Network Initiatives

Network Initiatives

Past RFA

Seed Funded Projects 2016

Expanding the Role of Extension Professionals in National Drought Monitoring
The Project Directors began with a kick-off meeting in Fall 2016 by inviting a select group of North Central Region climate and extension leaders from agriculture, water and natural resources to participate.  This initial kick-off meeting reviewed current and historical efforts to create a team of Extension climate leaders in the Region, assess best management practices for building this team, activities the team could undertake, ongoing operations, and goals for determining the success of the team.  

Project Contacts:

Laura Edwards
Extension State Climatologist

Manure & Soil Health: Understanding and Advancing the Science
The team developed research, outreach, funding priorities. They produced an online inventory of soil health training and educational resources as well as a list of soil health related research projects applicable in the North Central Region. In 2016 and 2017, they helped sponsor the Iowa Soil Health conference, providing a professional development opportunity for more than 30 extension educators from the North Central region. In 2017 they launched the Soil Health Nexus website, began producing monthly research/outreach articles, and completed four soil health roundtables with nearly 400 people attending.  

Project Contacts:

Rick Koelsch
Professor of Biological Systems Engineering & Animal Science Extension Livestock Waste Management

Establishing an Aquatic Invasive Species Working Group
Tim Campbell
Aquatic Invasive Species Specialist, Wisconsin Sea Grant

Ten Ways to Reduce Nitrate Loss from Drained Lands: A Comprehensive Multimedia Outreach Package
Laura Christianson
Assistant Professor, Department of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois

Building Collaboration Between 1862 Land Grant Universities and Tribal Colleges in the North Central Region
Charles Barden
Professor, Department of Horticulture, Forestry and Recreation Resources

Seed Funded Projects 2015.2

Multi-State Water Rocks! Youth Education Summit


Water Rocks! will be partnering with university extension youth programs in South Dakota, Missouri, and Illinois to conduct professional development workshops. These workshop would offer training for their non-formal youth educators on a multitude of hands-on, interactive educational modules to help teach classroom lessons on water, soil, agriculture, environmental science, and more.

Project Contacts:

Jacqueline Comito
Director, Water Rocks!, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

Regional Soil Health Capacity Building


The Regional Soil Health Capacity Building project will create a North Central Soil Health Work Group with representatives from Land Grant Universities across the 12 state region. The work team members will participate in a soil health conference to improve their knowledge in soil health and develop a common body of knowledge and accepted science that will be used in developing the regional framework to address soil health education. This team will be the foundation for an ongoing collaborative multi state network that’s goal is to increase the visibility and understanding of soil health for Extension educators, agency professionals, agronomists, Certified Crop Advisors and farmers in the North Central Region. The team will develop and deliver soil health education at field days, workshops, webinars and printed resources.

Project Contacts:

Kevin Erb
Conservation Professional Training Program Coordinator, University of Wisconsin Extension

Climate Change and Water for Agriculture Education for Extension Professionals


The Climate Change and Water for Agriculture Education for Extension Professionals has assembled a team of climatological and agriculture experts who are in Extension roles in the NC region. The team will serve as leaders for a six‐part educational webinar series on climate change in NC region’s agriculture and water resources and builds off of lessons learned and collaborations with the Corn CAP, Grazing CAP and the USDA Regional Climate Hubs. The intention is to provide educational opportunities for Extension professionals, by Extension professionals, who are in similar roles and understand first‐hand how Extension works.

Project Contacts:

Laura Edwards
SDSU Extension, Extension Climate Field Specialist

Daily Erosion Project and Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework-Extension Tools for Addressing Soil and Water Degradation


To further knowledge of the DEP and ACPF tools, two, two-day trainings for Extension personnel in water resources and watershed managers will be conducted. These personnel will be identified by each state’s cooperating partner. This training will require development of training materials for DEP and enable users to better navigate the DEP website and interpret the results contained therein.

Focusing Extension and Outreach planning and educational energy in these watersheds will offer a disproportionate benefit to water (and soil) quality. The ACPF will then be used to suggest site appropriate Best Management Practices (BMPs) in addition to practices that are generally applicable, such as no- till, strip-till, and cover crops.

