September 23 Webinar: Iowa Flood Center Floodplain Mapping Programs

Iowa Learning Farms will host a webinar on Wednesday, September 23 at noon about floodplain mapping done by the Iowa Flood Center.

Following the historic floods of 2008, the State of Iowa established the Iowa Flood Center (IFC) at the University of Iowa’s IIHR–Hydroscience & Engineering. Among its many flood-related activities, IFC develops flood inundation maps to support planning and mitigation efforts across the state. During this webinar, Witold (Witek) Krajewski, Director of IFC, will explain the floodplain mapping and floodplain map libraries created by IFC.

In cooperation with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, IFC developed floodplain maps showing probability, extent, and depth of flooding for every Iowa stream draining more than one square mile. IFC has also developed floodplain map libraries in specific communities that translate National Weather Service forecasts into inundation maps that help individuals anticipate how forecasted flood conditions may affect their property.

Image source: Iowa Flood Center

“Understanding flood risk is important to effectively managing property,” said Nathan Young, Associate Director of IFC. “Floodplain mapping is a valuable tool for anticipating and communicating immediate and long-term flood hazards.”

To participate in the live webinar, shortly before 12:00 pm CDT on September 23:

Click this URL, or type this web address into your internet browser: https://iastate.zoom.us/j/364284172

    Or, go to https://iastate.zoom.us/join and enter meeting ID: 364 284 172 

Or, join from a dial-in phone line:

    Dial: +1 312 626 6799 or +1 646 876 9923

    Meeting ID: 364 284 172

The webinar will also be recorded and archived on the ILF website, so that it can be watched at any time. Archived webinars are available at https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars.

A Certified Crop Adviser board-approved continuing education unit (CEU) has been applied for, for those who are able to participate in the live webinar. Information about how to apply to receive the credit (if approved) will be provided at the end of the live webinar.

Hilary Pierce

Enhancing Monarch Butterfly Conservation in Iowa

Iowa Learning Farms hosted webinar on Wednesday, September 16 about monarch butterfly conservation efforts in Iowa. During the webinar, Steve Bradbury, professor in the Departments of Natural Resource Ecology and Management and Entomology at Iowa State University explained monarch life cycles, migration and population decline. Up to 50% of the population that overwinters in Mexico comes from the corn belt of the US, making it critical to conserve and establish additional monarch habitat in Iowa.

Although year-to-year variability of the the monarch population is to be expected, the overall trend is declining. The concerning decline has been caused by extreme weather, deforestation in Mexico (which has been stabilized), and habitat loss (milkweed and other nectar resources) in the upper Midwest. In order for the population to be sustainable and able to withstand extreme weather events, it needs to occupy six hectares of the forest in Mexico. In order to achieve this, 1.6 billion additional stems (of milkweed and nectar resources) need to be established in the upper Midwest.

The Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium was formed in 2015 to determine Iowa’s part in the establishment of habitat in the upper Midwest. Significant habitat needs to be established in Iowa and the conservation strategy for Iowa breaks out how many acres of habitat need to be established and opportunities to do so without taking acres out of crop production. Grass dominated sites are areas where there is opportunity to establish monarch/pollinator habitat and research is being done on the best way to transform these sites. Bradbury shared lessons learned from the demonstration sites during the webinar.

To learn more about monarchs and monarch conservation efforts in Iowa, watch the full webinar here!

Join us on Wednesday, September 23, for a webinar titled “Iowa Flood Center Floodplain Mapping Programs” presented by Witold (Witek) Krajewski, Director of the Iowa Flood Center.

Hilary Pierce

Lessons From the Derecho: Addressing Storm Damage and Working Towards Resilient Forest and Tree Resources

Iowa Learning Farms hosted a webinar on Wednesday about storm damage to forests and urban trees caused by the derecho in August. Billy Beck, Extension Forestry Specialist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management at Iowa State University, explained how this damage can be assessed and addressed to create more resilient forest and tree resources in the future.

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Storm-damaged forests create dangerous situations and it’s important to take safety precautions and leave any work outside of your skill set to professionals. When assessing storm-damaged forests, Beck suggests creating a map of the damage and consulting with a forester on the best way to address the damage. There may be some trees that can be monitored instead of removed depending on the type and extent of damage.

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It’s also extremely important to assess forests and trees for damage before the next disaster. Doing so can help prevent extensive damage. Many trees that were damaged in the derecho should have already been removed, due to issues caused by improper placement, pruning, or planting. These issues made the trees more susceptible to being damaged in the storm.

