Your Task

  1. Read the overall briefing materials (current and proposed wild rice standards, Environmental Justice Framework, timeline) and note key points.

  2. Read your group’s briefing materials on this page and note key points.

  3. Discuss an appropriate standard for wild rice protection from scientists’ standpoints, considering political, economic, social, and cultural factors.

  4. Fill in the Rainbow Diagram for Stakeholder Visualization. Think about the following questions:

    • Differences within your group (is there a shared worldview?).

    • How much influence your group has, or might have?

    • How the group has or might exert that influence?

    • How large is the group or how large could it become?

    • How is the group organized to make decisions?

    • What are the financial resources or social capital of the group?

  5. Consider if your group is “affected by” or is “affecting” wild rice protection, or both.

  6. Prepare key talking points for a brief presentation of your group’s analysis, above.

  7. Read the highlights from the MPCA’s Final Technical Support Document: Refinements to Minnesota’s Sulfate Water Quality Standard to Protect Wild Rice
  8. Review the multimedia resources below.
  • Read the highlights from the MPCA’s Final Technical Support Document: Refinements to Minnesota’s Sulfate Water Quality Standard to Protect Wild Rice
  • Review the multimedia resources below


Scientists with Western science training, who have been involved with the issue of wild rice protection over the past decade in Minnesota, have either been affiliated with higher education, a state agency, or a tribal entity, typically in an environmental department or role. Scientists engaged in research, as opposed to consulting, testing, or enforcement of water quality or other regulations, have mostly been funded by departments in local universities, primarily the University of Minnesota-Duluth and the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, or by state agencies, primarily the MPCA and the DNR. Universities and agencies often partner and collaborate with one another on research, although researchers sometimes reach different conclusions about results than agencies.

Complexities in Scientific Analysis

The MPCA undertook scientifically investigating sulfate’s effect on wild rice in response to direction from the Governor’s office and funding allocated by the Minnesota legislature. The research led to agreement on some aspects of the science of the water sulfate/sulfide relationship to wild rice health but left open questions about how wild rice is affected by sulfate in the context of its natural growth environment (wild as opposed to paddy/cultivated).

Another matter involving scientific determinations are decisions about “wild rice water” in need of protection, which involves listing bodies of water where wild rice is currently growing. With tribal members, particularly elders, having knowledge of where rice has grown well and currently grows well, this is a complex matter. As an annual plant with “boom and bust” cycles of growth, wild rice does not offer researchers a definitive way to decide its level of growth.

Shannon Lotthammer speaks to participants at an open house on the changing wild rice sulfate standard — January 2017. Source.

What we need is those toxicity studies, to show how different concentrations of sulfate affect wild rice health and viability and growth.

Shannon LotthammerDirector of MPCA's Environmental Analysis and Outcomes Division

Wild Rice and Sulfate

A brown bag lunch presentation with Dr. Amy Myrbo, Dr. Crystal Ng, and Dr. Cara Santelli at Freshwater Society on Wild Rice and Sulfate. This clip starts at 8:07 and discusses three papers on the relationship between wild rice and sulfate.