This story was originally published on MSU today and has been edited and republished here.
Lois, who is a critical member of our leadership team, was awarded this honor for her exemplary record of outreach, teaching, research and service and unwavering commitment to the management, protection and preservation of Michigan’s waters.
Lois has been a champion for water resources in Michigan and beyond for more than 38 years. Throughout her remarkable career, she has advanced understanding of water resource protection and management, and supported connections with colleagues and peers to help them succeed.
Wolfson has a knack for building and maintaining networks among water resource stewards in Michigan and nationwide while contributing her own expertise and enthusiasm. She frequently serves as the linchpin of interdisciplinary and multi-organizational partnerships including the North Central Region Water Network, and is vital to the success of these enterprises.
A dedicated instructor in and out of the classroom, Wolfson teaches the techniques of the trade to fisheries and wildlife students. She has been pivotal in the development and delivery of successful, long-term outreach and extension programs, including the “Michigan Lake and Stream Leaders Institute,” a leadership training program that develops citizens into effective water resource stewards, and “Introduction to Lakes,” an online course that has earned several prestigious awards for bringing the understanding of lakes and their management to statewide and national audiences. For 26 years, she has organized the no cost, open-to-the-public Great Lakes Conference at MSU.
Lois has also served as a mentor to countless students and peers, offering support, insight and humor. An MSU Extension colleague wrote, “I have always found Dr. Wolfson wise in her counsel and generous with her time. She is dedicated to helping students and peers develop the skills and expertise they need to achieve success.”
Responsiveness to emerging water issues illustrates Wolfson’s approach to outreach. She immediately responded to the Flint Water Crisis in 2016 by co-authoring an MSU Extension bulletin for homeowners, “A Guide to Home Water Treatment,” along with several news articles on lead in home water supplies. Most recently, she served on the program development team for “Water School: Essential Resources for Local Officials,” which was designed to deliver relevant, science-based information about water science and the management of Michigan’s water resources to encourage sound decision making by local officials in the management, protection and stewardship of Michigan ‘s water resources. Wolfson provided her critical expertise throughout the curriculum’s development and specifically helped develop and present the “Water Quality” unit.
Congratulations Lois on this much deserved honor!
For those of you I haven’t met, I’m Anne Nardi and I joined the NCRWN team in October as the network’s marketing and communications specialist. Now, if you, like many of the science professionals I have met in the past, just recoiled at the word ‘marketing’, I don’t blame you. Communications and marketing have gotten a bad rap in the science world. But in my opinion, communication and marketing are critical to the success of science-based solutions.
Like it or not, we are all a product of our biases and heuristics. We each have unique perspectives, and those perspectives and life experiences affect how we think – including how we think about water and water-related issues. And while that may seem obvious, these individual level differences mean the way to effectively communicate with one person is not necessarily the best way to communicate with someone else. Moreover, individuals often communicate in different ways, so the platform that is best to reach one person isn’t always the best platform to reach someone else. To make matters more complicated, sometimes communication best practices don’t prove to be true in specific situations.
This post was originally published on the Soil Health Nexus blog. It has be adapted and re-published here.
Is there a correlation between soil health (or soil productivity) and manure? A report recently released from the Soil Health Nexus team looked to answer this question by analyzing soil health related variables and manure land application details.
The study was conducted by Teng Lim, Donna Brandt, Allen Haipeng Wang, Saranya Norkaew, and Randy Miles of the University of Missouri, using data collected under the Missouri Cover Crop Cost-Share Program and experimental field plots.
Overall, they found no significant difference between the fields with and without manure application for most of the variables collected, with the exception for phosphorus. The lack of correlation is thought to be due to the small portion of state-wide samples associated with manure land application, and high sample variability.
When the team narrowed the data to the county level, manure application showed to increase active carbon contents for two of the top three counties where manure application data was collected. The manure application also significantly increased organic carbon, phosphorus, potentially mineralizable nitrogen, and water stable aggregate values for another county.
