Guest Blog: Fair Eats

Our final summer guest blog post comes from high school intern Josh Harms, who will be a senior at South Hamilton this fall. Take it away, Josh!

Hello, my name is Josh Harms. I am a high school intern with Iowa State’s Water Rocks! program this summer. While I have been traveling across the state of Iowa to many different county fairs, I have had the privilege of experiencing a diversity of fair food, everything from the basic corndog to the amazing tacos and black raspberry ice cream at the Wright Co. Fair. I also tried pulled pork nachos at Badger Fest, fried cheese balls at the Central Iowa Fair, a pork tenderloin at the Washington Co. Fair, and a mango smoothie followed by mini donuts at the Cherokee Co. Fair.

Throughout all the fairs I have attended, the Wright Co. Fair had the best food by far, but I guess that could just be my bias towards tacos and ice cream, especially black raspberry! After eating all these different foods, I still enjoy all the unique foods that Iowa’s fairs have to offer, but I think I maxed out my capacity for fried foods when I had chicken tenders, fried cheese balls, and a funnel cake all in the same trip!

As my internship is coming to a close, I have really enjoyed the county fairs and camps I’ve been to, and I have also learned a lot about the environment in Iowa. One thing that is really memorable is that one gram of dog poo has 23 million bacteria. Also, sediment is the #1 pollutant in Iowa. Actually, in Iowa, we lose 1 inch of topsoil every 20 years and we gain that 1 inch back in 500-1000 years. Overall, I have enjoyed working with the other interns along with traveling to all the different fairs across the state of Iowa. I would also like to thank the staff at Iowa State University for this wonderful internship opportunity!

Josh Harms

Internship offers new perspectives, new direction

Today’s guest post in our Water Resources Internship blog series was provided by Andrew Hillman. Hillman grew up in Bettendorf, Iowa, and went to school at Pleasant Valley. He will be entering his junior year at ISU in the fall, majoring in Biosystems Engineering. Read on for his unique perspectives in the internship coming from an urban background!  

It has been a fun, wild ride in a way for me this summer. Coming from a completely urban background in the Quad Cities and starting this internship, I had little to no idea about any of these issues, or really anything about agriculture at all to be honest. But, from the pre-job training to all the experiences I have had this summer, from field work to outreach events, I have learned quite a bit. I never thought before this summer that I would ever be excited to go out and see things like bioreactors and restored oxbows, but here I am!

I have always been somewhat informed about environmental issues, but the thing that I have enjoyed the most about this summer is that I now have more nuanced and informed opinions about issues. And I can actually draw on my own experiences now, which is very neat. I knew that erosion and nutrient loss and runoff were environmental issues on the forefront in Iowa, but now is the first time that I can say that I feel personally connected to these issues, which is always something I felt that as an Iowan I should be doing, but never knew enough about.

Going to Iowa State University for Biosystems Engineering, I quickly was exposed to how little I knew about agriculture in Iowa, and so this summer has helped me fill a gap in my knowledge that was fairly noticeable compared to some of my peers. Now that I have experience going out to a field, seeing cover crops and collecting water samples, some of the things we talked about in my ABE classes are suddenly much clearer to me now that I have the context.

Something specific that I did in my ABE 218 course was build a table-scale system for reducing nitrate levels in water. Now that I have seen an actual bioreactor site, and presented the model bioreactor that Extension has, I have a greater appreciation for that project and the things that I learned while doing it. I even had the opportunity to work with Chase, one of the other interns, to come up with a preliminary design of our own for a model bioreactor to possibly be placed in one of our conservation trailers in the future. Edge-of-field practices like bioreactors are really fascinating to me.

Back on July 12, I had the opportunity to go to my home county for a Scott County soil health and cover crops field day. This was a great event for me, because growing up in Bettendorf, I really did not associate Scott Co. with much farming compared to the other places I had been in Iowa. It was interesting to see all the things that farmers in my area were doing to further soil and water quality goals.

The host location, Cinnamon Ridge Farms in Donahue, Iowa was amazing. It was eye-opening to hear the owner talk about all the strategies he was using, including his methods for integrating cover crops into his operation. Because their operation does tours year-round, including tours to farmers from all around the world, he had a unique perspective on many of the government cost share programs that are available to farmers, noting that there are not very many countries in which the government will pay you to adopt a farming practice. I think that this is very important, and one that people should keep in mind as Iowa communities look to adopt more parts of the Nutrient Reduction Strategy in the future.

I am currently in the Biorenewables option right now in Biological Systems Engineering, but after my experiences this summer with the Iowa Learning Farms, I am seriously considering switching my option so I can continue to learn more about the issues that I have been exposed to this summer! As an engineering student, this is where I can see so many opportunities to get involved after graduation.

Andrew Hillman

Meet Our 2017 Water Resources Interns!

