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September 2017 Newsletter 
North Central Region Water Network
Extension-led, community-driven outreach and education
Director's Update
Extension and Science Communication: A Refresher and a Challenge
As the school year starts, many communities are enjoying the lingering summer weather and savoring the bounty of a full growing season. In stark contrast are coastal and western communities that are experiencing devastating, large-scale disasters. The 2016 western wildfire season rolled right into 2017, with the U.S. Forest Service and Department of Interior spending over $2 billion combined since October 2016 to keep these blazes from destroying even more lives, homes, and livelihoods.  
Americans will be paying for hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria - financially and emotionally - for decades to come, with over 100 deaths, thousands displaced, and staggering financial estimates of over $100 billion to nearly $300 billion. Prior to this one-two-three punch sequence of rain, wind, and storm surges, 2017 was already a high-cost year for weather and climate disasters, ranking third behind 2011 and 2016 for the January-June time period. Harvey, Irma, and Maria make 2017 the costliest year for weather and climate-related disasters ever recorded. Sadly, when it comes to the damage floods have caused to communities nationwide, land use decisions that disregard research showing high flood risk have contributed to the cost.
I have the privilege of working for the Cooperative Extension system, serving colleagues across the Midwest. Many of you know that three years ago, Cooperative Extension celebrated its first 100 years serving the people of our states, our nation, and the world. One of the great contributions of the Cooperative Extension system was, and is, helping people understand the practical value that science can bring to their lives. This list of tips for communicating science to people who are not scientists from Dr. Marshall Shepherd at the University of Georgia is helpful for scientists and a reminder of the skills and contributions that extension educators and specialists make every day.
Perhaps a less emphasized and equally important role for extension is communicating to scientists about the research needs of the people we serve.  Those of us at universities or in other research roles certainly need to collectively improve how we communicate benefits of our work. However, we will not improve the reputation of science without doing a better job of listening to the needs of the people the research has the potential to impact. So whether the research questions pertain to agriculture, K-12 science education, municipal stormwater management, forest resource management, land use planning, or some other water-related issue, I challenge my Extension colleagues to speak clearly and persistently about the value we can provide to scientists, particularly those without substantial outreach roles. In an era when many funders require proposals to plausibly demonstrate the potential for real world application and impact, partnering with experienced extension educators can increase the competitiveness of a proposal and also lead to more satisfying outcomes for both scientists and the end-users of their science.

If you would like to contribute ideas for the future of the North Central Region Water Network, feel free to send me a note at .


Rebecca Power, Network Director


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Network Initiatives

Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework (ACPF)

Leaders in local watersheds across the Midwest have been demonstrating the effectiveness of the voluntary, small-scale watershed planning approach to addressing waterway pollution. The HUC-12 watershed is an optimal scale for engaging landowners, prioritizing and siting practices where they will have the most impact, and seeing water quality impacts.

A key tool for planning and implementing at this scale is the Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework (ACPF). The ACPF provides a set of precision conservation planning tools designed to facilitate conservation planning in small watersheds through landowner participation. The conceptual planning approach first emphasizes practices that improve soil health on a watershed-wide basis, then provides multiple choices for placing a variety of structural and vegetative practices that control, trap and treat water flows within and below fields on a site-specific basis. Riparian assessment and mapping tools are also included. The ACPF comprises an ArcGIS toolbox that identifies options for conservation practice placements by applying topographic, hydrologic, soils, and land use criteria to customized high resolution databases, now available for >7000 HUC12 watersheds in the Midwest. The results provide a menu of conservation options, allowing local farm producers the discretion to select preferred practices and locations, and providing information to help identify key riparian management opportunities in a watershed. 

The ACPF toolbox has been applied in watershed planning efforts in five states. Further information can be found at .

People who have used the ACPF have identified several benefits. They are much more efficient when they go into the field to identify conservation opportunities because they can do a lot of preliminary work in the office. It also helps to give landowners specific ideas to consider.

