Associate Professor of Community Ecology
Minnesota State University, Mankato
Cattails growing in a wetland might look all the same to the casual observer but not to Dr. Brad Cook, an Associate Professor of Community Ecology at Minnesota State University, Mankato (MSUM). Recently, Dr. Cook received recognition from MSUM for his “Big Idea” to prevent invasive species like Eurasian cattails from overwhelming the biodiversity of wetland ecosystems. His research identified how chemicals released from the exotic cattails reduce native plant growth and now experiments are being conducted by Dr. Cook and his students to help native species thrive.
Dr. Brad Cook came to Minnesota from Montana to study prairie pothole wetlands and has developed an ecological assessment procedure for various wetland types in different regions of the country. According to Dr. Cook, this is important because these procedures are a bridge between the theoretical ecologists and wetland managers and conservationists. “There is a huge gap between these two groups and it is challenging to bring them together,” relates Dr. Cook. Besides wetland-related research he also teaches a number of classes at MSUM including Biology, Plant Ecology and Wetlands.
The donation of a 58-acre prairie and wetland tract in north Mankato to MSUM will help further research by Dr. Cook and other professors and students. Dr. Cook played an instrumental role in securing this piece of property for further ongoing environmental research projects from Lime Valley Development. This site will be used for field learning stations focusing on wetland construction and ecological function, which fits into Dr. Cook’s expertise of understanding how wetlands function individually and within in the landscape.
“The future of water quality in the Minnesota River is everyone’s problem,” states Dr. Brad Cook. “Not farmers versus non-farmers. Special-interest groups will keep us divided and never resolve the issue of poor water quality and loss of habitat. We need to begin by doing away with words like ‘us’ and ‘them.’ We need clean water and we need to manage our resources sustainably and not for short-term profits.”
Dr. Brad Cook - Background (3:02 minutes)