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When considering replacing trees or planting new, it’s important to consider the lessons learned from the aftermath of the derecho. It’s important when planting trees to match the species to the site, thinking first about soils, space, wind, wound potential, and hazards, and then selecting trees that meet your objectives from suitable species. Planting native trees and diverse mixes of trees, as well as ensuring proper planting and care, can help create resilient tree resources.

To learn more about assessing and addressing tree damage and creating more resilient tree and forest resources, watch the full webinar here! Click here for a list of resources compiled by Beck for this webinar.

Join us on Wednesday, September 16th at noon for a webinar titled “Enhancing Monarch Butterfly Conservation in Iowa” presented by Steve Bradbury, professor in the Departments of Natural Resource Ecology and Management and Entomology at Iowa State University.

Hilary Pierce

September 9 Webinar: Lessons From the Derecho: Addressing Storm Damage and Working Towards Resilient Forest and Tree Resources

Iowa Learning Farms will host a webinar on Wednesday, September 9 at noon about how to assess and address storm damage to both forest and urban trees caused by the August derecho.   

The derecho caused extensive damage across the state, to buildings, crops, and trees. This webinar will focus on the storm damage to forests and urban trees, and how this damage can be evaluated and managed to create more resilient forest and tree resources.

Billy Beck, Extension Forestry Specialist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management at Iowa State University, will also provide tips on creating more storm-ready urban and rural forest canopies. Recovery resources for both rural forest landowners and urban residents will be covered.

“Landscape and forest trees provide critical social, economic, and environmental benefits to all Iowans, and the derecho produced devastating impacts to these resources,” said Beck. “Whether you suffered damage to trees in your yard, or your 100-acre forestland, this webinar seeks to assist on the road to recovery.” Beck’s research and extension work focuses on the impacts that trees, forests, and forestry have on water quality and quantity within the agricultural Midwest.

To participate in the live webinar, shortly before 12:00 pm CDT on September 9:

Click this URL, or type this web address into your internet browser: https://iastate.zoom.us/j/364284172

    Or, go to https://iastate.zoom.us/join and enter meeting ID: 364 284 172 

Or, join from a dial-in phone line:

    Dial: +1 312 626 6799 or +1 646 876 9923

    Meeting ID: 364 284 172

The webinar will also be recorded and archived on the ILF website, so that it can be watched at any time. Archived webinars are available at https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars.

A Certified Crop Adviser board-approved continuing education unit (CEU) has been approved, for those who are able to participate in the live webinar. Information about how to apply to receive the credit will be provided at the end of the live webinar.

Hilary Pierce

Water Rocks! TREE-mendous Iowa Tree Challenge

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Enjoy the summer weather and appreciate the trees around you during the Water Rocks! “TREE-mendous Iowa Tree Challenge”! The challenge, which will run August 3 through 17, invites Iowans to get outside and discover the trees that grow across the state by snapping pictures of themselves with as many varieties of trees as they can.

We have awesome prize packs available, based on the number of different trees you find! Prize packs will be awarded to those who successfully complete the challenge, while supplies last!

For full challenge rules and details, visit https://www.waterrocks.org/trees.

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The TREE-mendous Iowa Tree Challenge is being produced in partnership with the Iowa Environmental Council, Iowa’s largest and most comprehensive environmental coalition and dedicated to education and advocacy and working together to protect and preserve Iowa’s environment.

We can’t wait to see your tree photos—be sure to follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook (@waterrocksisu) to see our favorite submissions!

Hilary Pierce

Exploring the Case for Retiring (Or at Least Down-Sizing) the Mower on Farms and City Lots

On Wednesday, Iowa Learning Farms hosted a webinar about the benefits of reducing mowed land area across rural Iowa. Adam Janke, Assistant Professor and Extension Wildlife Specialist, discussed a project which considered the economic, ecological and aesthetic impacts of managing idle spaces differently.

Three different management scenarios were compared: traditional turfgrass, the “lazy lawnmower” and pollinator habitat establishment. In the traditional turfgrass management scenario, the space is planted to a monoculture and mowed weekly. In the “lazy lawnmower” scenario, mowing is done less frequently, about once every three weeks. Finally, in the pollinator habitat scenario, pollinator habitat is established in the area and managed to create a diverse source of nectar resources for pollinators.