An additional benefit to the ACPF is the consistency of the high-resolution datasets on land use, soils, and topography that provide the base for use of the ACPF toolbox. The land use and soils data are available across more than 7000 HUC12 watersheds; topographic data are also available based on LiDAR surveys available for each state and downloaded separately. Recently, the ACPF team has published an article in the Journal of Environmental Quality that describes the database development and structure. This article can now be freely accessed through the ACPF page on the NCRWN website:

The development of the Framework was done by Mark Tomer and his team at the ARS NLAE in Ames, IA -- Sarah Porter, Dave James, and Jessy VanHorn -- with funding from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Now, the focus is on expanding regions where the ACPF is available, and expanding the training and support resources to get the ACPF into hands of more conservationists. A collaboration of the University of Minnesota, University of Wisconsin-Extension, NCRWN, and Purdue University has been working to make training more available -- both for the technical and human dimensions of using the ACPF. Video-based training will be available soon to help GIS specialists learn how to use the tools. Within the next two years, the team will also develop guidance for how to use the ACPF as part of a watershed approach. 

Funding for this work is from the NRCS and the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Visit our  Network Initiative Page  for more information on current and previous initiatives, and future funding opportunities. 


Leadership Spotlight

Each month we call attention to a significant state-led project and associated leadership team member from our Network. These spotlights demonstrate the diversity of ongoing water research and outreach projects in our region. Please contact your state's North Central Region Water Network Leadership Team member for details on the projects in your area. 

Creative & Collaborative Approaches to Water Quality Education and Outreach
What do dogs, ducks, songs, slow jams, games, competition, and poop all have in common? These are just a few of the out-of-the-box, creative components utilized in conservation and water quality education and outreach at Iowa State University, and at the heart of these unique outreach efforts is Ann Staudt.
Staudt began working with the Iowa Learning Farms (ILF) conservation outreach program in 2009. For several years prior, ILF had utilized a portable rainfall simulator to demonstrate the impacts of land management practices on soil health and water quality.  However, ILF was ready to expand - to a 22' trailer, to be precise - and wanted to incorporate multimedia and hands-on components, in addition to an improved rainfall simulator, to increase engagement at farmer field days, county fairs, community festivals, and more.  Staudt was brought on board to help make that happen.
Her first big task?  Come up with a catchy name for the traveling trailer. The Conservation Station was born.  (Today, ISU has three Conservation Stations on the road, travelling 18,000+ miles annually.)

The Conservation Station offers young students an exciting and one-of-a-kind learning environment.

At the same time, there were big questions about how to translate these conservation topics effectively to youth. Within her first eight months on the job, Staudt came into a team meeting with a crazy idea - use dogs as mascots to help teach young people about water quality, soil health, and all things conservation. The Conservation Pack was born! (And it's still going strong today - check out the Adventures of the Conservation Pack videos on YouTube and TeacherTube! )
The ever-growing demand for youth education and outreach led to the launch of Water Rocks! in 2012, combining STEM and the arts, especially music, to educate the next generation on all things water. Today, Water Rocks! provides classroom visits across the state of Iowa, Water Rocks! Summit training workshops for teachers and extension professionals across the NCRWN, Water Resources Internship Program, plus educational resources of all kinds, including original hands-on, interactive games and activities (such as Habitat Hopscotch, Biodiversity JENGA and Great Poo Pickup Relay Race), music videos, educational PSAs, and Rock Your Watershed! computer game. Water Rocks!, together with Iowa Learning Farms, participates in 200+ school visits and community outreach events annually, reaching 20,000+ people, of all ages and backgrounds, across Iowa - the demand for water quality education just continues to grow!
Staudt's engineering background poised her well to serve as the Water Rocks! Science Director, helping to develop and implement unique approaches to educating young people, while also ensuring scientific accuracy across the board. However, she's more than just the science director. Staudt personally presents to hundreds of classrooms each year; her energy and enthusiasm with both students and teachers is truly contagious!
Take a closer look at the 100+ videos on the   WaterRocksISU YouTube channel , and you'll see that she's a musician, too. Introducing elementary students to the concept of a watershed?  Check out We All Live in a Watershed .  For middle school and high school students, check out Will U B the H 2 My O? and The Drinking Song

Staudt's teaching strategies range from field activities to hands-on work in classrooms. 

