The Power of People

citizenvolmonComputers are awe-inspiring devices that enable us to identify an unknown weed or find the best nearby place to have dinner in seconds. Computers can do complicated calculations quickly and accurately. What they cannot do however, is tell us what questions are worth asking and how much time and treasure we should put into answering them.

This week I am attending the first Midwest Climate and Agriculture Workshop. The workshop is organized and/or sponsored by the Midwest Regional Climate Center, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Department of Agriculture, the National Integrated Drought Information System, and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research.

The value of this workshop is that it brings together climate scientists, soil scientists, agronomists, Extension specialists and educators, risk managers and others. Our hosts asked us to share climate-related questions pertaining to our work . Michigan State University Extension educator Mark Longstroth asked several detailed questions clearly demonstrating hand-in-glove relationship between fruit production, weather, and climate. His questions dealt with small changes in wind speed and direction that affect the distribution/drift of different pesticides; changes in wind speed and dew point that affect frost damage to crops; and of course, changes in precipitation timing, form, and quantity in the short- and long-term.

Extension educators like Mark can integrate a large amount of information quickly and in ways that are most useful to farmers, agricultural advisors, and other “end-users” of science. Similarly, they can present the needs of farmers so that scientists and agencies can apply their skills in ways that are most likely to get incorporated into farmer decision-making.

While we need computer models and decision support tools to help us make sense of the massive amount of information available to us, we still need talented, experienced people to help us understand the right questions and put that information into a human context. Particularly with complex and sometimes contentious conversations about agriculture and climate, it’s great to see that the power of Extension educators and specialists is being tapped to translate science to success.


Rebecca Power

Iowa Learning Farms August 19 webinar: the full potential of cover crops


Ames, Iowa—The regular monthly Iowa Learning Farms webinar for August will be on Wednesday, Aug. 19, at 1 p.m. This month’s guest speaker is Tom Kaspar who will present “Reaching the Full Potential of Cover Crops in Iowa.”

Although cover crops have been around a long time, we don’t have much experience on their use in modern corn-soybean rotations in Iowa. We do, however, understand the general principles of how winter cover crops improve soil health and reduce losses of sediment, nutrients, and organic matter from corn and soybean fields.  Today, we have barely scratched the surface of the potential benefits that cover crops might provide. Only continued long-term research and farmer trials will allow us to reach the full potential of cover crops. Log in to the webinar to hear Kaspar’s perspective of this timely topic.

Tom Kaspar is a plant physiologist at the USDA-ARS National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment in Ames, and has been with ARS since 1981. Over his career, his research has focused on crop and soil management to improve water quality and soil productivity. Since 1990, he has worked on the benefits and management of winter rye as a cover crop in corn and soybean rotations in Iowa.

The ILF webinars are held on the third Wednesday of each month at 1 p.m. They are free and all that is needed to participate is a computer with Internet access. To participate, go to: at 1 p.m. on the afternoon of the webinar and log in through the guest option. Webinar attendees will be able to converse with Kaspar by typing their questions through the chat function. The ILF webinars are recorded and archived on the ILF website for viewing at any time:

Since January 2011, ILF has hosted a webinar every month. There are over 55 webinars to view on a wide range of topics including soil erosion, cover crops, buffers, bioreactors, and farmer perspectives. The webinar archives are also available in podcast through iTunes.

Established in 2004, Iowa Learning Farms is building a Culture of Conservation, encouraging adoption of conservation practices. Farmers, researchers and ILF team members are working together to identify and implement the best management practices that improve water quality and soil health while remaining profitable. Partners of Iowa Learning Farms are the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa Natural Resources Conservation Service and Iowa Department of Natural Resources (USEPA section 319), Conserva­tion Districts of Iowa, Iowa Farm Bureau, Iowa Water Center and Practical Farmers of Iowa. For more information about Iowa Learning Farms, visit the website:

From Science to Success – An Introduction

By: Rebecca Power
The Morrill Act of 1862 established land-grant institutions of higher education in the United States. The purpose of these institutions was and is, “without excluding other scientific and classical studies, and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.” The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 established cooperative extension services as mechanisms to expand access to the resources of the land-grants even further.