The economic analysis of the three different management scenarios showed that both the “lazy lawnmower” and establishing pollinator habitat saved landowners money (and time, since their time was also valued in the analysis). Out of the three, the establishment of pollinator habitat had the lowest per acre cost per year. Janke also showed that, ecologically, there are no benefits to increased mowing.

Why maintain turfgrass when is is expensive and lacks environmental benefits? Literature on the subject acknowledges that this behavior might not be rational, but that it is part of our cultural norms. Worrying about what the neighbor might think of how you manage your land plays a big role in behavior. In order to increase adoption of different management scenarios for idle land, we need innovators who are trying out the practices and showing people that they can work.

Janke shared examples of three places that have adopted pollinator habitat instead of traditional turfgrass in idle areas. The image on the left shows a farmer who is a champion of monarch conservation who converted an idle area on his farm where to pollinator habitat. The middle image is from a farm that was part of a project with the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium who partnered with pork producers to convert idle areas outside of livestock barns. Check out this video to learn more about this project. The image on the right shows pollinator habitat on idle land at Workiva in Ames, shortly after it was burned this spring as part of the management of the area.

To learn more about the benefits of managing idle land for pollinator habitat, or at least reducing how frequently they’re mowed, watch the full webinar here!

Be sure to join us next week when Kay Stefanik, Assistant Director of the Iowa Nutrient Research Center, will present a webinar titled: “Wetland Ecosystem Services: How Wetlands Can Benefit Iowans”.

Hilary Pierce

Trees, Forests, and Forestry: Benefits to Water Quality and On-Farm Income in Iowa

On Wednesday, Iowa Learning Farms hosted a webinar about forestry in Iowa and the importance of including trees in Iowa’s water quality conversation.

Billy Beck, Assistant Professor and Extension Forestry Specialist at Iowa State University, discussed the importance of seeing trees as a valuable resource, for farmers and landowners where they can be an asset and a source of on-farm income and provide profit, and for all Iowans because of the benefits to water quality and flood reduction that trees can provide.

Iowa has:

  • ~3 million acres of forest
  • 150,000 forest landowners
  • $10-35 million of standing timber sold annually
  • 30,000 jobs supported by forestry/forest products
  • $43 billion economic output from forestry/forest products
  • Highest quality white oak & black walnut on Earth (arguably)
  • ISU has one of the oldest forestry programs in the US
  • >30% of riparian corridors are forested

Beck explained that trees can improve water quality and can reduce water quantity reaching streams during rainfall events, which can positively impact flooding. Trees can take up nutrients, slow water through interception and infiltration, and can help stabilize streambanks, which all have positive impacts on downstream water quality and water quantity.

When discussing on-farm income from trees, Beck stated that it is important to know the true value of your timber, which can be very difficult to know! There isn’t a readily available source to find out this information and it could depend on: buyer/logger outlets, species assemblage, quality/grade of logs, site access or terrain, markets, politics, tariffs, etc.

To learn more about trees and forestry in Iowa, and its benefits to on-farm income and water quality and quantity, watch the full webinar here!

Be sure to join us next week on Wednesday, April 29th, when Laurie Nowatzke, Measurement Coordinator for the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy at Iowa State University, will discuss “Iowa’s Water Quality Challenge: Efforts and Progress in Reducing Agricultural Nitrogen and Phosphorus Loss”.

Hilary Pierce

April 22 Webinar: Trees, Forests, and Forestry: Benefits to Water Quality and On-Farm Income in Iowa

Iowa Learning Farms will host a webinar on Wednesday, April 22 at noon about the importance of including trees in Iowa’s water quality conversation.

Billy Beck, Assistant Professor and Extension Forestry Specialist at Iowa State University, will discuss the benefits that trees, forests, and forestry provide for both water quality and on-farm income, as well as resources and techniques landowners may utilize to achieve successful on-the-ground projects.

“Trees represent powerful resources that are often underutilized and undervalued by agricultural landowners,” said Beck, whose research and extension programming focuses on the impacts that trees, woodlands, and forests have on water quality and quantity in the Midwest.

This webinar will also present results from the recent “Forests and Water Quality Summit”—including a vision for the role of forestry in Iowa’s water quality efforts.

Don’t miss this webinar!

