On the Radio: Iowa scientists connect state water quality issues to climate change


Morning fog rises off of Lake MacBride near Solon, IA. The lake reported a massive fish kill due in part to blue-green algae earlier this year. (KC McGinnis / for CGRER)
Morning fog rises off of Lake MacBride near Solon, IA. The lake reported a massive fish kill due in part to blue-green algae earlier this year. (KC McGinnis / for CGRER)
October 20, 2014

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at highlights from the Iowa Climate Statement 2014: Impacts on the Health of Iowans, released Friday, October 10. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: Climate Statement 2

Climate change causes extreme weather, increased flooding and resulting water pollution, which is threatening the health of Iowans.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The Iowa Climate Statement 2014: Impacts on the Health of Iowans, released in October, examined how repeated heavy rains and the resulting flooding have led to increased exposure to toxic chemicals and raw sewage, which can have negative effects on health for humans and animals.

The fourth annual statement was signed by 180 scientists and researchers from 38 colleges and universities across Iowa.

Heavy rains in agricultural areas causes phosphorus and nitrates to run off fields and into waterways. These polluted waterways coupled with increased water temperature have spurred algal blooms on still bodies of water during peak summer heats. These algal blooms make the water unsafe for human or animal consumption or recreation.

For more information about the Iowa Climate Statement 2014, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerry Schnoor.

 

Respected climate scientist and UI alum to visit Iowa City Thursday


Climate scientist and UI alumnus Dr. James Hansen (Contributed photo)
Climate scientist and UI alumnus Dr. James Hansen (Contributed photo)
KC McGinnis | October 15, 2014

Longtime climate scientist and University of Iowa alumnus James Hansen will visit Iowa City for a lecture on Thursday, October 16.

Hansen, who currently serves at Columbia University’s Earth Institute as director of its Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions program, earned his doctorate in physics from the UI in 1967. He is regarded as one of the first to raise awareness of global warming as a man-made threat, laid out in his 1988 hearing before Congress in which he said he was “99 percent certain” that global warming could be attributed to greenhouse gases.

His lecture, titled “Speaking Truth to Power: Lessons from Iowa and Relevance to Global Climate Policies” will be held in the Main Lounge of the Iowa Memorial Union from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday. The lecture is free and open to both students and the general public.

Hansen, who formerly served as Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has spent decades studying human-induced climate change. He also specializes in identifying “greenwash,” deceptive marketing and PR strategies which give the appearance of eco-friendliness while in fact being merely aesthetic. His lecture, which is part of the UI Public Policy Center’s “Meeting the Renewable Energy Challenge” symposium, can also be streamed here.

On the Radio: Iowa Climate Statement highlights health risks from climate change


The Iowa Climate Statement 2014: Impacts on the Health of Iowans, outlined climate change issues that are affecting respiratory health among Iowans, like childhood allergy-induced asthma. (Kristy Faith/Flickr)
The Iowa Climate Statement 2014: Impacts on the Health of Iowans, outlined climate change issues that are affecting respiratory health among Iowans, like childhood allergy-induced asthma. (Kristy Faith/Flickr)

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at highlights from the Iowa Climate Statement 2014: Impacts on the Health of Iowans, released Friday. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: Iowa Climate Statement

Hotter temperatures, higher humidity levels, and other conditions attributed to climate change are hurting the health of Iowans, according to leading Iowa scientists.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The Iowa Climate Statement 2014: Impacts on the Health of Iowans, released in October, outlined climate change issues that are affecting respiratory and cardiovascular health. The fourth annual statement was signed by 180 scientists and researchers from 38 colleges and universities across Iowa.

With a longer growing season, plants produce more pollen – pollen that is increasingly potent – making it more difficult for many Iowans to breathe. Childhood asthma rates are also on the rise, due in part to higher indoor moisture levels. Rising temperatures have allowed disease-carrying mosquitos and ticks to migrate further north into the Midwest, resulting in cases of Dengue Fever and Ehrlichiosis being reported in Iowa this year.

For more information about the Iowa Climate Statement 2014, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerry Schnoor.

Iowa agriculture groups back water quality alliance


Standing water in an Iowa field during the summer of 2014 (Carl Wycoff/Flickr)

Standing water in an Iowa field during the summer of 2014 (Carl Wycoff/Flickr)

KC McGinnis | October 1, 2014

A recently launched nonprofit organization backed by three of Iowa’s largest agricultural groups hopes it can help Iowa farmers protect water quality.

