Make a Suggestion for IWConf18

Recently, we announced the open call for presentations for the 2018 Iowa Water Conference. (There’s still time to submit your abstract – the deadline is September 4 at 11:59 p.m.!) We have had some great submissions thus far, and look forward to reviewing them with the Iowa Water Conference planning committee.

However, it occurred to us last week through some conversations at the Prairie Lakes Conference in Okoboji, IA that there may be a swath of good presentation suggestions sitting out there from people who wouldn’t want to volunteer other people (or themselves) without an invitation. While we ask for suggestions in the post-event evaluation, we historically have not actively solicited suggestions for speakers the rest of the year.

To solve this dilemma, we are introducing a new webform on the conference page on our website. Here, you can make suggestions of topics or speakers you’d like to see covered at the upcoming Iowa Water Conference. Keep in mind this is prime agenda developing season – we typically fill up the agenda by November 1 – so while we accept suggestions year-round, anything after the agenda is full will be considered for the following year.

Of course, you’re always welcome to chat with us as you see us out and about, or shoot an email directly to Happy suggesting!


2018 Iowa Water Conference – Call for Abstracts!

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Success in water-related work, whether it is out in the farm field, a backyard, or in city infrastructure, cannot be achieved alone. It is done by a community and for a community. With that in mind, the Iowa Water Conference Planning Committee is happy to announce the theme for the 2018 Iowa Water Conference: “Our Watershed, Our Community.” This theme was inspired by the large, complex network of water-related professionals in Iowa that support local watershed work.

We invite water professionals, researchers, and graduate students to submit presentation abstracts centered around the theme of community in water. Through these presentations, applications should share success stories, challenges, and research that supports a foundation of community at the watershed-level.

The call for presentations, including instructions for submission, can be found here. Questions can be directed to Hanna Bates at We look forward to learning about your watershed experience!

A Day at the Lake

Post submitted by Hanna Bates, Program Assistant at the Iowa Water Center

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Slideshow of the Iowa Water Center Board visit to the Iowa Lakeside Laboratory.

This week, the Iowa Water Center Advisory Board held their bi-annual meeting at the Iowa Lakeside Laboratory at Lake Okoboji in northwestern Iowa. The IWC advisory board started in 2006, and is made up of representatives from around the state (list of members provided below). This was the first meeting for several of our board members, so we covered IWC history to start off the meeting and spent time discussing current and upcoming IWC activities.  Staff members and the advisory board also visited the research field sites for Elizabeth Swanner, Assistant Professor in the Department of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences at Iowa State University.

Swanner’s research is funded by the Iowa Water Center’s competitive annual seed grant program. This grant program funds one faculty member at an Iowa college as well as graduate students. Swanner’s project titled, “The role of iron mobility from anoxic sediments in stimulating harmful algal blooms,” received funding in 2016 and renewed funding for 2017. During the visit, Swanner described the project and demonstrated how samples are collected during a pontoon boat ride. Her research is focused on evaluating the potential that iron is released out of lake sediments, thus stimulating the blooming of toxic cyanobacteria in Iowa’s lakes during the summers. You can read more about her research here.

Follow her research on twitter at @betsyswanner.

The Iowa Water Center Board Members

  • Larry Weber (Chair), Director of IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering, University of Iowa
  • Marty Adkins, Asst. State Conservationist at the Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Daryl Smith, Professor Emeritus of Biology at University of Northern Iowa
  • Mary Skopec, Executive Director of Lakeside Laboratory
  • Jon Nania, Supervisory Hydrologist at the Iowa Water Science Center at the USGS (replacing Kevin Richards as USGS Iowa Water Science Center representative)
  • Jon Tack,  Water Quality Bureau Chief at the Iowa DNR (replacing Bill Ehm as IDNR representative)
  • Jake Hansen, Water Resources Bureau Chief at the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (replacing Jim Gillespie as IDALS representative)
  • John Lawrence, Iowa State University Interim Vice President for Extension and Outreach
  • James Reecy, Professor in the Department of Animal Science at Iowa State University (replacing Wolfgang Kliemann as ISU Vice President for Research representative)

We’d like to extend a special thank you to Mary Skopec for making the arrangements for our meeting at Lakeside Lab. We highly recommend trekking to Okoboji for a tour of the campus or to take one of Lakeside’s academic courses. Lakeside does a variety of outreach, too – so bring the entire family!

Iowa Water Conference 2017

Submitted by Solomon Worlds, Iowa Water Center Science Communication Intern

Dear Readership:

The discussion of water research and policy at the Iowa Water Conference was far from dry. As a student who is very interested in the happenings of Iowa’s waterways, I found many aspects of the conference very informative.

The first presentation, “From the Bottom Up,” was a terrific way to get everyone engaged right from the start. Chad’s story of cleaning the Mississippi river, among others, was inspiring and exhilarating. The sessions after this were all quite informative, but I remember thinking, “I know nothing.” As I expressed in the past, my water knowledge is shabby at best and that was never more salient than it was when I was at the Iowa Water Conference (It also did not help that I was ill and made frequent trips to the restroom to wash my hands to prevent the spread of germs).

