New DNR Watershed Positions – Apply Today

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) just announced two new DNR watershed positions for which they are now accepting applications. These positions are to support the Black Hawk Lake and Dry Run Creek Section 319 Watershed Projects PLUS to support source water protection planning and implementation work in adjacent counties surrounding the project locations.


Sac County Job Opportunity:

Position: Environmental Specialist  – Water Quality Bureau

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has a job vacancy for an Environmental Specialist position, within the Watershed Improvement Section of the Water Quality Bureau located in Sac City, IA. This position is responsible for: serving as Watershed Project Coordinator, responsible for planning and implementing water quality improvement project activities, providing technical assistance, and communicating with other project coordinators and stakeholders. 

Job Number:       21-01034
Location:             Environmental Services Division, Water Quality Bureau, Sac City, IA 
Hours:                 M-F, 8 am – 4:30 pm, with some travel and evenings and overnight stays.
Closing Date:      November 9, 2020 – 11:59 p.m. 

For specific job duties, requirements, and application information, visit: Sac County Position


Black Hawk County Job Opportunity:

Position: Environmental Specialist  – Water Quality Bureau

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has a job vacancy for an Environmental Specialist position, within the Watershed Improvement Section of the Water Quality Bureau located in Waterloo, IA. This position is responsible for: serving as Watershed Project Coordinator, responsible for planning and implementing water quality improvement project activities, providing technical assistance, and communicating with other project coordinators and stakeholders.  

Job Number:       21-01033
Location:             Environmental Services Division, Water Quality Bureau, Waterloo, IA 
Hours:                 M-F, 8 am – 4:30 pm, with some travel and evenings and overnight stays.
Closing Date:      November 9, 2020 – 11:59 p.m. 

For specific job duties, requirements, and application information, visit: Black Hawk County Position


Questions can be directed to Allen Bonini, Supervisor, Watershed Improvement Section: allen.bonini@dnr.iowa.gov or 515-725-8392

The Halo Effect: Do Short-Term Watershed Project Successes Lead to Long-Term Continued Successes?

Our webinar on Wednesday focused on a project that assessed the long-term continued success of three different voluntary watershed management approaches.

Jamie Benning and Dr. Jacqueline Comito, both with Conservation Learning Group, shared an overview of the project and discussed how the short-term and long-term success of watershed management projects can be assessed. For the project three watersheds where different watershed management projects have been implemented were compared to nearby watersheds that have not had recent watershed management projects.

Slide from Benning & Comito’s presentation showing their criteria for short-term success
Slide from Benning & Comito’s presentation showing their criteria for long-term success

In the summer of 2018, Benning and Comito conducted listening sessions with farmers and landowners in the three watersheds with watershed management projects. During 2019, they surveyed farmers and landowners in the watersheds, and compared each watershed to a nearby, similar watershed. The comparison was done both in terms of resources that farmers and landowners can access and land characteristics.

Their assessment of the success of the watershed projects showed that although the projects had a degree of short-term success, that this did not necessarily translate to long-term success.

The halo effect and watershed projects, slide from Benning & Comito’s presentation

Benning and Comito then asked the webinar participants to consider if it’s possible to build a better watershed project, one that supports both short-term and long-term success. To learn more about this research project, watch the full webinar here!

Join us on Wednesday, October 21 for the webinar “Sustainable Weed Management Solutions for Iowa Corn and Soybean” with Prashant Jha, associate professor and extension weed specialist at ISU.

Hilary Pierce

October 14 Webinar: The Halo Effect: Do Short-Term Watershed Project Successes Lead to Long-Term Continued Successes?

A project that assessed the long-term continued success of three different voluntary watershed management approaches is the topic of the Iowa Learning Farms webinar scheduled for noon on Wednesday, October 14.

Jacqueline Comito

This project, funded by the Iowa Nutrient Research Center, looked at differences in structural practice adoption and through quantitative analysis of practices in the watershed and qualitative assessment of farmers’ attitudes and behaviors toward water quality, conservation and participation in watershed projects.

In order to assess the effectiveness of the three different voluntary watershed management approaches, the team evaluated three sets of comparison HUC 12 watersheds, three HUC 12 watersheds where different watershed projects have been implemented and three nearby HUC 12 watersheds that have not had recent watershed projects.