Today, Staudt continues to work with farmers, landowners, and  agricultural professionals to promote conservation practices, whether that be speaking about Iowa's Nutrient Reduction Strategy  at a farmer field day, or working with USDA-FSA staff on wetlands identification. These various conservation outreach efforts are informed by Staudt's involvement in multiple research/ demonstration projects, primarily investigating cover crops -- agronomic, economic, water quality and soil health impacts, as well as the connections between earthworms and cover crops.  She is instrumental in collecting and summarizing field data, and then distilling the often-complex science into fact sheets, infographics and presentations that are accessible to non-technical audiences.  By the way, the songs and videos are not limited to youth audiences -on the topic of cover crops, Slow Jam Cover Crops and Cover Crop Anthem are not to be missed!

Over the years, Staudt's conservation work at ISU has continued to evolve to meet the needs of Iowans, combining a unique hybrid of research, demonstration, and highly creative approaches to education and outreach. What remains constant is her high level of energy, creativity and true passion for water quality and conservation!
 Ann Staudt, Iowa State University 

Ann Staudt is an environmental engineer who actively blends scientific knowledge and creative expression through her work and teaching.  Staudt works with multiple Iowa State University Extension and Outreach programs, serving as Assistant Manager of the Iowa Learning Farms and Science Director of the award-winning Water Rocks! youth water education program.  In her own words, "I thoroughly enjoy teaching people of all ages about pertinent water and soil issues in our environment today - translating complex science into content that is accessible to broad audiences across the state of Iowa and beyond."
Staudt holds her MS degree in Environmental Engineering from the University of Notre Dame and BS degree in Chemical Engineering (music minor) from Iowa State University.


IEC Annual Conference
October 5, 2017
As environmental concerns grow, it's time for actionable solutions that bring individuals, communities and public-private partnerships together to create a healthier Iowa. Learn more.

Imagine a Day Without Water 
October 12, 2017
Imagine a Day Without Water achieved a new bar for national public will building for water. Nearly 500 hundred organizations, companies, and municipalities across the country engaged in Imagine A Day Without Water - and drove unprecedented water-focused media and social media coverage in national and local markets.  Join the national movement on October 12, 2017 to raise awareness around water issues across the globe.   Learn more.

Invasive Mussel Collaborative Webinar: Approaches to Watercraft Inspection and Decontamination
October 12, 2017
The Invasive Mussel Collaborative will be hosting a webinar on October 12 to discuss approaches to watercraft inspections and decontamination for zebra and quagga mussels . This webinar will continue an examination of watercraft inspection and decontamination programs, focusing on voluntary programs within the Great Lakes region. The webinar will feature presentations from various extension, Sea Grant, and water professionals.  Learn more.

Food Land and Water Conference
October 16-17, 2017
The  Food, Land & Water Project conference is scheduled for October 16-17, 2017 at The Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake.  The conference will involve a wide range of invited stakeholders who will present strategic background information and results of the four stakeholder workgroups.   Attendees will have a chance to listen, discuss, build new connections and working relationships, and think about our shared resources in a more systematic and collaborative way. Learn more. 

Soil and Water Conservation Society National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health
December 7-8, 2017
Whether you are contemplating cover crops for the first time, or you have years of experience and want to interact with soil health and cover crops innovators, this program will provide you with valuable information, networking, and learning opportunities. 
The conference is intended for anyone interested in the practical use of cover crops and soil health improvement, including farmers; conservation agents; certified crop advisers (CCAs) and agribusiness staff; and university, nongovernmental organization (NGO), and agency representatives.  Learn more.