DATE: Wednesday, April 22, 2020

TIME: 12:00 pm

HOW TO PARTICIPATE: shortly before 12:00 pm on April 22nd:

Click this URL, or type this web address into your internet browser: https://iastate.zoom.us/j/364284172

    Or, go to https://iastate.zoom.us/join and enter meeting ID: 364 284 172 

Or, join from a dial-in phone line:

    Dial: +1 312 626 6799 or +1 646 876 9923

    Meeting ID: 364 284 172

The webinar will also be recorded and archived on the ILF website, so that it can be watched at any time. Archived webinars are available at https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars.

A Certified Crop Adviser board-approved continuing education unit (CEU) has been applied for, for those who are able to participate in the live webinar. Information about how to apply to receive the CEU (if approved) will be provided at the end of the live webinar.

Hilary Pierce

Water Rocks! Earth Week Art Challenges

Wednesday, April 22nd is Earth Day! Water Rocks! has partnered with the Iowa Environmental Council, Soil and Water Conservation Society and Artworks Studio of Carroll, Iowa, to encourage participants of all ages to get outside (at a safe distance from one another) and celebrate natural resources with us through art!

Our Earth Week Chalk Challenge is meant to inspire people to create chalk masterpieces with messages about the earth, biodiversity and our shared environment. (If you don’t have chalk at home, check out this link to make your own!)

The Earth Week Art from Nature Challenge encourages participants to gather items from nature to create unique artworks.

These contests run until 5 pm Friday, April 24th. Get outside and show off your love for our planet and its natural resources, as well as your creativity!

Like or follow @WaterRocksISU on Facebook or Twitter to enter your art and see all of the other creations!

Fun and novel prizes from Water Rocks! and Artworks Studio will be awarded to creations garnering the most likes and shares in both challenges, including a special “People’s Choice” prize pack and bragging rights for the most shared and most liked entry in each contest.

Water Rocks! Amps Up Online Environmental Learning Fun

Water Rocks! is expanding its online portfolio of environmental and water quality education programming with the addition of two streaming video programs. Water Rocks! Unplugged is a weekly studio session featuring Water Rocks! music and associated lessons. Water Rocks! Out of the Box is a series of short natural resources lessons with at-home activities. Both programs leverage the strong science education content typically delivered through the Water Rocks! classroom visits and assemblies which have been put on hold this year by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The unprecedented closure of schools across Iowa led us to brainstorm some new ways to use technology and remote learning to continue delivering our natural resources and water quality content and lessons to youth around Iowa,” said Ann Staudt, Water Rocks! director. “Our enewsletter, The Monday Mix, has been well received, and these new streaming options will give teachers, parents, and kids some new options to have fun while learning—all while keeping natural resources, water quality, and the environment around us at the forefront. We are eager to provide resources and support teachers and parents who are facing incredible challenges.”

Water Rocks! Unplugged features Water Rocks! music frontman Todd Stevens, performing acoustic versions of hit songs from the Water Rocks! catalog. Each performance is accompanied by a quick lesson highlighting the key science elements related to the song. New videos will drop on Facebook and YouTube every Tuesday and Thursday at 1 p.m. CDT – beginning TODAY, April 14!

Water Rocks! Out of the Box is a series of virtual video lessons featuring student intern Emma Flemming, sharing fun, hands-on, at-home adaptations of classroom lessons and interactive activities from the Water Rocks! classroom visit program. Each lesson runs 5-10 minutes, and a new video will drop on Facebook and YouTube every Wednesday and Friday at 1 p.m. CDT – beginning TOMORROW, April 15!

Aligned with the new normal of working from home and learning from home, these video projects are being recorded and produced in the performer’s homes.

“Flexibility and innovation are watchwords right now, and Emma and Todd have both come through with creative ideas, effort and content for today’s youth,” continued Staudt. “Emma has shown great ingenuity in adapting the Water Rocks! activities for at-home use. Building on her experience visiting classrooms in our Water Resources Internship Program last summer—she’s truly driving the Out of the Box project. We are excited to launch both of these new video series.”

As Iowa schools implement online programs at all grade levels, the Water Rocks! online resources and online learning modules provide science-based content that is easy to use. All Water Rocks! programming is correlated to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) adopted by most Iowa school districts. Teacher, parent and student links to music, videos, games and educational resources are available free of charge at www.waterrocks.org

Be the first on your block to catch the new videos Tuesday through Friday each week at 1 p.m.! Just follow these links to Water Rocks!’ social media pages:
https://www.facebook.com/WaterRocksISU
https://www.youtube.com/user/WaterRocksISU