Jamie Benning

Through mailed surveys and listening sessions, Jamie Benning and Dr. Jacqueline Comito, both with Conservation Learning Group, listened to farmers and landowners in the three watersheds about their current farming practices. Do these watersheds who were successful in the short-term benefit from a “halo effect” in the long-term? Benning and Comito will also discuss recommendations to improve water quality improvement efforts in Iowa.

Conservation Learning Group is a collaborative team to advance training, outreach, and research across land uses and production systems to increase overall sustainability of agricultural and natural systems for multiple generations to come.

To participate in the live webinar, shortly before 12:00 pm CDT on October 14:

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

June 3 Webinar: A Paired Watershed Study of the Impact of Stacked BMPs on Water Quality

Iowa Learning Farms will host a webinar on Wednesday, June 3 at noon about the results of a long-term catchment-scale monitoring project in the Black Hawk Lake watershed.

The long-term monitoring project collected flow and water quality data from paired catchments, one of which has a higher level of best management practice (BMP) implementation. Michelle Soupir, Associate Professor at Iowa State University, will share the results of the project during this webinar. The catchment with a higher level of erosion control practices and nutrient management plans had lower total phosphorus and total suspended solids loads, but not dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP).

“This research is providing information on setting realistic expectations for nutrient reductions from stacked practices at the catchment scale,” said Soupir, whose research program is focused on soil and water quality, nonpoint source pollution control, watershed management, and water quality monitoring. The results of this project show that even in watersheds with high levels of BMP implementation, practices designed to target DRP are needed.

To participate in the live webinar, shortly before 12:00 pm CDT on June 3:

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

Getting Conservation in the Hands of Local Citizens

Our newest episode of the Conservation Chat podcast, A Passion for Prairies, features Prairie Rivers of Iowa’s David Stein. He is truly passionate about helping people learn more about their local ecology through on-the-ground outreach across central Iowa. Enthusiastic may be an understatement when it comes to Stein’s zeal and motivation to provide a personal, education-minded, place-based approach to conservation on working lands!

As a Watershed Program Coordinator with the non-profit (former RC&D) Prairie Rivers of Iowa, Stein holds a unique position in that the area he serves here in the heart of Iowa is at the direct interface of urban areas and prime agricultural land. That presents both unique opportunities and challenges when it comes to water quality, soil health, and facilitating corridors of habitat for wildlife.

Stein is particularly passionate about native prairie establishment, and its benefits to reduce runoff, improve water quality, build soil health, and provide habitat/food resources to many species of wildlife. Tune in to the Conservation Chat to hear about Prairie Rivers of Iowa’s targeted efforts to establish corridors of habitat, creating uninterrupted flyways between publicly-owned and privately-owned lands.

Photographs by Prairie Rivers of Iowa

Interested in doing some native landscaping, establishing a pollinator garden, or other native plantings on your land?  Look no farther that Prairie Rivers of Iowa’s Native Plant Seed Bank! Tune in to the podcast to learn more about this awesome new initiative, the brainchild of Stein (and his proudest accomplishment on the job thus far). The seed bank is currently offering 10 different species of native plants (flowers and grasses), and they are accepting deposits of native seed, as well—an incredible conservation resource for central Iowa.

Catch this episode and all previous podcast episodes on the Conservation Chat website and through iTunes.

Ann Staudt

 

An Experience in Learning

When asked to describe my time as an intern with Water Rocks! and Iowa Learning Farms, the first thing that comes to mind is that it’s been a learning experience.  I’ve learned a lot about myself and my specific interests within environmental sustainability and natural resource conservation.  But with a bit more thought, I think it’s more appropriate to call it an experience in learning.

Everybody has different preferences for learning new things.  There’s visual learners and auditory learners, those who learn by observing and those who learn by doing.  

One of my favorite things about Water Rocks! and Iowa Learning Farms is that these organizations cater to a variety of different learning preferences.  The Water Rocks! music videos help to spread the message of conservation to young audiences by providing fun and catchy sing-along opportunities that kids can enjoy at any hour of the day.  The classroom visits and assemblies provide a unique opportunity for students to learn by watching and listening to our educational materials, and then applying their newfound knowledge through trivia questions and team games.

