State and local efforts most affected in proposed $1.6 billion in cuts to EPA


State and local environmental efforts would take a big hit under the last-minute budget agreement reached by Congress last week.

Terms of the deal, which ended talks of a government shutdown, include cuts of $1.6 billion from the EPA’s budget – over $1 billion of which would be taken from community efforts to comply with federal environmental rules. Continue reading

Report: Wind Industry has broad reach in Iowa economy


A new report from the Environmental Law and Policy Center, a Chicago-based environmental advocacy organization, shows just how much the wind industry impacts Iowa’s economy. It reaches more than 80 local business and provides 2,300 manufacturing jobs, which likely leads the nation, the report states.

With over 25,000 wind turbines at 80 sites, about 20% of the power Iowa generates comes from wind. Continue reading

On the Radio: Improving Farming, From Space


Hornbuckle

In this week’s radio segment, we’re highlighting the research efforts of Brian Hornbuckle, an ISU professor of agronomy. Listen.

An ISU professor is looking at satellite data in an effort to help Iowa farmers respond profitably to changing climate.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Changing climate is altering Iowa’s agriculture and that affects the bottom line for Iowa farmers.

In order to learn more, ISU Professor Brian Hornbuckle is working with the European Space Agency on a groundbreaking project to improve predictions of flood and pollution levels.

His work could help increase Iowa crop yields.

Hornbuckle’s team is studying data gathered by a satellite using microwaves to measure soil moisture on Earth.

Their job is to confirm the satellite’s accuracy, and then make the data useful for both farmers and policy makers.

This is another example of how Iowans are responding to changes in our environment.

For more information, visit us at IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

Thank you.

I’m Jerry Schnoor with the University of Iowa Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research.

On the Radio: Think Before You Flush


Our latest radio segment highlights the efforts of University of Iowa researchers Gene Parkin and Craig Just, who are developing an affordable and sustainable way to treat wastewater. Listen.

Iowans, do you think before you flush?

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

When you press down on your toilet lever, you probably don’t take the time to think about where your waste goes. You essentially flush it from memory.

But thinking about waste is important. Today, more than 600 communities in Iowa lack adequate sewer or wastewater treatment systems. Some lack a system entirely.

So in some cases, a flush could end up flowing directly into our rivers and streams.

Updating all of Iowa’s wastewater systems to conventional standards would cost more than $1 billion, according to the American Water Works Association.

But Gene Parkin and Craig Just, engineering professors at the University of Iowa, are researching a more sustainable way to treat wastewater at a lower cost to Iowa communities.

They have created a micro-wetlands test site that treats ammonia and other human wastes using plants and nature’s own processes.

This is important research that could soon help small communities across Iowa.

For more information visit Iowa EnvironmentalFocus.org

I’m Jerry Schnoor from the University of Iowa Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research.

Thank you, and enjoy Iowa’s environment.

Read more about the mini wetlands project.

CGRER’s Forbes nets grant to improve elementary science education teaching


From the University of Iowa News Services:

Cory Forbes
Cory Forbes

Elementary educators (grades K-6) are expected to be content experts in many different areas -– from math and literacy to science.

Yet few of them have the specialized training and support necessary to excel in this critical content area, according to Cory Forbes, science education assistant professor in the University of Iowa College of Education.

However, thanks to a grant of more than $250,000, Forbes is launching a project in the Davenport Community School District this fall that investigates how and why elementary teachers use existing science curriculum materials to teach science. The goal is to help educators teach science in ways that best promote student learning.

The district is one of Iowa’s largest high-needs school districts, Forbes said, and this project will engage 60 elementary teachers in evaluation, planning and instruction.
Continue reading

On the Radio: Spurring interest in the sciences, Back to School Special


This week marks the beginning of CGRER’s new radio segment (unsurprisingly) called the Iowa Environmental Focus. Below is the audio and transcript of our first clip. For more information on the segment, check out our “On the Radio” page.

Click here to listen to the clip (1:15).

TRANSCRIPT:

How can we improve science education in Iowa’s schools?

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

As Iowa kids head back to school this fall, we would like to highlight a group of Iowa researchers working to make our classrooms better places to learn.

During the next two years, Cory Forbes, a U of I education professor, is leading a team that will engage 30 Davenport teachers to study how to improve the way science is taught in our schools.

Right now, many American kids are falling behind in science, showing little interest in the material. This project looks to change that by promoting interactive learning.

If more kids get the chance to DO science, kids may decide they like it. And if we see more interest in science here, our kids will better equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century and to keep Iowa prosperous.

For more information visit us at Iowa Environmental Focus dot O-R-G.

Welcome back to school, everybody. Let’s make this another great year in our local schools.

I’m Jerry Schnoor from the University of Iowa Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research.

Thank you, and enjoy Iowa’s environment.

END

Soil erosion problem and more: Leopold shares parting thoughts in Des Moines Register


Richard Leopold

On Sunday, outgoing Iowa DNR director Richard Leopold shared some final thoughts about the state of Iowa’s environment in a Des Moines Register guest column.  There, he lamented about the state’s lack of progress in cleaning its rivers, it’s underfunded state parks, and the politicization of science (“Sadly, many of the scientific “debates” of today are not scientific debates; they are about power and money.”).

Leopold also shared a startling statistic about Iowa’s increasing infertility: Continue reading

Doak: Iowa’s weather disasters are ‘the new normal’


The Delhi Dam's failure in July is just one of a slew of natural disasters in Iowa that show the need for policy confronting the reality of Iowa's changing climate. - Photo by Reuters

If you have yet to read it, be sure to check out Richard Doak’s outstanding editorial in last Sunday’s Des Moines Register. In it he convincingly argues that, like it or not, we are now knee-deep in the unpredictable, hardship-ridden reality of “post-climate change Iowa,” and local and state policymakers need to address it.

Doak, a retired Register editor who lectures at Simpson College and Iowa State University, suggests a wide range of proactive measures we could take to mitigate some of the disastrous effects of Iowa’s changing climate, including restoring wetlands and “getting out of the way” of flood waters by limiting development in flood zones.

An excerpt:

The warm, soggy summer of 2010 in all likelihood is not an aberration. It is the new normal.

Henceforth, more summers will be like 2010 than not. And, if climate change is just in its early stages, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Iowa is working to help people cope with the floods of 2010, even as others are still recovering from floods and tornadoes of 2008. Helping neighbors is the first priority, but this should also be an occasion for long-range thinking about how to mitigate future disasters.

What adjustments should our state be making to live in a new climate era where the abnormal has become normal?

It’s a question the state’s would-be leaders should be discussing in this election year.