Day celebration. 


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