Conservation Efforts

By UMRI's Outreach Coordinator, Christine Curry and Iowa's Conservation Director, Mike Delaney, and other Iowa Izaak Walton League chapter members

Inspiring Citizens Science through Nature Photography and Water Monitoring

“Love the Peace at Greenbelt Lake” Waterloo, IA. Photo by: Vicki Reed

Summer is here…

After the long year of Covid restrictions, many individuals appreciate the opportunity to recreate outdoors. Waterloo residents are taking advantage of the new fishing pier and other enhancements at Greenbelt Lake, located off Highway 63. Thanks to an Iowa Resource Enhancement and Protection Program (REAP) grant, the new pier and expansions around the lake allow more access for outdoor recreating activities such as kayaking, boating, and fishing. This 19 acre lake also provides a beautiful place for residents to enjoy picnicking, walking, photography, and birdwatching.

One of our goals is to engage communities about the importance of water quality in their watersheds where they work, live, and play. The Izaak Walton League’s “Save our Streams” program is a perfect way for citizens to learn and help monitor water quality in their favorite places.

We’ve been participating in IWL’s Save Our Streams Nitrate Watch. It’s a fun and educational family activity. We encourage everyone to join in and learn more about getting involved with IWL’s SOS program. This spring started with drought conditions before the first day of summer. The past few weeks we have had some rain. And it was a perfect time to collect some samples from near by streams.

Photo by: Christine Curry

Jordan Creek near Beh Glen Park, E.P. True Parkway, in West Des Moines, IA. Photo by: Christine Curry

Nitrate Water Watch, Nitrate Nitrogen 2 ppm—sample collected at Jordan Creek near Beh Glen Park, E.P. True Parkway, in West Des Moines, IA. Photo by: Christine Curry

Save our Streams Coordinator, Zach Moss, shared an update a few weeks ago with the Nitrate Watch participants: “Many areas of the state received some rain this morning, and there are several more chances for rain in the 7-day forecast. With the dry conditions most of the state has been experiencing lately, there have been no significant rainfall events for weeks. This can lead to an accumulation of pollution sources on the land. When it rains, this pollution—including nitrate / nitrogen—gets washed off the land and into a water body through drainage tiles, storm sewers, and surface runoff.
I encourage you to keep Nitrate Watch in mind if / when rain does come to your area. It may take 24-72 hours for runoff from the watershed to actually reach your monitoring site on your water body. This is especially true in larger river systems that drain a large land area and have to transport pollutants long distances.
If you’d like to explore a network of real-time nitrate concentration monitoring gages around the state, follow this link. This map has USDA, University of Iowa, and USGS gages listed. You can click on a site to see the past 5 days of data or click “annual” on a site to observe that many sites experienced a spike in late May when we had several days of rain washing nitrogen into the water. For example, the nitrate concentration in Ioway Creek in Story County spiked by 500% over two days from May 19-21 (screenshot attached). We can help gather data in more places that don’t have these handy real-time sensors, and we can also keep track of how nitrate pollution may or may not be impacting tap water in our homes.”


Photographing Nature…


Turk’s Cap Lily a.k.a. Martagon lily (Lilium marathon), taken at Delaney’s Prairie, Sunday, June 27th, 2021. Photo by: Ty Smedes, Nature Photography

We are certainly blessed to have so many nature photographers capturing images that speak to our soul. The watershed is filled with extraordinary  photographers capturing beautiful snaps of water, plants, people, animals and insects. Ty Smedes is a well known Iowa nature photographer and is an active IWL member. Many individuals from our network have had the opportunity to see him in action.

Where is Ty Smedes favorite Iowa prairie to capture photographs? When asked, he shares that Greene County’s Tipton Prairie is top on his list, “Its only about 3 acres in size, but this tiny remnant has both a wonderful plant and insect diversity!” Says Ty. “Delaney’s Prairie is a close 2nd but Green County’s Tipton Prairie is my favorite!” Both prairies are often featured on our website. This month, Ty shares his beautiful photograph of a “Turk’s Cap Lily” recently captured at Delaney’s Prairie in Dallas County.  The Turk’s Cap Lily a.k.a. Martagon lily (Lilium martagon) is one of the most widely distributed lilies in the world.

If you’re interested in learning about capturing outstanding nature images, Here is an excellent opportunity to learn more:

What: A Presentation by Ty Smedes, “Nature Photography: Ideas, Challenges, and Solutions”.  This event is open to the public and it is hosted by our partner organization, Raccoon River Watershed Association a.k.a. RRWA

When: Saturday, August 7th from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Where: at the Dallas County Conservation Department’s Meeting Room at Forest Park and Arboretum, 14581 K Avenue, Perry, IA 50220

Learn more—


“Defenders of Soil, Air, Woods, Waters & Wildlife”

Continue to Stay Safe and Stay Engaged…

If you missed our “Heartland Heroines”  Thinking Like a Watershed presentation…

This is the video link: “Heartland Heroines” Thinking Like a Watershed ~ Robin Moore & Denise O’Brien— June 1, 2021

Photo of Robin Moore provided by: Land Stewardship Project

—On-line training to become a certified Izaak Walton League’s Save Our Stream monitor

—If you missed our previous “Thinking Like a Watershed” presentations? Links to recent presentations are here:

This is the video link: “Planting Seeds to Grow Vibrant Communities” Thinking Like a Watershed ~ Chris Deal & Art Cullen— May 4, 2021  
How Jefferson, Iowa’s Chris Deal is working with California Rep. Ro Khanna and others to grow vibrant rural communities in the Heartland with perspectives from Pulitzer Prize—winning journalist and editor of The Storm Lake Times, Art Cullen.

This is the video link “Watershed Bridges— Green to Blue”: Thinking Like a Watershed ~ Vicki Nichols Goldstein & Seth Watkins— April 6, 2021  How improving soil health and water quality in Iowa and other inland states benefit watersheds that provide critical services from land to sea.

—This is the video link “Local Heroes in Howard County”: Thinking Like a Watershed ~ Neil Shaffer & Hunter Slifka— March 2, 2021  How they have incorporated several thousand acres of land under conservation programs–the largest percentage in Iowa.

This is the video link “The Accidental Conservationist”: Thinking Like a Watershed ~ Wayne Fredericks— February 2, 2021  How an Iowa Farmer is Improving Natural Capital while Increasing Profits with Conservationist and Farmer, Wayne Fredericks from Mitchell County, Iowa.

—We’ll continue to amplify Wayne’s voice through our networks in hopes of inspiring others to get involved and take action!  Learn more about Wayne Fredericks and other fabulous Izaak Walton League’s Outdoor America articles on line. 

—About water quality monitoring and research, check out The University of Iowa’s Chris Jones blog who has published several articles on where Iowa stands with regards to soil health and water quality.

—Wait no longer to watch, re-watch and share PFI’s full-length film, “Livestock on the Land“. Please help us get this to as many viewers as possible – farmers, eaters, citizens and policymakers.

Iowa Farmers Union Events, check out their amazing weekly webinars…

Iowa Environmental Council’s Event page is packed with fabulous opportunities to learn more from their organization and others.