The team’s Conservation Station Fleet is able to reach both urban and rural audiences with our three trailers, which feature examples of ways that any audience member could improve water quality.  With our rainfall simulators, we can show the impacts of various tillage practices on water drainage and quality.  Our on-the-edge trailer shows how two of the newest edge-of-field practices work (bioreactors and saturated buffers).  Lastly, our Enviroscape and poo toss games help us to show kids of all ages what they can do to improve the quality of their neighborhoods and watersheds.  

The past few weeks with Water Rocks! and Iowa Learning Farms have helped me to see that the best way for me to learn is by teaching others.  But that task can’t be done alone – it requires a team of passionate individuals to work together in order to spread our message across the state of Iowa.

Working with a cohort of seven other interns (in addition to all of the full-time staff members) has been a rewarding and interesting experience.  From watching a saturated buffer installation in eastern Iowa to digging a fellow intern out of a mucky mess, I can confidently say that no two days on the job have been the same!

And with each new day, I learn new things about myself, my teammates, and what we can do to improve the quality of the world we live in.  Above all, I’ve learned that it takes a strong team to be able to go out and teach the public about our initiatives.  I’m thankful for all that I’ve learned so far this summer and am excited to continue to add more knowledge as I approach the last month of this internship!

Becca Wiarda is participating in the 2019 Water Resources Internship Program at Iowa State University.  Wiarda grew up near Ackley and is a senior in Agricultural Business and Finance with minors in sustainability and agronomy.

The Iowa Watershed Academy

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Jamie Benning | Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Water Quality Program Manager

Watershed coordinators are key players in improving water quality in Iowa by providing farmers and landowners technical and financial assistance to implement soil health and water quality improvement practices on their land.  Prior to the initiation of the Iowa Watershed Academy by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach (ISUEO), there were no comprehensive training events focused to develop the skills and technical knowledge of watershed coordinators in the state.

To better understand the skill areas, topics, subtopics, resource needs, and format of a comprehensive training, ISUEO facilitated a roundtable discussion in December 2014. The group included state and federal agency, agricultural, conservation, and environmental organization representatives. In early 2015, watershed coordinators provided feedback on the topics and subtopics generated at the roundtable and were asked to rank them in order of their needs and interests.

Through this needs assessment process and a successful grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and North Central SARE, the first academy was held in May 2016.  With continued funding from NRCS, NC SARE, and sponsorships and in-kind contributions from Soil and Water Conservation Society, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Conservation Learning Group and the Iowa Watershed Approach projects, two Watershed Academy sessions have been held each year.  A highlight of topics addressed through interactive and hands on training during the seven academies include cover crop management, conservation sales strategies, grant writing, preparing for media interviews, project management, water monitoring, wildlife habitat value of conservation and water quality practices, managing pasture for improved water quality

The spring 2019 Iowa Watershed Academy training event was held May 14-15, at the ISU Field Extension Education Lab farm near Boone. This event featured nitrogen management and nitrogen application decision tools, manure management and manure application distribution and calibration methods, reaching women and non-operator landowners, and successful methods and tools for field day and event outreach.

“It’s beneficial to have trainings like this so we can meet with other coordinators and exchange struggles and ideas.”

Pre and post self-assessments are used to evaluate change in knowledge and self-efficacy after each academy, selecting a level of knowledge from 1- minimal knowledge of the indicator and not confident of their skills related to the topic to 4-exemplary indicating a high level of knowledge and confidence applying the skills in the topic area.  On average, the coordinators have identified their pre-academy skills in the needs improvement category, and after the academy, their skills improve to the proficient category.

2019 Spring Watershed Academy 4

“You got my mind thinking of other ways to really look at my watershed and maybe expand my focus area.”

Qualitative questions have also indicated that the watershed coordinators value the Iowa Watershed Academy, particularly with sessions that include hands-on in-field training.  Coordinators indicate that they would recommend that the training continue and the two event per year format held at locations that provide hands-on learning opportunities, time to dig in to important topics through dialogue with the speakers and other coordinators.