To better investigate these findings and determine if this pattern would hold for plots with consistent tillage, and repeated crop and fertilizer treatments, data was also collected from experimental field plots. Results from the field plots demonstrate that manure application clearly resulted in higher soil organic carbon, active carbon, phosphorus, and water stable aggregates, and lower bulk density.
These findings confirm that the benefits of manure application to soil health, and manure’s impact on phosphorus levels. These findings regarding manure use and important soil health indicators are important considering the measurable economic and environmental impacts of nutrient and manure management, especially for increasing the carbon content in the crop fields, manure land application can be one of the recommended practices.
Last year the Soil Health Nexus team produced eight new extension publications synthesizing and interpreting the latest science on linkages between manure management, soil health, and water quality. More information and access to all the publications can be found on the Soil Health Nexus website.
As part of Kara Salazar’s work as Sustainable Communities Extension Specialist for Purdue University’s Department of Forestry and Natural Resources and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant , she runs the Sustainable Communities Extension Program. The program works to support community planning and sustainable community development strategies for communities across Indiana. One of the program initiatives is the Purdue Rainscaping Education Program which works to educate communities about sustainable landscape practices that can prevent polluted runoff.
The Purdue Rainscaping Education Program, which Salazar co-chairs, formed in 2013. The team provides advanced training for Purdue Master Gardeners, conservation agencies and organizations, stormwater professionals, and landscape companies and consultants on installing rain gardens in residential settings or small-scale public spaces. Salazar, along with fellow co-chair John Orick, state coordinator of the Purdue Master Gardner Program, and core team members Laura Esman, Jane Frankenberger, Rosie Lerner and Kris Medic, developed and pilot tested a series of 15-hour rainscaping workshops in 2015 and 2016. The workshops use the flipped classroom technique, in which participants are asked to watch videos on each topic before the in-person training. During the in-person workshop, participants engage in interactive activities and discussions, visit community rainscaping projects to deepen their learning, and even create a demonstration rain garden alongside community partners.
Through the pilot, team members’ extensive evaluation, and a peer review, the team is continuously working to improve the program. In 2017, the team conducted a train-the-trainer workshop for Extension staff. Attendees participated in introductory webinars before attending an all-day training where they participated in hands-on exercises and group discussions, and planted a demonstration rain garden alongside team members. After the training, each participant received a host guide for conducting workshops independently throughout the state, with resources, videos, and a comprehensive participant curriculum.
Since 2015, Salazar, Orick, and the rest of the Rainscaping Education Team have held four programs with nearly 100 participants and created four demonstration rain gardens. Moreover, many participants have gone on to install rain gardens, conduct tours and community education programs, or host exhibitor booths on the sustainable landscape practices in their communities. Indeed, in 2018 Extension staff trained in the 2017 train-the-trainer workshop will be hosting five community programs throughout the state alongside Rainscaping Education Team members.
Last year the team received the Purdue Cooperative Extension Specialists’ Association Team Award for their efforts. However, according to Salazar the best part is knowing they are making a difference. “The rain gardens installed through the program have the capacity to reduce runoff by over 170,000 gallons a year. Seeing that number and hearing that people are really enjoying the program and planning to implement more projects in their communities – that’s the best part.”
Kara Salazar, Purdue Extension and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant
Kara Salazar is Sustainable Communities Extension Specialist for Purdue University’s Department of Forestry and Natural Resources and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. Working with multidisciplinary teams, Kara develops programs, products, and resources to support community planning and sustainable development strategies in Indiana communities. Focus areas include placemaking and enhancing public spaces, landscaping conservation practices, community development, and natural resources management.
Kara has a B.S. in public affairs and environmental science and a M.P.A. in natural resources management and nonprofit management from the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs. She also received a M.S.Ed. degree from the IU School of Education at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) with concentrations in community building and science education. She is c urrently pursuing a PhD in Natural Resources Social Science in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources at Purdue University while continuing to work in her full time Extension position. Kara is a certified planner (AICP) and a Professional Community and Economic Developer (PCED) with additional credentials including a certificate in Fundraising Management and LEED AP Neighborhood Development. Kara serves as a governor appointed member of the Indiana Land Resources Council, and as a member of the Purdue Land Use Team, and the Community Planning and Zoning eXtension Community of Practice.
