Gene Merriam is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and worked as a Certified Public Accountant. He was elected to the state senate in 1974 and served for 22 years until 1996. He served on the Environment and Natural Resources Committee all those years including six years as its chairman. He also served on the Legislative Committee for Minnesota’s Resources from 1980–1996. In 2003 Governor Pawlenty appointed Gene as Commissioner of the DNR, a position he held until he retired in 2007. Gene’s interest in birds was sparked by the white-throated sparrow’s song which he would hear on fishing trips up north. “Its song was so striking and alluring, so recognizable, it captivated me,” Gene remembers. He became curious as to what bird had such a melodious voice, so he purchased a bird recording tape, and began to study bird calls. From then on, his interest grew.