Many scholars have established that the intent of those behind the land-grant movement was to improve the quality of life for working class citizens in rural America, largely related to the professions of farming and homemaking as well as becoming more informed and engaged participants in our young democracy. The science generated at the time was rarely an end unto itself. It helped people grow more corn, cotton, and cattle and keep sufficient and safe food on the table.

Land-grant institutions continue to carry this mission forward. However, new knowledge is generated at head-spinning speed, making it harder to keep up with the job of translating science to practice.  This challenge is not unique to water resource management.  An article published in the journal Nature in 2008 about the “valley of death” that exists between biomedical research and medical treatments for patients is still relevant in medicine, and it is certainly relevant for many aspects of water resource management.

The North Central Region Water Network’s spring conference (March 21-23, 2016) will provide some compelling food for thought on this topic, as well as time for us to work together on ways to move from science to success on high priority water-related topics such as stormwater management, climate change, irrigation management, drainage water management, and science and civic engagement for youth.

A recently published paper by Michael Dahlstrom (Greenlee School of Journalism at Iowa State University) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences sheds light on one facet of the science to success conversation. He helps us consider how scientists and educators can effectively and ethically incorporate narratives and storytelling into our communication and educational programs.

Dahlstrom’s piece is just a taste of the ideas that can help us continue to fulfill the promise of the land-grant mission by translating science for those that can benefit from it.  Have your own ideas or resources? Please post them in the comments section of this article on our Network blog.

And two other important items:
  • For all you Extension folks out there, remember that the North Central Region Water Network’s second 2015 Request for Applications is waiting for you! $100,000 in seed funding available. Applications due August 14, 2015!
  • SAVE THE DATE! The North Central Region Water Network’s second conference and regional working session will be March 21-23, 2016 in Lincoln, NE.  Theme: “From Science To Success. More details coming soon!


Rebecca Power, Network Director

Webinar Series on Ag Drainage Water Management Announced

soil water

A team of Extension specialists from several universities in the Upper Midwest is developing a series of webinars on agricultural drainage water management and drainage water quality.

Each of the webinars—to be presented monthly from July through December—will provide best management practices for improving drainage water quality and information from multiple states across the Midwest.

The six, one-hour webinars will be held monthly at 9 a.m. Central Time on the following Wednesdays: July 22, Aug. 19, Sept. 16, Oct. 21, Nov. 18 and Dec. 16. Topics to be presented include: landscape-level nutrient reduction, controlled drainage, bioreactors, saturated buffers, wetlands, and sub-irrigation and the economics of drainage. The webinars are structured to provide both the perspective of the farmer/practitioner and the research/extension specialist.

The first webinar is scheduled for Wednesday, July 22, and will feature Tim Smith of Iowa and Wayne Anderson of Minnesota.  They will present information on landscape-level nutrient reduction.  Those wishing to participate can log in at: Each person logging in to the session will need to click the “Enter as a Guest” button.

  • Tim Smith farms 800 acres near Eagle Grove in north central Iowa.  His crops are evenly split between corn and beans with 35 acres enrolled in CRP.  In 2011, Tim became involved with the MRBI program using 550 acres in the Boone River watershed.  He utilizes cover crops, strip tillage, prairie strips, nutrient management practices, and a woodchip bioreactor.  He has begun doing nitrogen rate and nitrogen source comparisons.  In 2012, Tim received an Iowa Farm Environmental Leader award from the Iowa DNR and, in 2014, a Good Steward Recognition award from the National Corn Growers Association.
  • Wayne Anderson has worked for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for 42 years.  A registered professional engineer, he initially worked in the feedlot program and supervised the development of nonpoint source control program and watershed management assistance.  He has been the state’s coordinating committee member for the National Gulf Hypoxia Task Force since its inception in 1997.  Wayne is currently focusing on implementing effective solutions through the state’s clean water programs and serves as a strategy coordinator for Minnesota’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

Target audiences for the webinar series include NRCS employees, Extension personnel, non-government groups, producers, commodity groups, and state agencies in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan.  EPA and other federal agencies are also encouraged to participate.