There are few things that are certain in life, big or small. Big like the stock market, trade deals, and elections. Small like, well . . . that all depends on your perspective. A change in a school schedule, a bus route, or the weather can be huge if your family schedule or your way of making a living depends on it. Here in the Midwest, the rolling hills and wide plains, sculpted by glaciers, water, and wind, are one of the few items that fall into the pretty darn reliable category. When we wake up in the morning and look out the window, the leaves on the trees change color, the corn grows higher and then it’s gone, the cattle slowly chase the best forage in the pasture, but the landform is essentially the same.
For the 6,000+ residents of Union Gap, Washington State, the land is changing beneath their feet – or rather over their heads. In October 2017, they learned that a 20-acre chunk of Rattlesnake Ridge, a large bluff overlooking the town, was headed in their direction at the rate of 2.5 inches per day, or over a foot a week. While this landslide is bad news for Union Gap, knowing about it ahead of time is far better than the prospect of being buried by an amount of land that would fill Lake Mendota (a lake just north of the UW-Madison campus) over 6,000 times. The warning has allowed people time to evacuate and given scientists a chance to study the ridge’s movement as gravity propels it downward.
This luxury of time is unfortunately rare where landslides are concerned, leading to thousands of deaths annually and substantial loss of property worldwide. For many water-related issues, the slow pace of change is both a blessing and a curse. Whether it’s the slow leak of nutrients into lakes and streams, the steady march of pavement across the landscape leading to increasing runoff volumes, or the aging of water infrastructure, there is an underlying pattern: a slow decrease in stability triggering event, collapse – or at least overwhelming damage.
The relatively slow pace of changes in water supply and quality are tough for people to comprehend and manage. Our wiring for long-term thinking is there, but it can be overwhelmed by signals that seem, and perhaps are, more urgent. Big urgent things like passing a federal budget, and small(ish) urgent things like waking up to no hot water this morning and needing to trouble-shoot (thankfully, just a tripped GFI outlet in the basement) can overpower longer-term things like sufficient funding for agriculture and water quality research and outreach or water infrastructure.
Fortunately, like the case of Union Gap and Rattlesnake Ridge, we often have early warnings of potential system failures, failures that can have catastrophic and expensive consequences. Lake systems, river systems, drinking water systems, and urban stormwater management systems all send signals that something needs to change. Sometimes these signals are detected by scientists with big grants and expensive monitoring equipment. Sometimes they are detected by local anglers who notice changes in fish habitat quality, or a homeowner whose basement floods every year instead of every ten. These signals inform management and outreach efforts like Kara Salazar‘s work as a Sustainable Communities Extension Specialist for Purdue University’s Department of Forestry and Natural Resources and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. While we know that large-scale water infrastructure improvements are essential, the Purdue Rainscaping Education Program reminds us that we all have a vital role to play in water stewardship. Small water infrastructure projects can make a big difference when placed strategically and with enough participants.
In addition to reducing stormwater runoff volume by over 170,000 gallons a year, rainscaping projects like Salazar’s and similar projects that engage citizens are helping combat the kind of social challenges that arise from what Daniel Kahneman and Glen Klein (2009) call a world of “fractionated expertise.” These projects bring people with different backgrounds and skill sets together around common goals. When we bring water stewardship back into the community, we learn new things about the places we live and work and we learn about each other. Perhaps we learn to trust one another just a little bit more – a seemingly small change that is a big win in today’s world. These are the kinds of changes that Extension educators and other local leaders are working toward every day. They are improving our water and renewing community relationships essential for long-term certainty and stability – something we could all use a little more of these days.
Indiana is ground zero for cover crop adoption in the US, which made Indianapolis a great place to host this year’s National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health. The Soil and Water Conservation Society and the Howard G. Buffet Foundation provided a valuable forum for many different voices to talk about revitalizing our soil, the continuous learning that we do in agriculture, and cover crops as one critical tool in our toolbox.