We are happy to introduce a great crew of interns this year! You can catch our interns out this summer at county fairs, farmers markets, field days and festivals across the great state of Iowa as they travel with our fleet of Conservation Station trailers. Our interns will also play a large role in field work and data collection for research projects with Iowa State University Extension’s Iowa Learning Farms program and Iowa State’s Ag Water Management research group.

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Pictured above from left to right:

Elizabeth Schwab, hailing all the way from Levittown, Pennsylvania, is double majoring in Agronomy and Environmental Science at Iowa State. Elizabeth will begin her senior year this fall.

Chase Bethany, representing northeast Iowa, grew up in Chickasaw County in New Hampton. Chase is studying Agricultural Engineering (Power and Machinery Option) with a minor in business at Iowa State and will be a junior this fall.

Kaleb Baber represents the great state of Missouri. Kaleb grew up in Weston, Missouri, and headed north to pursue a degree in Agronomy at Iowa State. Kaleb will be a junior this fall.

Andrew Hillman hails from eastern Iowa and is a native of Bettendorf. Andrew is studying Biological Systems Engineering at Iowa State and will begin his junior year this fall.

Laura Lacquement, originally from Martensdale, Iowa, in Warren County, is studying Environmental Science and heading into her senior year this fall.

We are happy to have our interns on board! Come meet them at a community event near you. Keep your eyes peeled on the blog and on our program social media pages as our interns author guest blogs, talk about their experiences and share what they think is important about water quality, conservation and our natural resources.

Iowa Learning Farms: Follow Iowa Learning Farms on Facebook and Twitter!
Water Rocks!: Follow Water Rocks! on Facebook and Twitter!

Julie Whitson

Happy World Water Day!

Today is World Water Day! Each year, World Water Day gives us an opportunity to learn more about water and how we can improve our water quality and conserve the water we have throughout the world. This year’s theme focuses on wastewater, and specifically, how we can reduce and reuse wastewater.

In cities and towns throughout Iowa, we are fortunate to have wastewater treatment plants that exist for one sole purpose: to treat the water that we send down the drain when we take showers, wash our dishes, brush our teeth and flush our toilets. The water we use for those purposes goes down the drain and to your local wastewater treatment plant, where it is treated and then released to a nearby water body in accordance with state  and federal permitting processes. In fact, wastewater treatment facilities are so important to clean water that we created a song, “Salute to Wastewater,” that is perfect for this year’s World Water Day.

At Iowa Learning Farms, it’s our job every day to think about water. I’m sure many of you also think about water as part of your job, your health and how water might impact your future and even your children’s future. For World Water Day, I challenge you to think about how you use water in a day. Think about your daily habits, and then change one habit at home for a week. Remember, regardless of where you live in the state or country, we’re all connected through our water resources!

Julie Whitson

Second Year Perspectives: Back for Round II

NOTE: You’ve been meeting our great group of college interns through their guest blog posts these past couple weeks, but it’s time now that we show some love to our outstanding high school interns, as well!  Kicking things off is Jessica Rehmann, a 2016 Ames High School graduate who is back for her second year in the high school water resources internship program.

My name is Jessica Rehmann, and I have come back to intern with Water Rocks! and Iowa Learning Farms for a second year. I just graduated from Ames High School, and I will be a freshman at Washington University in St. Louis in the fall.

MeetTheInterns-JessicaLast year, I enjoyed my experience with the internship, and I appreciated the variety of tasks, including field research and outreach. I learned a lot about conservation practices and farming methods, and I saw them in use when I worked in the fields collecting data for research. At outreach events, I learned how to effectively communicate field research results and conservation practices to the public.

Soybeans flowering in the field, June 2016

Soybeans flowering in the field, June 2016

Because I have grown up in a suburban environment, I had little prior knowledge of anything related to farming before the internship. Now I can have educated discussions on conservation practices. I decided to do the internship again this year because I wanted to continue working on research projects from last year, doing more outreach with the community, and learning more about conservation and sustainable farming practices.

As I did last year, I have counted earthworm middens in the fields. This year the counting was easier and faster because I knew better what I was looking for in each plot!

Counting earthworm middens in cover crop strips at the ISU Boyd Farm earlier in June.

Counting earthworm middens in cover crop strips at the ISU Boyd Farm earlier in June.

I have also collected water samples from lysimeters in the field. The last time I went, the field had just had a large rainfall, so the lysimeters were very full. I am excited to learn how to analyze data from the lysimeters.

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Tools of the trade for collecting water samples from the suction lysimeters.

 

The internship has also involved two of the extracurricular activities I enjoy the most: music and art. Last year, one of my favorite parts of the internship was getting to play saxophone in the recording studio for two of the tracks on the new children’s music CD Trees, Bees, and More Nature Songs for Water Rocks! I liked the opportunity to tie my work and music together. I also saw how an analog recording studio works, which was a neat experience.

