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Itasca Biological Station celebrates 100th birthday

Unless you were among the thousands of students who contemplated nature over the decades at the Itasca Biological Station, you may not have known Minnesota was home to this rare spot for hands-on learning about birds, animals, plants, aquatic systems and the interaction of those things and more.

The University of Minnesota station has operated at the headwaters of the Mississippi since 1909, when a summer training program for forestry students was launched there. Over the decades, the program expanded far beyond forestry.

Now the university’s College of Biological Sciences plans to celebrate the station’s 100th birthday with a party on the St. Paul campus Nov. 9  in the lower level of the Cargill Building, 1500 Gortner Ave.

The centerpiece of the party will be a presentation about the Minnesota Mississippi Metagenome Project (M3P), a new research effort to characterize the microbial diversity at the headwaters of the Mississippi and use it to evaluate human impact along the river. M3P recently received $400,000 in federal stimulus funds. You can see a video of the project here.

Also on hand at the party will be a display of rare, 150-year-old books by Itasca explorer Henry Schoolcraft. The books were donated to the university by WCCO anchor Don Shelby.

Beyond a taste of birthday cake, attendees also will get a chance to enter a drawing for prizes, which include a weekend at a restored faculty cabin at Itasca.

The event is free and open to the public, but reservations are required. For reservations, contact Katie Hoffman at or (612) 625-2247.

More information about Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories is available here.

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