Conservation Chat with Dr. Tom Isenhart, Conservation Policy Trailblazer

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Tom leading a recent ILF event, River Stomping

The latest episode of the Conservation Chat podcast features Dr. Tom Isenhart of Iowa
State University. Tom is a professor in the Department of Natural Resources Ecology and Management where his research interests include riparian buffers, saturated buffers, nitrogen cycling and stream ecology.

Tune in to this episode to meet a trailblazer of conservation policy in Iowa. Tom was responsible for helping to get the Iowa Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program up and running. He reflected on how far the program has come, and how satisfying it is to make real change on the landscape.

“As a researcher and as an academic, you see opportunities where you can really see that you make a difference on the land and I think that [everyone involved] ha[s] to be really satisfied to see that our science is now being implemented with 77 nutrient removal wetlands out there.”

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Tom leading a tour of a saturated buffer site

Tom has also been instrumental in saturated buffer research in Iowa, which can remove pollutants from tile drainage. What motivates Tom to keep doing what he’s doing? He is inspired to teach others about what he loves. He strives for students to make a connection with water quality issues locally so that they want to act locally and make a change.


“One of the days I noticed that I put up a big image of the Iowa impaired waters list . . . and all of the sudden those students who were sitting there maybe sort of passively were sitting up and were looking on the map. And what they were doing, since most of them were from Iowa, is they were looking back home, and they were looking at, what river is that, or lakes or streams or wetlands, that are on the impaired water list.”

Tom has made a big impact on water quality issues in Iowa – hear what he has to say. Listen to this episode on the Conservation Chat website, ILF website, or through iTunes. If you’re lucky, you might be able to catch where one of Tom’s favorite fishing spots is near Ames.

Julie Whitson