Chatting about river ecology, restoration, and policy

Labor Day weekend is just around the corner… planning to spend any time out on one of Iowa’s rivers?  The latest episode of the Conservation Chat podcast features an interview with Molly Hanson, Executive Director of the nonprofit river advocacy group Iowa Rivers Revival.

Listening to this podcast, you will quickly hear how Hanson’s energy and enthusiasm runneth over – she is extremely passionate about the environment, ecology, and education … oh, and turtles, too!

ConservationChat-Hanson(angle)Iowa Rivers Revival is a statewide advocacy group, working to restore Iowa’s river ecosystems to a healthier state of functioning. That may be through streambank stabilization work, in-stream work, and/or dam modification/mitigation. River restoration also involves working with citizens across the state – talking with farmers and landowners about in-field conservation practices, and working with urban residents to build awareness of issues like stormwater.

“Rivers are conveyor belts of water and soil – that’s what they are, and they’re constantly moving both of those things.”

Hanson comes to IRR from the naturalist/county conservation world, and it’s clear that education also continues to be a passion of hers.

“The education, especially of kids, is such a key piece. They’ve gotta get out there and see it for themselves and have their ‘aha’ moment … then they’re way more likely to care and to take care of it. Science teachers, mentors, family, grandparents: we’ve got to get kids outside!”

So I mentioned turtles earlier …  One of Hanson’s other projects has involved working with IRR and other conservation groups to push for new legislation to protect four different species of aquatic turtles (snappers, spiny softshell, smooth softshell, and painted turtles).  Many of these turtles are being commercially harvested and sent overseas, with no protected seasons or catch limits in our state. Hanson helped to champion a bill that will put regulations in place to help protect these species – every species has an important role to play in terms of biodiversity and overall ecosystem health!

Tune in to Episode 23 of the Conservation Chat to hear more of this engaging conversation with Molly Hanson! Download or play this podcast and others at www.conservationchat.org.

Ann Staudt

River Stomping with ILF

As Dr. Tom Isenhart, Iowa State University Professor of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, tells his students,

“You can’t understand the health of our rivers by driving by in a car. You have to get down to the bank. Better still, get in the river…”

So we partnered with Tom this week to do just that with a group of our farmer leaders on a section of the Skunk River north of Ames.

The dozen farmer leaders from across the state were joined by members of our Iowa Learning Farms Steering Committee and our summer college interns. Tom divided the group into four teams, upon which they donned boots and waders and got to work looking for the biological indicators of river health.

SouthSkunkRiverThe group was told to explore under branches along the bank, stir up the bottom, and capture the insects that might call that location home…

MattWaders

… pick up rocks and search the moss for insects…

Annie

Participants like southwest Iowa farmer Seth Watkins were not afraid of getting wet and going to deeper sections of the river where the little creatures would make their home.

SethIowa doesn’t get any prettier than the Skunk River was that day as intern Kate Sanocki and farmer leaders Craig Fleishman and Tim Smith would tell you. The water was clear and the bottom was rocky. Rumor has it that there are good smallmouth bass to be found here!

CraigTimKateParticipants were told to put their finds in insect collection receptacles (i.e. ice cube trays).

TrayJakeJim Gillespie, Director of IDALS-Division of Soil Conservation and Water Quality, was heard to comment that he hadn’t done something like this since he was in college — that was a long time ago!

MattJimAfter about 45 minutes, it was with big smiles that the group left the river with their finds. Their job was not yet done.

SteveHTom put them to work identifying the insects using tools from IOWATER.

InsectIDThe group was happy to learn that they found macroinvertebrates such as caddisfly and stonefly that are pollution intolerant. Their presence suggested that this section of the South Skunk River is fairly healthy.

RickNathanThe crawdads they found belong in the “somewhat pollution tolerant” category. Tom pointed out that they make good smallmouth bass bait.

CrawdadsThis damselfly was as curious about us as we were about her. Damselflies belong to the somewhat pollution tolerant group and are good to find at our rivers, lakes, and wetlands.

DamselflyTom told the group that the health of a stream or river fluctuates by season and rainfall. During times of drought and floods, life on the river can be stressed. The Iowa DNR has put a lot of resources into making the Skunk River a healthier body of water.

While the group would have been content to stay at this beautiful stretch of the South Skunk River for the day, we headed on to our next stop at one of the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) wetlands where Dr. Matt Helmers discussed the use of these wetlands as part of our new Conservation Learning Labs project (stay tuned to the blog for further information).

WetlandWe ended at the site of the very first saturated buffer in Iowa (possibly the world) along Bear Creek. Here the group asked Tom many detailed questions about how the buffers worked.

SaturatedBufferAll in all, the group had fun and asked great questions at every stop of the field day. The participants went away with a better understanding of river ecosystems and its relationship to our land management choices. Everyone returned to Ames grateful for the quality time spent near (and in) an Iowa river!

Jacqueline Comito

 

 

Want to be a facilitator for the Master River Stewards Program?