The North Central Region Soil Health Nexus met before the conference, making great strides on their research and outreach objectives. This land-grant led team will be conducting a multi-state soil health needs assessment early in 2018; watch for your opportunity to request research, outreach, and professional development products!
Kicking off the conference, David Montgomery reminded us just how wide and deep our soil degradation problems are. The next morning, Keith Berns told the story of carbon, soil, and our economy in a new way, hopefully opening the door for more of us to consider carbon, not as something to shy away from, but as more foundational to our economy than the dollars and cents we’re used to measuring, saving, and spending. There was a lot to learn and be inspired by in between – research on nitrogen management for crops and water quality; presentations about how cover crops pencil out in different farm operations; and economic opportunities for ag retailers and advisors.
Of all the thoughts and words exchanged during those two days, the ones I was most deeply moved by and curious about are those of farmers Dan DeSutter (Indiana), Trey Hill (Maryland) and Jimmy Emmons (Oklahoma). All three farmers have experienced the value of cover crops and healthy soils on improving their operations. They are all astute and successful businessmen, originally getting into cover crops and soil health for bottom-line reasons. They described their early forays into cover crops mechanistically, in terms of engineering, chemistry, and accounting. As they sat up on that stage in Indianapolis, they described how their thinking and practices evolved. They talked about how they now are thinking more than ever before about the biology of their farm, how the organisms in the soil, the plants, animals, and people are in relationship and need to work together for the system to produce and to produce efficiently.
The window into how three people, three families, and three farming systems learned and adapted over time is priceless. Every farmer knows how complex their jobs are – how every thread they pull influences every other in ways that are sometimes difficult to predict. Thanks again to these three for sharing not just how they’re farming now, but the paths they took to get to where they are today. Hopefully, the more we share stories like these, the easier it will be for other farmers to restore our soil and maintaining our ability to grow food, fiber, and fuel for future generations.
Rebecca Power, Network Director
State and regional water conferences bringing stakeholders together to learn about various water-related issues are a common occurrence. One such conference, the Eastern South Dakota Water Conference, has been held for over ten years.
This year’s event, which took take place on November 8, 2017, featured a unique component. A conversation between conference planning committee chair, David Kringen, and South Dakota NRCS State Conservationist, Jeff Zimprich, sparked the idea. Further work by the planning committee yielded the “Stakeholder Working Conference” format which incorporated input from a diversity of stakeholder groups to develop an action plan for the future of South Dakota water resources.
The conference’s morning session was similar to traditional conferences in that it featured presentations outlining the state of South Dakota water resources, data collection and monitoring efforts, and overviewed current research efforts and success stories. Posters featuring university research and private industry water projects were also displayed throughout the day. The keynote speaker was EPA Region 8 Agricultural Advisor, Rebecca Perrin who gave examples of successful collaborations. She used the Iowa Nutrient Plan, amongst other projects, as an example of current efforts between groups from different backgrounds to improve water quality.
The afternoon session featured stakeholders coming together for a moderated roundtable discussion to answer a series of challenging questions. The discussion started with defining the biggest challenges facing South Dakota’s water resources. The discussion then turned to stakeholders characterizing what success looks like and reasonable goals for the future. To bridge the gap between current conditions and the picture of success, stakeholders were asked to consider how to optimize current efforts and what action they can take as individuals or groups to meet the previously defined goals.
Following last month’s conference, the South Dakota Water Resources Institute plans to publish a white paper outlining the state’s needs and the action plan developed by conference participants. To ensure the plan served all of South Dakota’s interests, stakeholders from all industries and perspectives were invited to participate, collaborate, and share their ideas. The action plan could impact the future direction of research, monitoring, and management of South Dakota’s water resources, so it is critical all voices were incorporated.
Story by John McMaine. John is an assistant professor and extension water management engineer in the Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering department at South Dakota State University and a member of the North Central Region Water Network Leadership Team.