“Overall, an amazing training opportunity”

The Watershed Academy will continue each spring and fall and has already begun to address specialized skills and topics including the Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework and Reach Middle Adopters with partners from Iowa and the North Central Region.  To stay up to date on future Iowa Watershed Academy events, contact Jamie Benning  to join the mailing list.

Jamie Benning

Conservation Stations Crisscross Iowa to Deliver Conservation Messages

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If you’ve been to an Iowa county fair or attended a field day covering water quality, conservation, cover crops, edge of field practices or a range of other topics, there’s a good chance you’ve seen or even visited a Conservation Station operated by Water Rocks! and Iowa Learning Farms. Last summer we hit the milestone of attending all 100 county fairs in Iowa – (yes 100, Pottawattamie County holds two.) They also make appearances at community events, farmer’s markets and other settings.

The Conservation Stations are traveling resource centers and classrooms, staffed by the ILF and Water Rocks! team members and interns, providing water quality and conservation outreach activities built on a foundation of science, research and best practices.

Rain, Rain, Don’t Wash our Soil Away

The idea for the first Conservation Station was germinated in the early years of ILF – which is celebrating 15 years in 2019. The precursor was a trailer equipped with a simple rainfall simulator for demonstrating soil erosion. It was a good start, but frankly, it was a limited demonstration and the team quickly realized that they needed a more sophisticated rainfall simulator. In addition, ILF saw the potential to expand its impact by providing a broad canvas for education through visual, interactive and multimedia displays.

“We were awarded funding to purchase and develop a larger trailer and knew how to make a better rainfall simulator,” said Jacqueline Comito, executive director of Water Rocks! and ILF program director. “We just didn’t know how to realize our vision of a traveling and flexible unit. Ann Staudt joined the team to help us, and with her fresh ideas and creativity the Conservation Station was born.”

The trailer, dubbed the Big Conservation Station, allowed space for an improved rainfall simulator as well as a walk-through learning lab. Inside the learning lab, visual and multimedia presentations are designed to engage audiences in conversations and to elicit questions about conservation practices. The learning lab was updated in 2018 to incorporate mixed-media artwork and enhanced messaging with the purpose of eliciting visitors’ hopes for Iowa.

conservationstation_trailer

ILF faculty adviser Matt Helmers developed the new rainfall simulator which more accurately models both surface runoff and subsurface flow or drainage in tiled environments and uses soil blocks extracted from field environments to best parallel actual soil conditions in Iowa fields.

“The complexity of the new rainfall simulator was a challenge, but it also enabled us to tell a much more realistic story that farmers in Iowa could relate to,” noted Staudt.

img_2012.jpgA smaller trailer referred to as Conservation Station 3 was built specifically for outdoor classrooms and other youth activities. Along with a rainfall simulator, it is also equipped with the space to carry enough tables and chairs for students as well as a full complement of displays and activities resources.

Edge of Field Practice Demonstrations Expand Education Opportunities

InCSOTE-01 2018, the original rainfall simulator trailer (which we called the Lil’ CS) was redesigned to become the Conservation Station on the Edge, addressing best practices for nutrient runoff mitigation at the edge of tile-drained fields. Equipped with working saturated buffer and bioreactor models, this trailer takes the story of field runoff to a deeper level. The demonstration stations allow the audience to see what happens within structures –that when implemented in a field are completely underground and out of sight.

Each Conservation Station includes interactive demonstrations that appeal to all backgrounds, ages and walks of life. Games such as the Poo Toss tend to appeal to youngsters but provide tangible lessons about waste runoff that pertains to everyone –whether they live on a farm or in a city. The Watershed Game is another highly visual interactive game that helps make the concepts of a watershed and how pollution moves with water easy to grasp.

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“The Conservation Stations are filling a tremendous need by providing easy-to-understand information about water quality, conservation, agricultural best practices, and other topics of importance to all Iowans,” concluded Staudt. “We intend to continue to share this knowledge as frequently and in as many venues as we can.”

Find out where to see a Conservation Station near you!

The Conservation Stations are used April through October. Click here for the schedule of appearances or to request a visit. In most circumstances, a Conservation Station can join an event at no cost, due to the generous funding received from our partners.

