CGRER 25th Anniversary Profiles: Laura Jackson

Laura Jackson (center) and her students work on a display of a prairie plant root system. (University of Northern Iowa)

Nick Fetty | August 14, 2015

Laura Jackson is a biology professor at the University of Northern Iowa and has been a CGRER member since the the center was established in 1990. In addition to her research, which focuses on ecological restoration of agricultural landscapes and forb establishment dynamics in tallgrass prairie reconstruction, Jackson also participates in outreach efforts to educate the public ecology of Iowa plant systems.

“It’s giving us an opportunity to start a conversation about ecosystems processes and what it means to have a diverse perennial root system in the ground as opposed to an annual row crop system,” she said.

Jackson and her team create plant displays using a special growth medium in 10-foot deep pots. Thus far they have displays in 20 Iowa counties and Jackson said she expects to add an additional 10 counties each year. Part of her goal with the public outreach is to dispel the notion that scientific research is tied to a poltical or ideological agenda.

“There’s a lot of people who don’t understand how science works at all and they are encouraged to think that it works like politics works, you try to prove your point somehow,” she said. “Showing people that science is really a process of trying to eliminate as many biases and inaccuracies as possible and that it doesn’t set out with any other agenda than to understand better what’s going on and that’s just as true for environmental science or ecology as it is for medical science, probably more so in fact.”

This article is part of a series of stories profiling CGRER members in commemoration of the center’s 25th anniversary this October.

On the Radio: Warmer temperatures send wildlife North

One sign of a northward movement of plants and animals: In 2006, the Arbor Day Foundation moved Northern Iowa from a solid 4 to a 5 on its hardiness zone map.

Listen to this week’s radio segment on how climate change affects plant and animal movement.

People aren’t the only ones adapting to climate change – plants and animals are too.

They are on the move. Continue reading

Responding to Climate Change in Iowa


Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

On the heels of the release of their report to the governor on how climate change affects Iowans, Laura Jackson, Jerry Schnoor and Gene Takle penned a great column in today’s Des Moines Register summarizing their findings and calling for Iowans to act on climate change. Check it out.

Also, take a look at some of the other press the report has gotten: Continue reading