Master River Stewards ProgramIowa Rivers Revival (IRR), a non-profit statewide river advocacy and education organization, is looking for a few dynamic river-loving facilitators for their Master River Stewards Program (MRSP). If you and/or your organization or agency are interested in teaming with IRR to provide MRSP workshops to adults in your area, consider applying to attend the MRSP Train the Facilitator training on March 30 and 31, 2016, at the Fire Station in Webster City.

About the Program

The Master River Stewards Program is an adult education program created and piloted by IRR with funding from a REAP-CEP grant and other donors.

MRSP brings 32 hours of instruction to Iowans on:

  • Watersheds,
  • River and stream dynamics,
  • River and riparian habitats and wildlife,
  • River paddling and navigation,
  • River chemistry and water monitoring,
  • River and stream restoration and stewardship, and
  • Policies related to protecting river and stream water quality.

Additional coursework includes group projects conducted by participants and a follow-up project-reporting meeting.

The aim of MRSP is to engage and educate Iowans about a broad range of river issues, and to create a citizenry that is knowledgeable and will advocate for Iowa rivers so that current and future generations can enjoy these important natural resources.

Should you be accepted, IRR will provide:

  • Facilitator training
  • All written materials for the course (books and thumb drives)
  • Evaluations, reporting forms, and other course templates
  • MRSP certificates and patches for participants
  • MRSP mentoring and course follow-up by IRR

MRSP facilitator applicants must:

  • Have an in-depth understanding of one or more aspects of the curriculum,
  • Be well-organized and have experience in educating and communicating with adults, and
  • Have the ability to serve as a positive listener and catalyst in discussion of issues related to rivers and streams.

IRR_Canoe

How to apply

IRR will accept up to 20 people for this facilitator training. To apply, send the following information by January 16, 2015 to Roz Lehman, IRR Executive Director, P.O. Box 72, Des Moines, IA 50301 (or via email at rlehman@iowarivers.org). Applications may not exceed 4 pages in length.

Please include all of the following:

  • Name, complete address, phone, email
  • Organization/Agency represented (if applicable)
  • County and watershed
  • Why do you want to be an MRSP facilitator?
  • What is your experience in working with adults?
  • What is your knowledge and training (including any degrees) in one or more of the MRSP curriculum areas?
  • Please give an example of an event or course you have helped organize.
  • What can you and your organization or agency bring to the MRSP?

Those accepted for this training must be willing to commit to:

  • Offering 2 MRSP workshops over the next 3 years utilizing IRR’s course materials and curriculum
  • Report regularly to the IRR MRSP Coordinator, including photos, evaluation summaries, and project reports from each MRSP offering; and
  • A fee of $50 per participant to IRR to cover course books, thumb-drives with course materials, and other program-related costs.

IRR

About Iowa Rivers Revival

Iowa Rivers Revival is a non-profit statewide leader in river education and advocacy and is committed to protecting some our most precious natural resources — our rivers and streams. IRR works to engage individuals, organizations, communities, and government leaders in river awareness, responsibility, and enjoyment in an effort to improve and enhance the condition of Iowa waterways — ensuring a quality, safe, and lasting resource for future generations. For more information, go to http://www.iowarivers.org.

Iowa Rivers Revival, P.O. Box 72, Des Moines, Iowa 50301

http://www.iowarivers.orgrlehman@iowarivers.org • (515) 724-4093

 

Liz Juchems

River Stewardship Featured in Blank Park Zoo Speaker Series

The 2016 Blank Park Zoo Speaker Series The Change Makers will highlight conservation efforts both internationally and locally.  The April 7th event features Dr. Jim Pease, a local Iowan, sharing his experiences with the Master River Stewards Program and the Iowa Water Trails program.

There are two opportunities to attend – either as a school group (see details below) or as the general public (see flyer).

Special Student Opportunity

Teachers, educators, and mentors: Give your students the unforgettable opportunity to meet these wildlife visionaries! There will be an extended Q&A session and the presentations will be catered to help your students channel their passions and find out how they can pursue careers that incites positive change!

The teacher who brings the largest group of students to the entire series will be awarded a Behind the Scenes tour for their students at Blank Park Zoo (some restrictions apply)!

TICKETS

$7 per event, $16 for series (with valid student or teacher ID)

3:45-4:00 PM Refreshments

4:00 PM Presentation and Q&A

All events will be held at Blank Park Zoo | 7401 SW 9th Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50315

Space is limited and often sell out before the end of January, so contact the Blank Park Zoo to reserve your spot today!

 –Liz Juchems

ILF Webinar Recap: talking Rivers and River Restoration!

Did you miss our latest webinar? Good news: all the Iowa Learning Farms webinars are available to watch (or to re-watch) here.

The latest webinar was a great one!  Rosalyn Lehman of Iowa Rivers Revival and the Iowa DNR’s River Programs Coordinator Nate Hoogeveen discuss rivers and river restoration.

Rosalyn and Nate are full of interesting information and bring with them photographs that do a fantastic job depicting the conditions and practices that Rosalyn and Nate describe.  By the end of this webinar, you’ll feel like you’ve traveled quite a few waterways and gained a vivid understanding of the challenges facing our rivers as well as the effort involved in restoring them.Interstate 94 Protection- After

Watch Rosalyn and Nate today! Any other webinars you missed? Take a look at the archive and see what you might be missing.

-Ben Schrag