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Lab Blog

  • Picture of Prairie Strips Cooperator Sign at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge

    By Elise Miller

    When a farmer and/or farmland owner decides to install prairie strips on a field to reduce erosion and improve water quality, a few questions can arise. For instance: How should the prairie strips be designed, and where should they go? How much benefit I expect?

    The STRIPS team has found that prairie strip conservation practice has substantial benefits, especially in terms of sediment loss and water quality. But since each farm has different soil types, topography, crop management practices, and climate conditions that have important effects on soil and water movement, the team also is investigating how to help farmers get a more personalized prediction of the benefits they can expect, based on the characteristics of their particular farm.

  • Snakes with fungal disease
    Content Author
    Matthew Stephenson

    Co-author: Brandon Silker

    In the 1850s Iowa’s land cover was composed of about 80% grassland. Due to the increase in agriculture, Iowa’s grasslands have declined to about 20% and Iowa’s land cover is now composed of about 63% corn and soybean fields. This habitat loss has contributed to the degradation and fragmentation of remaining Iowa grasslands that many animals rely on. The impact of this large scale habitat change has not been well studied for snakes, amphibians, and small mammals. We're seeking to fill this gap.

  • Image of the STRIPS Summer 2017 vertebrate biodiversity field crew

    By Cory Rhinehart

    During the summer of 2017 I worked as a field technician on the STRIPS project. This position provided me with valuable experience that will help with the transition to a professional career as a wildlife biologist. Throughout the course of my employment with the STRIPS project I learned important skills related to field work, data collection and management, data entry techniques, and how to follow a scientific methodology related to a large scale wildlife study. In this blog post, I will discuss a basic overview of processes and protocols of field work, data collection, data management, data entry techniques, and what I learned throughout my summer employment. 

  • Man looking at birds
    Content Author
    Matthew Stephenson

    Grassland birds, such as dickcissels, meadowlarks, and upland sandpipers, have declined by almost 40% over North America between the late 1960s and today 1968–2011. This decline is being driven by loss or degradation of grassland habitat continent-wide, including replacement of grassland with agricultural land, fragmentation of remaining grasslands, degradation of rangelands in the western US, and re-forestation in the eastern US. Stopping and eventually reversing the loss of grassland habitat will be necessary to halt the decline of North American grassland birds.

  • Jacob Hill standing in a garden

    By Jacob Hill

    Maintaining Iowa’s highly productive agricultural landscape demands high inputs of fertilizer. When fertilizers run off the landscape in rain events or snow melt, negative consequences for water quality may arise due to enrichment by nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. Developing strategies to sustain high levels of agricultural productivity while reducing nutrient runoff and its harmful consequences for water quality is a major concern of conservation science.  

  • Lake Michigan sunset

    By Emily Zimmerman

    Learning has been a central part of my life for as long as a I can remember. As a youngster, I learned basic skills, like how to tie my shoes, the colors and alphabet, and how to share with my sister. As a student, I sat in countless classrooms with dozens of teachers and faculty members, learning theories, concepts, facts, and skills. I learned how I learn, and I began applying what I was learning to ask scientific research questions. As a graduate student, I continue to learn and grow as a research scientist, but I’m also experiencing learning in a new way: as an educator.

  • Researcher checking outdoor audio recorder

    By Julia Dale

  • Stock photo of older couple on a bench

    By Emily Zimmerman

  • Emily and students posing with a big cow statue

    By Emily Zimmerman

    Last summer, I was lucky to be involved in Iowa State University’s Office of Precollegiate Programs for Talented and Gifted (OPPTAG) Summer Exploration Program. The Exploration Program offers students entering grades 8-12 the opportunity to discover new and exciting areas of study not traditionally emphasized in school curriculums. During the week-long program, students are fully immersed in their chosen study, working from 8:30 am to 4 pm, with an additional hour of homework each night. Though there is certainly time for meeting new friends and fun evening activities, the students’ primary focus is academics.

  • Screencap of EndNote

    By Carrie Chennault

  • Meeting notes

    By Carrie Chennault

    As a graduate student researcher, I have a million things on my mind. Putting this in the context of Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking Fast and Slowgrad school and all of its meetings can contribute to cognitive strain, leaving some of my day-to-day conversations, decisions, and action items to disappear just beyond reach. Taking effective meeting notes is one of my favorite strategies for combatting forgetfulness. Plus great notes have the added bonus of providing other attendees a concise summary of the agenda, topics, discussion, and outcomes. Here are a few of my tips.

  • Emily posing with Minute Rice

    By Emily Zimmerman

    It’s 4 o’clock in the afternoon. I am exhausted, and I have a headache that I can’t seem to shake. It started slowly creeping along my forehead around noon, trying to elude my usual my mid-morning coffee. But today, like the last six days, it had nothing to fear, nothing to slink away from. I haven’t had coffee or caffeine in seven days because I can’t afford it.

  • Emily after a marathon

    By Emily Zimmerman

  • Man working in a garden

    By Maggie Harthoorn

    On April 1, 2014, I attended a speech by Ray Archuleta—NRCS soil heath guru—at Iowa State University, titled Soil Health and Sustainability.  Ray promotes conservation on agriculture land and encourages ideas such as no-till farming and cover crops. He has held a number of conservation positions throughout his career in the Natural Resources field and is currently traveling the country to present his Soil Health and Sustainability lecture to students, farmers, natural resource professionals, and many other conservation enthusiasts or critics.

  • Brown journal with pretty backing paper

    By Rayma Cooley

    I took a trip this last weekend up to Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota with two of my girlfriends. The winter in Iowa was long and cold, and the pressures of completing my thesis this last spring had forced me to spend most my days deep in the depths of my cinder-walled basement office. Almost all I experienced these last six months were the bone-chilling darkness of the morning and night when I came and left my office, and the flickering of fluorescent above my desk. I was craving the woods. As I left my house, I quickly grabbed one of many journals sitting on my bookshelf.

  • Canus lupus laying in the grass

    By Dylan Clark

    Gazing into the fiery green eyes of a wolf, Aldo Leopold felt the power that he and all humans have to alter our ecosystem. He felt the fragility of the earth beneath his feet. Though technological innovations have increased many societies’ abilities to produce food, increase efficiency, and exchange knowledge, it has also given power to the hand that once turned over the soil on its own. Our interactions with the environment—direct and indirect—wield far more power now than Leopold’s musket did in 1909. With such agency comes a responsibility to protect and nurture the lands that bear our livelihoods.

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