This distance learning effort is led by Drs. Chris Hay of South Dakota State University, Matt Helmers of Iowa State University, Gary Sands of University of Minnesota, Jane Frankenburger of Purdue University, Larry Brown at The Ohio State University, Kelly Nelson of the University of Missouri, Tom Scherer of North Dakota State University, Richard Cooke at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Gary Letterly with University of Illinois Extension. The webinar series is funded by USDA NRCS as part of the Drainage Water Management Level 2 training.

For questions contact Connie Cannon at Iowa State University, or 515.294.1230.

Planetary Boundaries: Considerations for Nitrogen and Phosphorus Management

Rebecca PowerAs I write this, the smell of fresh soil is wafting through my window. The smell comes in part from freshly tilled farm fields and in part from my freshly turned garden. In this, the International Year of Soils, we take time to learn more about how critical healthy soil is to growing everything we eat and keeping our water fishable, swimmable, and drinkable.

In addition to learning (re-learning, really) to care for our soil, we are also learning more every day about how to effectively manage two other important inputs to food, fiber, and renewable fuel production – nitrogen and phosphorus. A recent article in Scienceprovides some valuable perspective during this month of spring fever and Earth Day.

The article, by Steffen et al, is titled Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet. The authors establish science-based global and regional “safe operating spaces” for nine parameters, including the biogeochemical flows of N and P. They conclude that we have entered a “high risk” zone for both elements and suggest that a greater focus on flows might offer more successful solutions to N and P management over time (e.g. a greater emphasis on reducing excess P build-up in soils). The article is great food for thought for researchers, educators and resource managers. We invite you to engage in a discussion about any implications for our work. Please post ideas and comments below.


Rebecca Power, Network Director

Testing the Waters: Evolution of an Extension Water Quality Program


By: Dan Downing, University of Missouri Extension Water Quality

Since its inception in the late 1980’s, the University of Missouri Extension Water Quality Program has grown to include many different projects and has brought in over $12 million in funding support. Today the Extension Water Quality program is working closely with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) on the Our Missouri Waters Initiative (OMW). OMW is intended to take public engagement to a higher level in voluntary watershed management plan development. There are two primary goals of this initiative:

To engage the public in development of voluntary watershed management plans for each of Missouri’s 66 (8 digit) hydrologic units that will also meet EPAs needs.
Implement internal measures within MDNR that will allow the agency to carry out more of its functions on a watershed basis.

University of Missouri Extension Water Quality Program highlights are:

Water Quality Focus Team- Although this group has used several different names its function has remained basically the same. It is a group of Extension and related agency personnel that have served as an advisory group to the water quality program staff helping guide the program and generating projects. Most of the projects below are the direct result of their creative program development.

Public Drinking Water Supply Protection – This project embodied many of the principles we continue to use in water quality programming. The focus of this project was to assist rural community drinking water supplies in dealing with run-off containing agricultural pesticides into their reservoirs. The primary approach was to bring together the rural land owners and municipal players so they could work out acceptable solutions without placing undue hardship on any of the impacted parties.

Water Festivals and Water Awareness – This project funded by the 319 program of Missouri Department of Natural Resources was an effort to create awareness of Missouri’s water resources and their significance. The project carried out numerous water awareness and education event at schools, churches, and camps. Although the project has ended many of these events have been incorporated in the local sponsor’s ongoing programs.

Missouri Watershed Academy & Water Quality Update – This training course was designed to provide agency partners and private citizens with updated information on Missouri’s water quality concerns. Nitrogen, phosphorus, pesticides and bacteria were topics of discussion and learning. The level 1 stream team training is offered as part of the 3 day training.

Missouri Watershed Information Network (MOWIN) – MoWIN was originally developed as a clearing house for watershed information. Information on watershed planning, local contacts and educational programs are all parts of the overall web-based information source. The most popular item is Acronym City which houses over 600 acronyms, many with direct links.

