Grinnell College to host water quality symposium

Iowa River tributary in Iowa City. Photo by Jim Malewitz.

On April 6-7, Grinnell College’s Center for Prairie Studies will co-sponsor a symposium analyzing “Iowa’s Troubled Waters: the Challenges of Quality and Quantity.”

The symposium, also hosted by the college’s Luce Program in Nations and the Global Environment, will explore the topic of Iowa’s waters, which face record levels of pollution.

“The global concerns for water—too much, too little, potable, polluted—are all right here in Iowa,” said Jon Andelson, director of the Center for Prairie Studies. “Iowa’s relationship with water has become increasingly troubled of late by growing groundwater contamination and unusually heavy rains. We’ve gathered Iowa experts to consider these challenges and potential solutions.”

The free, public symposium events include:

  • Wed., Apr. 6, 4:15 p.m.: Keith Schilling, a research geologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, will open the symposium with a challenge for the audience to consider options in “Water Quality in Iowa: It’s Our Choice.”
  • Wed., Apr. 6, 7 p.m.: Representatives of Iowa’s public sector will discuss “Flooding: River Community Perspectives.” Panelists include Ann Hamilton Campbell, mayor of Ames and a 1962 Grinnell graduate; Des Moines Public Works Director Bill Stowe, a 1981 graduate; Steve Estenson, risk manager for Linn County; and Tim Schoon, a photojournalist for the University of Iowa and a 1991 graduate.
  • Thurs., Apr. 7, 11 a.m.: Author and ecologist Connie Mutel will discuss “Water in Iowa: From Gift to Curse and Back Again.” Mutel is an archivist and historian of science and engineering at the University of Iowa’s hydroscience and engineering institute, home of the Iowa Flood Center. She has written about Iowa’s natural history and environmental change issues, and her most recent books include “The Emerald Horizon: The History of Nature in Iowa” (2008) and “A Watershed Year: Anatomy of Iowa’s 2008 Floods” (2010).
  • Thurs., Apr. 7, 4:30 p.m.: The Center for Prairie Studies will host a hands-on, “get wet” exploration of Arbor Lake in the town of Grinnell. Assistant Professor of Biology Elizabeth Queathem and Larissa Mottl, the college’s biological field station manager, will involve participants in water quality testing procedures and discuss the benefits of conservation practices at the lake. All participants should RSVP to and indicate transportation needs. The event will begin promptly at 4:30 at the lake’s Washington Ave. parking lot. Those needing transportation from campus to Arbor Lake should meet at the Rosenfield Center 8th Ave. dropoff no later than 4:15 p.m.
  • Thurs., Apr. 7, 7:30 p.m.: Screening of “Big River,” co-sponsored by the college’s chapter of Free the Planet.

All symposium events will be held in the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, unless otherwise noted. Questions about the symposium may be referred to Laureen Van Wyk at the Center for Prairie Studies,, 641-269-4720.

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