A Plate Full of Thanks
My Thanksgiving plate was full this year, and for that, I am grateful. I am grateful to all of the people who made the meal possible – the turkey farmer, the cranberry grower, and how could I forget our Wisconsin cheese producers? Then there is my sister’s friend, now my friend too, who shared her family’s delicious Nigerian fish stew, and my husband’s north Indian dal and seasoned rice. While I fondly remember Thanksgivings at home with the simpler Midwestern menu, I am grateful for the eclectic mix of flavors we now have at our table. Finally, I am grateful for the time my sister and I spent together baking pumpkin pie, though I must confess I’m not as grateful for the pie still tempting me from my refrigerator!
In this newsletter, we share stories with you about people and projects that are accomplishing all kinds of things on the front lines of water research, education, and management. There are also folks behind the scenes who make immeasurable contributions. This month, I want to extend a special thank you to someone who’s leaving his current role with the Network as well as the folks who provide support for the North Central Region Water Network.
Who are the people in your professional life that deserve extra thanks? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Joe Bonnell, The Ohio State University – Joe Bonnell is one of the longest serving extension water coordinators in the North Central Region. At the end of this year, he will embark on a new adventure and career with his family in the Dominican Republic. During his time in Ohio, Joe trained and mentored hundreds of watershed leaders and made substantial contributions to our understanding of the core knowledge and skills that are necessary for watershed leaders to be successful.
Jamey Burns, University of Wisconsin – Jamey helps keep the North Central Region Water Network website up and running and created the Soil Health Nexus website. Jamey comes from a graphic design background but loves the technical aspect of web development. He loves the pace at which the industry progresses and he is always learning new skills. When not in front of a computer screen, Jamey enjoys photography, screen printing, woodworking, skiing and especially spending time with his family.Sarah Congdon, University of Wisconsin – Sarah is a Senior Artist at the UW Environmental Resources Center (ERC). She brings visual life to North Central Region Water Network reports, fact sheets, and websites. Sarah combines an artistic eye with a talent for communicating ideas clearly and elegantly. She makes the most challenging job seem easy!
Janice Kepka, University of Wisconsin – Janice’s expertise in instructional design makes the North Central Region Water Network’s signature webinar series possible. She has a knack for explaining educational technology to a diversity of users, and she combines her technical skills with a love of conservation and agriculture. Janice manages family farmland in southwest Minnesota, a responsibility that enhances her appreciation of the ongoing need to engage and connect farmers, landowners, conservationists, and citizens in a common goal to protect natural resources.
Brian Kline, University of Wisconsin – Brian grew up on the shores of Lake Winnebago in Oshkosh. He seamlessly blends his love for Wisconsin’s natural resources with his support for ERC programs, including the North Central Region Water Network. He keeps our budgets on track and provides critical human resources services with a can-do attitude carried over from his time in the U.S. Marine Corps and private industry.
Martha Martin, University of Wisconsin – Martha keeps us organized and does it with a sparkle of humor that makes the most mundane tasks more fun. She and our colleague Leah Leighty at CALS Conference Services are the reasons our events run smoothly and on budget. She is an extraordinary editor. She keeps us on track by taking notes for our meetings and reminding us if we’ve missed a “to-do” or are about to miss a deadline. Who could ask for more?!
Amber Mase, University of Wisconsin – Amber helps all of us in the North Central Region Water Network measure and communicate the impact of our programs. While some of us avoid evaluation like we avoid the last of the leftover turkey, Amber provides a helping hand and a good dose of laughter to get us through.
Anne Nardi, University of Wisconsin – Anne is the newest addition to our team. With a diverse communications background, she has been learning lightning-fast what the North Central Region Water Network is all about. Anne is doing great work to support Network members addressing climate, soil health, manure and nutrient management, watershed management, stormwater, youth water programming, and a host of other issues.
Hunter Reed, University of Wisconsin – Hunter is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying communication arts, digital studies and environmental studies. He has experience in journalistic writing, editing and online production through his work at the Badger Herald student newspaper. As an undergraduate, Hunter helped fill a short-term gap in our communication team and did amazing work to keep us up and running. Thank you, Hunter!