Environmental Concerns for Real Estate Transfers – The program helps real estate professionals and assessors recognize potential environmental hazards associated when farmsteads are turned into suburban lots. Modules on soil basics, private wells, abandoned wells, fertilizer and pesticide storage, on-farm petroleum storage, on-farm solid waste disposal and on-site septic systems are all factors the can impact property values and are addressed through this training.

On-Site Septic education training – This educational program focuses on homeowner and installer education on understanding the operation of an on-site sewage system and the required maintenance to keep it operating in an environmentally safe way.

Pesticides and Water Quality educational series – This program offers education on use of pesticides in vulnerable areas and the precautions and practices that should be implemented to safely apply pesticides. The educational components are designed for both urban lawn care and row crop agriculture.

CAFNR Water Center – The College of Agriculture Foods and Natural Resources (CAFNR) has established the Center for Watershed Management and Water Quality. The center is intended to provide a framework for coordinating Research, Teaching, and Extension efforts across the MU campus. The current director of the center is Dr. Jason Hubbart. Under his leadership the center has received programmatic grant funding, has held a series of educational workshops, and most recently held its inaugural watershed symposium.

You can post ideas and comments here or by contacting the Missouri Extension Water Quality Program at 205 Ag, Engineering, Columbia, MO 65211, (573) 882-0085

Call for article submissions


To all North Central Water Region Network Members:

The Universities Council on Water Resources (UCOWR) has decided to publish a special edition of the Journal of Contemporary Water Research and Education (JCWRE) with a focus on informal/non-formal water education and public outreach. JCWRE is a peer-reviewed journal published on Wiley-Blackwell’s Synergy website ( and available to researchers, educators, and policy-makers around the world. Articles published in JCWRE are widely recognized for their concise clarity and relevance to critical water resources issues and principles.

I am writing to ask that you consider submitting a paper for this important publication. We hope to accept 10-12 papers focused on informal water education and research and public outreach efforts.

Please note selected JCWRE guidelines for the articles for your general information. See the website,, for additional submission information with respect to the items listed below and requirements for tables, figures, references and the like.

  • Papers are to be submitted electronically as Microsoft Word documents (extension .docx) to JCWRE Co-Editor Jackie Crim,, and me,, the issue editor. The publication will be published in December, 2015, so we are on a fairly aggressive timeline.
    • Intent to submit: April 27, 2015 (we need lead author name and title)
    • Paper submission deadline: July 8, 2015
    • Submissions will be reviewed and accepted or rejected by September 2, 2015
    • Revised manuscripts will be due: September 30, 2015
  • Authors are asked to provide the names and contact information for 3 potential reviewers in their submittal email.
  • The manuscript text should be typed double-spaced in Times New Roman size 12 font. The text should be written so that it will be of interest to persons in the wide variety of disciplines represented by UCOWR’s membership. Subheadings in bold should be used.
  • Articles average about 8 pages in length as published, 15 pages in manuscript form (without figures and tables).
  • The Lead author is required to complete a Copyright Release Form. The form can be found in the PDF document at the top of the page and may be duplicated as needed. The completed forms must be included with your manuscript. Assignment of copyright does not restrict authors in using materials from their paper for future personal use. Our request for copyright transfer is for the purpose of complying with Public Law 94-553 and to protect both UCOWR and the author(s) from unauthorized third-party use. In addition, articles cannot be published on the Blackwell Synergy website without the copyright transfer.
  • Titles should properly reflect the contents of the article. The title should be short and informative, and should not exceed 12 words in length.
  • An abstract of no more than 250 words and up to 8 keywords must accompany each article. Keywords should not duplicate words that are in the title.
  • See the website,, for important additional submission information.

I hope you will seriously consider submitting a paper for this important publication. It is an outstanding opportunity to share your knowledge and expertise with other educators, researchers, and university administrators. Please don’t hesitate to contact me or Karl Williard, UCOWR Executive Director, if you have any questions. And remember, submissions are due July 8, 2015, but we encourage people to finish and submit their articles as they are preparing their presentations for the 2015 UCOWR/NIWR/CUAHSI conference in mid-June.