Funded by the Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and Iowa Pork Producers Association, the Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance (IAWA) was launched in late August to assist Iowa farmers in implementing the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. The strategy, developed after a request from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2008, is an initiative by farmers, scientists and water treatment plants to reduce the amount of nitrate and phosphorus being released into Iowa waterways. Most of these nutrients are released from farms and other agricultural producers, and can cause significant problems for habitats all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

The IAWA intends to work with researchers and agriculture stakeholders to increase understanding of nutrient reduction methods. It stresses continued flexibility for farmers, who are encouraged but not mandated to implement the elements of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

A recent report, however, casts doubt on the effectiveness of this voluntary approach for agricultural producers, who contribute the vast majority of phosphorus and nitrate to Iowa waterways. This could be because of a lack of awareness or understanding of the program. Last year, only half of Iowa farmers surveyed who were aware of the Nutrient Reduction Strategy chose to participate, and about a third were unaware of the program altogether.

On the Radio: Iowa native species making a comeback


An osprey nest at a northwest Iowa nature center. (Evan Bornholtz/Flickr)
An osprey nest at a northwest Iowa nature center. (Evan Bornholtz/Flickr)

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at ongoing efforts by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to reintroduce the osprey, a native predatory bird, to Iowa. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

 

Transcript: Ospreys

An Iowa Department of Natural Resources program aims to increase populations of a native predatory bird throughout the state.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus

Six ospreys from Minnesota were relocated to Iowa this summer in an effort to increase nesting populations. Three of the six were released near Clear Lake in north central Iowa and the other three near Swan Lake in Carroll county. The Iowa DNR started the program in 1997 and since their first successful nesting in 2003 have produced 141 wild osprey at 78 different nests.

Ospreys are birds of prey that generally feed on fish and are known for the bone-crushing strength of their talons. These raptors can have wingspans of nearly six feet and within a lifespan can travel the equivalent of two and a half times around the globe.

For more information about ospreys, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerry Schnoor.

http://www.iowadnr.gov/insidednr/socialmediapressroom/newsreleases/vw/1/itemid/2087

http://www.iowadnr.gov/Environment/WildlifeStewardship/NonGameWildlife/DiversityProjects/OspreyRestoration.aspx

Iowa State students learn about ecology thru on-campus prairie


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The Oakridge Research and Educational Prairie is a 1.6 acre prairie on the Iowa State University campus. (Brent Mortensen/Facebook)
Nick Fetty | September 25, 2014

Students at Iowa State University are learning about ecology and other sciences hands on through the Oakridge Research and Educational Prairie right on campus.

The prairie was established in March 2012 as a way to “test how mammalian herbivores affect and are affected by plant diversity.” The researchers planted roughly an acre and a half of prairie on land that was previously used for rotating crops. Sections of the prairie varied from roughly 14 prairie species to as many as 51 species. Early in the project the prairie was inundated with agricultural weeds but after the first couple of years the prairie plants were expected to establish themselves. However, “[n]ext year, the prairie will be burned and dead plant material will be cleared out, killing the invasive species that affect it.”

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The prairie has gone through major changes since it was established in 2012 (Brent Mortensen/Facebook)

A 2012 study of small mammals living in the prairie concluded that the prairie vole was the most-common species with 122 of these rodents captured then released. This was followed by the western harvest mouse (97) then the deer mouse (79). However future studies will need to conducted “to determine the effects of plant diversity on small mammal populations.”

In addition to studying plant and animal life, the prairie also teaches students “how to retain and improve productive soil.”

Playful “professor” has the answers to UI energy questions


A footbridge across the Iowa River in Iowa City. (Adrianne Behning/Flickr)
A footbridge across the Iowa River in Iowa City. (Adrianne Behning/Flickr)

University of Iowa students, faculty and alumni have many questions about energy use at the UI and across the state, and a fictional professor may have the answers.

“Professor KW Therm,” an entertaining informational character played by faculty member Doug Litwiller, will give a presentation on “all things energy” Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the UI Museum on Natural History. Litwiller, associate director of energy conservation for UI Facilities Management, will talk in layman’s terms about the UI’s energy use, and how to reduce household carbon footprints. He will answer questions specific to the University, like how much energy it uses and how much it costs, and basic questions about energy terminology.

Litwiller’s presentation reflects efforts by the University of Iowa to reach net-negative energy growth by 2020. The plan, announced by UI President Sally Mason in 2010, aims to reach this goal in part by increasing “student opportunities to learn and practice principles of sustainability.”

The presentation by “Professor Therm” is open to anyone in the community. Attendees are encouraged to bring their utility bills so Litwiller can explain what their energy costs mean.