Jessica-07f

Recording at Junior’s Motel Recording Studio, near Otho, last year.

This year, I have a new creative side to the internship: I am helping to redesign the website for the Conservation Pack and helping to write an interactive “Letters to the Conservation Pack” activity for kids.

I am also excited for the fair season to reach full swing! My first event was recently working in the Keosauqua Farmers Market, and in the upcoming weeks, I will attend more county fairs.

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Leading the hands-on Enviroscape activity (aka Watershed Game) at the Dallas Co. Fair last summer (TOP) and the Keosauqua Farmers Market this year (BOTTOM).

My experiences with this internship and my love of hiking and the outdoors have made me want to study environmental science in college. In the fall I will be taking a class on Missouri’s natural heritage, which will cover environmental science and more. Because sustainable practices are important and relevant–especially in the Midwest–I am interested in their technical foundations and the social and political aspects of implementing them. I am excited to see where the rest of the internship this summer will take me!

Jessica Rehmann

Meet Our Interns!

We have a fabulous crew of interns in the Iowa Learning Farms/Water Rocks! water resources internship program this summer, so without further ado, we’d like to introduce our college student interns to you!

CollegeInterns-160525

Pictured above from left to right:

Nathan Waskel, originally from Altoona, IA, is studying Computer Science at ISU. He has been working with Dr. Helmers and the STRIPs team for a year-plus, and will be helping out with Iowa Learning Farms/Water Rocks! outreach this summer in addition.

Megan Koppenhafer, a native of Williamsburg, IA, is double majoring in Environmental Science and Community and Regional Planning at ISU. We are thrilled to have Megan back with our program for a second summer, serving as our student/staff liaison!

Hannah Corey is originally from Lake City, IA, and is double majoring in Agronomy and Environmental Science at ISU.

Sam Phillips hails from Manchester, IA, and he is studying Agricultural Engineering (Land & Water Resources Option) at ISU.

Kate Sanocki represents the great state of Wisconsin! Growing up in Hudson, WI, Kate headed south to ISU to pursue a degree in Biological Systems Engineering.

Amanda Marlin is originally from Dallas, IA, and is currently studying Agricultural Engineering (Land & Water Resources Option) at ISU. Amanda started working in Dr. Helmers’ lab during spring semester of this year.

There will be several chances to meet and interact with this great group of students as the summer goes on. They will be traveling to all corners of the state with our fleet of Conservation Station trailers as we visit county fairs, farmers markets, field days, festivals, camps, and more. Stay tuned to the blog, as well – starting next week, each intern will be sharing a guest blog post about their experiences over the course of the summer!

We also have four high school students that will be participating in the water resources internship program. They’ll be starting in June, so we’ll give them a shoutout in a few weeks when they’re officially on board.

Ann Staudt

Applications open for 2016 Water Resources Internship Program

It may be January, but we are already looking ahead to the summer months as we are actively in search of outstanding undergraduate students for our water resources summer internship program! Want to join Iowa Learning Farms and Water Rocks! for the summer? We are looking for students that are energetic, enthusiastic, hard workers, with interests in agriculture and the environment, especially soil health and water quality!

Internship-01

Internship-02Summary

The water resources internship program is based on campus at Iowa State University, but is not limited to ISU students – our program is open to undergraduate students from any institution across the country. In the past two summers, we’re worked with students from ISU, Hawkeye Community College, Grinnell College, Drake University, and the University of Georgia. This is a paid internship opportunity, with students having the opportunity to work up to 40 hours per week.

In the water resources internship program, each day is a new adventure!  Here’s a snapshot of how a water resources student intern might spend one week of their summer internship with us…

Internship-03(Mon)

Monday: Morning staff meeting, followed by trip to ISU Northern Research Farm at Kanawha to collect water samples from suction lysimeters in cover crop plots.

Internship-04(Tues)

Tuesday: Travel to a youth summer camp and help students learn all about soil + how to protect it.

Internship-05(Wed)

Wednesday: Another day in the field… counting earthworm middens in side-by-side plots with and without cover crops.

Internship-06(Thurs)

Thursday: Outreach Event…Travel with the Conservation Station to a county fair; teach the hands-on, interactive Watershed Game to fairgoers of all ages!

Internship-07(Fri)

Friday: Morning = soil processing in the lab, then help out with a new Water Rocks! video production in the afternoon!

Past participants in our internship program have gone on to such careers as project engineer, watershed coordinator, environmental educator, field research specialist, and USDA-FSA program technician, while others have pursued graduate school opportunities and even been accepted into the Peace Corps.

Internship-08(Testimonial)

 

Applications for the water resources internship program are open now through Monday, January 25.  Visit our 2016 Water Resources Internship Program page for additional details and application instructions!

Do you know an undergraduate student that would be a great fit? Send them our way – we are looking forward to a great year ahead!

Ann Staudt