Natalie Carroll

Issue Editor, Informal Water Education and Outreach, UCOWR



Nature Climate Change: US climate policy needs behavioural science

State implementation of new Environmental Protection Agency climate regulation may shift behavioural strategies from sidelines to forefront of US climate policy…

Read more here


February NCRWN Newsletter is Out!

Each month our newsletter highlights important things taking place throughout the North Central Region Water Network. This month features a recap of the Midwest Manure Summit from Rebecca Power, a spotlight on the Michigan State University Research and Extension, information on The Current 6 webinar,  upcoming events, and funding opportunities. Read it all here. Don’t forget to subscribe!

The Current Webinar 6-Educating the Next Generation of Water Leaders

kids and water

The 6th installment of The Current Webinar series titled “Educating the Next Generation of Water Leaders” took place on Wednesday, February 18.  Listeners learned about overcoming the challenge of making water issues more relevant and personal to youth.

Elizabeth Juchems, Event Coordinator and Educator for Water Rocks! and Iowa Learning Farms, kicked things off with her introduction to “Water Rocks! Making a Splash with Youth Water Education”. Water Rocks! is Iowa’s statewide youth education campaign. Its core objective is creating a greater appreciation for water and they work towards achieving this with an extensive library of creative materials.

Water Rocks! surpasses the mark when it comes to making water education entertaining with their colorful website, games, and catchy videos that have titles like, “The Drinking Song” and “We All Live in a Watershed”, just to name a few. They also have Public Service Announcements titled “What’s in your water?”

With an outreach initiative that includes school visits, it is only appropriate that their mascot is a pack of three dogs that they fittingly refer to as “Conservation Pack.” It is an important reminder that in order to educate, you need to think outside of the box and find new and innovative ways to get people’s attention. Youth might not perk up when you stand before them and discuss water issues, but stand up there and discuss water issues with a pack of dogs? You suddenly have a captive audience.

For more information on Water Rocks! visit Don’t forget to view their music videos which are guaranteed to get any child’s attention.

The best part about this webinar was the three varied yet practical ways to think about water issues and how to make an impact.

Would you like to see thinking? And, as an educator, if you could see your students’ thinking could you increase program impacts? According to Kate Reilly, University of Wisconsin – Extension, Environmental Education Specialist, thinking about our thinking (meta-thinking) is at the heart of ThinkWater.

ThinkWater, a national USDA/NIFA funded project, is creating a national dialogue  and practice among water educators around thinking. The project provides tools for combining science content with the science of thinking so educators can embed thinking into new and existing water activities. Reilly said, “ThinkWater is a catalyst for a national discussion around water education and how we can increase knowledge, engagement and caring from K to gray through thinking.

For more information on ThinkWater visit

Cathy Techtmann, Environmental Outreach State Specialist, introduced us to G-WOW “Changing Climate, Changing Culture.” This program offers a unique approach to driving awareness of climate change based on it on Lake Superior’s coastal environment, people, cultures, and economies.

The Ojibwe tribe has resided around Lake Superior for centuries. They rely heavily on the sustainability of key plants and animals in the area for both cultural and subsistence economic purposes. In the case of the Ojibwe, wild ricing, fishing, maple sugaring and birch bark harvesting are cultural practices that can be gravely affected by a warming climate.

The key to getting their audience to resonate with idea of climate change and how it affects them is through Place-Based Evidence: Evidence that you can see, feel, or experience based on what you observe around you. What makes the G-WOW program unique is that it links place-based evidence of climate change with scientific research from sources like the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI). Their website is loaded with curricula, activity guides, interactive tools, and games to help teachers and students learn how to investigate climate change and its implications. Professional development summer institutes are also offered. Cathy referenced “The Psychology of Climate Change Communication” –Columbia University, 2009. This is a great resource for anyone looking to drive climate change awareness that isn’t quite sure how to begin the dialogue.

The Current Webinar is an exceptional resource to learn more about other projects taking place throughout the region. It is also serves as an important reminder how much we can learn from each other. We will see you in April when we cover Managing Agriculture Drainage Water. Stay tuned for exact times and presenters!

View webinar here.