The second day, which featured a version of me that did not have a fever or a runny nose, was much more enjoyable. I was also the moderator for the “Engaging the community as a partner” sessions. Hearing about a project that has happened in a community near me in the second session was fascinating. I had no idea that so much was happening right in my city. Hearing about new scientific educational methods to engage our young students early on in their education was also very interesting, as I have been a student for the bulk of my young life. The last discussion in that track was on communicating the risk of what is happening and, as a science communicator, I found that immensely useful.

Overall, I enjoyed my time at the Iowa Water Conference. I wish I had been healthier, but that is not the Water Conference’s problem. I did feel a bit isolated, however, being that my research is in psychology and policy. I would recommend brushing up on H2O before you decide to go.


Flow freely my friends,

P.S.: Rick Cruse is a man of many talents. When he is not leading the Iowa Water Center, he writes lyrics to famous songs. Check it out!

Solomon Furious Worlds

Current Research track now open for the 2017 Iowa Water Conference


Are you a researcher with ongoing or recently completed research related to water?

The Iowa Water Conference Planning Committee invites researchers from around the state to submit an abstract to present at the 2017 Iowa Water Conference in the Current Research track.

Submissions to this track will undergo a review process by the Iowa Water Center. Selected presenters will have the opportunity to share and discuss their research in a 30-minute slot during the breakout session times at the conference. A total of nine presentations will be chosen for this section of the conference.

“The Current Research track is an opportunity for researchers to discuss ongoing projects and new information,” said Dr. Richard Cruse, Director of the Iowa Water Center. “Providing a platform for researchers to share their work with the public is a critical component of the Center’s education and outreach goals.”

The deadline for abstract submissions is February 1, 2017. The submission process is online at the following link ( Questions and inquiries regarding the conference can be directed to Hanna Bates, Program Assistant at the Iowa Water Center (

2016 Fall Watershed Academy

Learning about the tools of the trade in conservation…

Mahdi Al-Kaisi, Iowa State University Professor in Agronomy, presenting on the sensory evaluations of soil at the Watershed Academy.

Written by Hanna Bates, Program Assistant at the Iowa Water Center

A few weeks ago, approximately 70 Iowa-based water professionals came together for the Watershed Academy. This two-day event was co-organized by Iowa State University Extension & Outreach, Conservation Districts of Iowa, the Soil and Water Conservation Society, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The Academy sought to provide the latest information on conservation practices and educational resources.

At the Plate of the Union Water Quality Panel, I discussed our growing need for communicators to get information out to the public. The Watershed Academy is prime example for how we can get resources in the hands of those who can use them. The purpose of the Academy was to give watershed coordinators the materials to improve their outreach to the public. These are the kind of resources  that enable people to see conservation in action and to get their hands a little dirty.

Providing opportunities for hands-on experiences allow an individual to try something new in an interactive way. It not only gives them a better understanding of a practice, but it also enables them to see how they could use it in their own lives. Organizations such as Iowa State University Extension & Outreach, Conservation Districts of Iowa, and commodity organizations, have user-friendly educational demonstrations and simple soil health evaluations that individuals can engage with. One tool is the Iowa Soil Health Assessment Card from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. This is a scorecard that farmers can easily use to assess their soil conditions based on sensory cues, such as the visual appearance, texture, and smell of the soil (Fortunately, not taste!).

The Watershed Academy also featured conservation initiatives from the private sector.  Bert Strayer, Western Cover Crop Lead for LaCrosse Seed, presented information on the company and how they discuss soil health with their customers. Their catalogs and informational materials not only describe their products, but also outline the importance of conservation. This is a cover crop supplier that not only provides a product, but also seeks to inform their customers about the importance of healthy soils.

Another presentation was by Erin Ogle, project coordinator for the Taylor County Water Quality Initiative project. This project is a unique example of how research and support from public entities can come together with the private sector to provide conservation services to farmers. Through a partnership with AgSolver, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, and others, farmers located in Taylor County can develop conservation plans for their fields that address both environmental and profit goals of the farmer. If you want to learn more about this project, Ogle will be giving a presentation at the 2017 Iowa Water Conference!

It was great to learn about all the different resources that are available to watershed coordinators and other water professionals in the state. Having educational tools can be instrumental in improving our water resources. That can especially be said for interactive demonstrations that get you a little dirty in the process!

Iowa Water Center Spirit of the Water Essay Contest now open!

Without water, there would be no life. Water serves as a medium in which we can grow healthy plants, innovate in industry, and play in the outdoors. From supporting our natural habitats to running through our kitchen faucets, it allows us to flourish as a community of living beings.

It not only sustains us, but inspires us.

The Iowa Water Center would like to invite students from around the state to participate in the 2017 Iowa Water Center Spirit of the Water Essay Contest and share with us how water inspires them.

What students are eligible to participate?

  • Students enrolled in 9-12th grade in public, private, and home school programs in Iowa are eligible for the high school contest.
  • Students enrolled in 2 and 4-year degree universities and colleges in Iowa are eligible for the undergraduate competition.
  • Students enrolled in graduate and MFA programs located in Iowa are eligible for the graduate competition.

Information regarding submission guidelines, judging criteria, and essay prompts can found at the following at the Iowa Water Center website.

We recognize the positive impact of diversity and welcome applications from all students meeting eligibility guidelines.  Persons with documented disabilities are encouraged to contact IWC staff to make timely requests for reasonable accommodations