On The Radio – Workshop brings together scientists and educators


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Teachers participating in a curriculum development workshop at the Critical Zone Observatory environmental science workshop last month. (Nick Fetty/CGRER)
Jenna Ladd | August 1, 2016

This week’s On The Radio segment covers the Critical Zone Observatory environmental science educator workshop that took place last month.

Transcript: Workshop brings together scientists and educators

Two University of Iowa professors from different disciplines came together last month to host an event aimed at helping teachers better connect with their students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Nearly two dozen Eastern Iowa teachers got together last month for a workshop that taught them about hands-on activities and lesson plans to better engage their students and potentially attract them to STEM careers. The event was organized by UI earth and environmental sciences professor Art Bettis along with College of Education clinical assistant professor Leslie Flynn. The event was also sponsored by the UI State Hygienic Laboratory and the Intensively Managed Landscapes Critical Zone Observatory, a National Science Foundation-supported research collaborative that studies the impact agriculture has on land, air, and water in the Midwest.

The workshop consisted of two parts: a morning session that had the teachers at a research site in eastern Iowa County learning about hand-on activities and potential field trip opportunities for their students. The teachers took water samples and tested them for various metrics such as nitrate levels. In the afternoon, the teachers took part in a curriculum development exercise at the State Hygienic Lab.

Dr. Bettis – who is also a member of the UI’s Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research – said he was happy the event was able to bring together scientific researchers and public educators.

Art Bettis: “With the CZO, we want to, just like all scientists we want to be able to get our science out to the public and there’s multiple ways of doing that but I’m a pretty firm believer that one of the really, really critical and best ways to do it is through education.”

For more information about the Critical Zone Observatory Environmental Science Workshop, visit Iowa-Environmental-Focus-dot-org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.

CGRER 25th Anniversary Profiles: Rhawn Denniston


Rhawn Denniston is a CGRER members and a professor of geology at Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa. (Cornell College)
Rhawn Denniston is a CGRER member and a professor of geology at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa. (Cornell College)

Nick Fetty | August 28, 2015

Rhawn Denniston first got involved with CGRER as a PhD student at the University of Iowa and continues to remain a member now on the faculty at Cornell College. He worked closely with CGRER co-founder Greg Carmichael while at the UI and said the connections he established at CGRER helped to make his current research possible.

“Two of my recent National Science Foundation grants were made possible because CGRER provided me the financial support to perform the preliminary fieldwork and obtain some initial data,” he said. “I published a paper two months ago in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science on the nature and origins of Australian hurricane activity over last two millennia, and CGRER funding was instrumental in getting this project up and running. Similarly, CGRER support has jump-started a project with colleagues from Iowa State on the North Atlantic Oscillation, a major driver of European rainfall variability.”

While many of CGRER’s members come from large research-based universities, Denniston represents a small liberal arts college with approximately 1,100 undergraduate students. He said the partnership between the two institutions helps CGRER to serve as a resource for the entire state of Iowa.

“The connection between CGRER and liberal arts colleges represents a wonderful cross-pollination of ideas and talents,” he said. “By linking and supporting people from a wide array of backgrounds and interests, CGRER acts as an amplifier for environmental research. And because a substantial percentage of students at small liberal arts colleges like Cornell College are Iowans, the work CGRER does with faculty from these institutions enriches the experience of undergraduates outside the U of I.”

This article is part of a series of stories profiling CGRER members in commemoration of the center’s 25th anniversary this October.

University of Iowa hosts international conference about environmental contamination


Nick Fetty | August 19, 2014
Water pollution in China. (Bert van Dijk/Flickr)
Water contamination in China. (Bert van Dijk/Flickr)

Beginning today and continuing through Friday, the University of Iowa is hosting a conference to discuss emerging contaminants and their effect on the environment.

EmCon 2014: Fourth International Conference on Occurrence, Fate, Effects & Analysis of Emerging Contaminants in the Environment will feature speakers from all across the world, including a keynote speech from University of Iowa engineering professor and CGRER co-director Jerry Schnoor. Representatives from various Big Ten schools (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Purdue, Wisconsin) as well as Iowa State, Stanford and several other educational and governmental entities are scheduled to give speeches or other presentations. The event “will focus on the most recent developments and findings concerning the source, occurrence, fate, effects, and analysis of emerging contaminants in the environment, providing an ideal venue for exchange of cutting-edge ideas and information in this rapidly evolving research area.”

The first conference, EmCon 2007, was held in York, United Kingdom and brought in more than 100 attendees from all around the world. EmCon 2009 was in Fort Collins, Colorado and EmCon 2011 was in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The National Hydraulic Engineering Conference 2014 is also taking place in Iowa City this week. This event will focus on “sustainability in the design of infrastructure in a rapidly changing environment.”

EmCon 2014 begins at 4 p.m. today and the full schedule of events is available here.

Governor Branstad hails Iowa’s solar energy progress


Solar energy panels at the Iowa State Fair;  Photo by vanhookc, Flickr.
Solar energy panels at the Iowa State Fair;
Photo by vanhookc, Flickr.

During Iowa Solar Day, an annual event sponsored by Iowa’s Solar Energy Trade Association (ISETA), Governor Terry Branstad and Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, said because Iowa is a leader in wind energy, we can use the same road map to become a leader in solar energy as well.

“I see tremendous potential for growth in solar energy as I do in other renewable energy items in our state,” Gov. Branstad said.

Northey expressed support of expanding Iowa’s solar energy tax credit and on March 27, 2014, the bill to triple the tax credit passed unanimously in the Iowa Senate.

Increasing Iowa’s solar energy is an important aspect of boosting the state’s overall use of clean energy, however Iowa has only tapped a small portion of the potential solar energy in the state.

To read the full story, visit the Iowa Environmental Council.

Freshwater Mussels


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Craig Just; UI Civil and Environmental Engineering

Craig Just, a University of Iowa faculty member, is studying freshwater mussels with respect to the nitrogen cycle.

His team is trying to find ways to restore river habitats that have been depleted by excessive algal blooms.

By understanding how freshwater mussels process the nitrogen they consume from the algal blooms, researchers will know whether the mussels contribute to or remove nitrogen from the rivers.

 

For more information on Just’s research, click here. 

Hazards Research


Eric Tate, Department of Geographical and Sustainability Sciences
Eric Tate,
Department of Geographical and Sustainability Sciences

Eric Tate, a University of Iowa faculty member, is also a hazards geographer, who researches and studies issues closely related to floods.

Currently, Tate is interested in the social dimensions of floods. He models human populations to determine who is more susceptible to flood impacts and what are the underlying reasons of that susceptibility.

His research is most helpful when planning for future disasters because it gives communities modeling information that would support a disaster plan.

For the full profile on Eric Tate, head over to the CGRER website.