Project Contacts:

Richard M. Cruse
Professor, Agronomy and Iowa Water Center, Iowa State University

Professional Development for Extension Professionals and Educators on Land Use and Management Practice to Enhance Water Quality


This program will provide technical in-service training and program curriculum on 1) land use of riparian ecosystems and 2) manure and nutrient management for Extension Specialists, Extension Agents and Educators at Regional Universities, Community Colleges and 1994 Institutions within the Great Plains Region. The program will be comprised of an in-service training held within North Dakota and South Dakota/Nebraska. The in-service will be at least one day with half of the in-service allocated to each of the topic areas. Each in-service will be formatted to include a classroom component, a hands-on technical component, and wrap- up discussion. The technical training portion of the in-services will help demonstrate assessment methods, sampling techniques and exhibit management practices. This hands-on training will engage participants and project partners resulting in co-learning and co-discovery of new knowledge.

Project Contacts:

Miranda Meehan
Extension Livestock Environmental Stewardship Specialist, North Dakota State University

Seed Funded Projects 2015

Capacity Building Workshop for Irrigation Professionals in the North Central Region

Bring together extension staff and irrigation professionals for a regional education and planning meeting that will provide:

  • Overview of water law and appropriation by state
  • 8 hours of technical training on irrigation water management with hands on laboratories allowing attendees to test drive new technologies for managing irrigation water
  • Strategies for aquifer protection and sustainability
  • Ideas for external funding proposals that will provide academic training and extension outreach tools.

Project contacts:
Joshua Stamper
Extension Irrigation Specialist, University of Minnesota
(612) 626-4986

Mapping the Pathways for Effective Dissemination and Education between Manure Nutrient Management Agriculture Professionals

The goal of this Professional Development Project is to establish documented and effective pathways for information dissemination and use among manure nutrient management professionals. The short-term outcomes are to develop an understanding of the needs of various agricultural professional organizations and individuals, the barriers for successful information transfer, and the terminology used by the different audiences.

Project contacts:
Erin Cortus
Extension Specialist, South Dakota State University

Integrating Volunteer Nutrient Monitoring and Outreach With Extension Across States

Conduct an inventory of outreach materials and programs currently in use by Extension and partner organizations related to nutrients and water quality across the five states; and develop a larger grant proposal with ultimate goals to: enable cross-state volunteer nutrient data sharing; to develop uniform cyanobacteria toxin monitoring methods; to develop educational materials and associated programs for use by Extension educators across participating states; and to carry out train-the-trainer workshops to bring these resources to Extension educators.

Project contacts:
Kris Stepenuck
Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Extension
(608) 265-3887

Watershed Management: Developing Leadership Capacity in Collaboration and Civic Engagement for Collective Action

The purpose of this project is to conduct a needs assessment of the need for educational programming on collaboration and civic engagement among watershed leaders. The needs assessment will also involve an inventory and evaluation of existing educational programs targeting watershed leaders to determine what is being taught and to identify high quality programs and materials that could be adapted by other programs in other states.

Project contacts:
Joe Bonnell, PhD
Program Director, School of Environment and Natural Resources 

Seed Funded Projects 2014

Stormwater Core Curriculum

The goal of this collaborative is to develop publicly available, uniform, research based, stormwater core curriculum that can be readily used by educators, local governments and professionals.

Project contacts:
Eleanor Burkett
Extension Educator, University of Minnesota
(218) 828-2326

Shahram Missaghi, PhD
Extension Educator, University of Minnesota
(952) 221-1333

Mentoring for Early Career Extension Educators: A Systems Approach to Nutrient Management

The goals of this project are to conduct a needs assessment and, based on the results of that assessment, to design a mentoring program for early-career Extension Educators focusing on systems approaches to nutrient management for water quality at the field, farm, and watershed scale. The project team will convene a multidisciplinary expert panel to outline the knowledge and skills needed to facilitate systems approaches to nutrient management. Early service Extension educators from around the region will be recruited to participate in three webinars on systems approaches to nutrient management.

Project Contact:
Anne Baird
Program Director, The Ohio State University

Web-Based Environmental Assessment Tool Expansion

The project plan is to investigate the potential for expanding the Wisconsin Water Star program to Michigan and Ohio, and perhaps other states in the NCR, through integrating Wisconsin Water Star with Michigan State University’s soon to be released environmental assessment tool, the Ecological Score Card. Our final report will outline a strategy to support the wider adoption of Michigan and Wisconsin’s existing web based environmental assessments in the NCR, and discuss the opportunities for further integration of these existing tools into a common, regional, web based presence.

Project Contacts:
Andrew Yencha
Extension Natural Resources Educator, University of Wisconsin-Extension
(414) 256-4631

Jeremiah Asher
Director of Information Technology
Institute of Water Research, Michigan State University
(517) 432-5586