Do you know of an upcoming water or conservation event in the Midwest? Add it to the NCRWN website here

Funding and Other Opportunities

FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule: Opportunities and Impacts on Potential Water Reuse for Agricultural Irrigation
Water Environment & Reuse Foundation is currently funding research to investigate the effects of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule on utilizing recycled water for agricultural irrigation. The objective of the White Paper is to provide an explanation of the Produce Safety Rule, how it will relate to reuse in terms of testing and water quality requirements, and present potential reuse opportunities for states to consider.

Application are due by October 11, 2017. Learn more. 

Evaluating Economic and Environmental Benefits of Water Reuse for Agriculture
Water Environment & Reuse Foundation is currently funding research to evaluate the economic and environmental benefits of water reuse for agriculture. The objective of this effort is to provide documentation and characterization of economic and environmental benefits and obstacles to utilizing nontraditional water sources for agricultural irrigation as determined by an economic analysis using cost benefit analysis or other economic analysis tools.

Applications are due by October 18, 2017. Learn more.

In Case You Missed it...

The Current  is a speed networking webinar series for professionals engaged in water-related extension, research, and conservation activities. The North Central Region Water Network and Extension Directors from all 12 North Central states are sponsoring this series to highlight the best water-related research and Extension programming in the region. Webinars will run for 60 minutes, with three 10-minute project snapshots and 30 minutes of QA/peer-to-peer interaction.


Octobe r 11, 2017 - The Current 32: Next Generation Extension
  • Deb Weitzenkamp, Extension Educator, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Kimmel Education and Research Center
  • Alan Pilkenton, Educational Media Coordinator, Michigan State University Extension Children and Youth Institute
Past Webinars: 

September 13, 2017 - The Current 31: Social Indicators in Watershed Outreach and Impact Assessment: Overview and Applications
  • Ken Genskow, Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at UW-Madison and Co-Director of the UW Environmental Resources Center: Social Indicators for Watershed Nonpoint Source Planning and Management
  • Richard Ingram, Associate Director of the Mississippi Water Resources Research Institute: Using Social Indicators to Guide, Evaluate and Accelerate Implementation of State-level Nutrient Reduction Strategies


NIFA announces support for future agricultural science professionals
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced $12.6 million to support the training of 55 doctoral candidates and 52 postdoctoral scholars. Funding is made through NIFA's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. Learn more.

Study finds no-tillage not sufficient alone to prevent water pollution from nitrate
A new IUPUI study funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture answers a long-debated agricultural question: whether no-tillage alone is sufficient to prevent water pollution from nitrate. The answer is no.  Learn more.

Soybean research could save farmers millions
Through a collaborative project, Purdue University and Dow AgroSciences researchers have discovered a novel soybean gene that provides resistance to a devastating and costly fungal disease.  The team of Dow AgroSciences and Purdue researchers screened a wide variety of soybean genetic material using a number of approaches. The research team pinpointed a gene that confers strong resistance to multiple types of soil-borne pathogens.  Learn more. 

Great Lakes fish found to have antidepressants in brains
Next time you bite into a tasty bass or walleye, beware, you may be eating more than just fish.  A new study  has found human antidepressants are building up in these fish, and several others, in the Great Lakes region.  In the study, researchers found active ingredients from antidepressant medications, including Zoloft and Prozac, in the brains of smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, rudd, rock bass, white bass, white perch, walleye, bowfin, steelhead and yellow perch fish in the Niagara River. Learn more.

Mobile grazing app being developed for forage management 
The University of Missouri Extension is developing a smartphone app called PaddockTrac to help farmers better manage forage. MU Extension received a $444,000 grant to create the mobile application from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.  Learn more.

Learn more about NCRWN

NCRWN Fact Sheet
Want to see what we have been up to in the North Central Region Water Network? Check out our fact sheet for more details. 

Our Mission:

We work together to expand and enhance multi-state water outreach and research efforts across the North Central Region of the United States.

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