Liz Juchems

February 20 Webinar: Farmed Prairie Potholes – Consequences & Management Options

ILFHeader(15-year)On Wednesday, February 20th at noon Iowa Learning Farms will host a webinar with Dr. Amy Kaleita, Professor of Agricultural & Biosystems Engineering at Iowa State University about the consequences of farming prairie potholes and management options for these common Iowa landscape features.

feb webinar potholeskyIn Iowa, many of the features known as prairie potholes are actively farmed. Because of their position in the landscape and their topographic and soils characteristics, prairie potholes flood frequently after rain events, even with artificial drainage. Kaleita will explain this flooding behavior, and the effects it has on crops and watersheds. She will also discuss options for managing these features to decrease the frequency of negative impacts.

“Some research has shown that farmed prairie potholes lose money more often than they make a profit. Because they also have significant environmental impacts, conservation-minded management of these features may provide benefits at a lower cost than changes in more productive parts of the field,” said Kaleita, whose research on precision conservation focuses on how to use publicly available or low-cost data to improve conservation decision-making within production agriculture.

Don’t miss this webinar!
DATE: Wednesday, February 20, 2019
TIME: 12:00 p.m.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE: www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars and click the link to join the webinar

More information about this webinar is available at our website. If you can’t watch the webinar live, an archived version will be available on our website:
https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars.

Hilary Pierce

We All Live in a Watershed

Today’s guest blog post is provided by Joshua Harms, part of the Iowa AmeriCorps 4-H Outreach program, serving with Water Rocks! in 2018-19.

The work that the Water Rocks! crew performs is truly amazing. Traveling to schools and teaching young students about ways to protect our natural resources is such a great thing.  Every single one of our modules is on a different topic of conservation. Over the next several months, I’ll be sharing some insight into the different modules that we teach to our target audience of upper elementary and middle school students, to give you a behind the scenes look into how our classroom outreach programs roll!

Our best module is our watershed presentation. We start off with introductions and a trivia/evaluation question, then we get right into it by explaining the definition of natural resources. After we have explained the definition, we ask the students to give some examples of different natural resources. When that is complete, we introduce our major word of the day which is watershed.

We usually ask the students if any of them know what a watershed is. We then show them the definition and break it down in a couple different ways. First we have them cup their hand in front of them and we explain that the crease in the palm of their hand is a river, and their hand around it represents the land making up the watershed. We then have them “make it rain” on their hand/watershed and we ask them where all the water sheds off to. Another way to explain watersheds is with the concept of a cereal bowl and how the milk always flows to the bottom.

Next we show the students that watersheds come in many different sizes. After that we show them a map of the US which contains the 4th largest watershed in the world by the name of the Mississippi River Watershed. This map helps the students see how all our waterways are connected and that everything we do on the land eventually affects our water. This concept is the main thing we are trying to get the students to understand.

At this point we allow for the students to be creative with our game called We All Live In A Watershed! We give students a piece of riverfront property and an imaginary $5 million to build whatever they would like on their piece of land. When the students have completed their drawings, we go through a tour of the watershed and see what everyone had drawn. We continue on to then show them what the river water might have looked like in Iowa approximately 200 years earlier, and that our landscape was much different, primarily covered with tallgrass prairie.

Fast forward back to today. We then discuss with students pollutants that could get carried into the water, such as trash, soil, chemicals, oil, and dog poop. We then start the second part of the game which involves the students picking the most prominent pollutant coming off of their piece of land. They then come up to the front and we give them a cup of water with our biodegradable example of the pollutant. After everyone has acquired their cup of water, we have the students one by one pour their cups into the jar representing the river, demonstrating that all of the water drains to one common point in a watershed, and to show how all the pollution has really affected our water. We then talk with the students about some of the different things they could do to help the current water situation – we’re all in this together and it’s really encouraging to hear their ideas of ways to keep the land and water around them healthy!

We close with the same trivia/evaluation question that we asked in the beginning in order to gauge students’ change in comprehension after just a short 45-minute presentation. From our Water Rocks! 2017-18 School Visits Evaluation Report, 36% of students could correctly define a watershed prior to our classroom presentation. After our Water Rocks! lesson, 95% of students could correctly define a watershed.

Joshua Harms