January 2015 Newsletter 
North Central Region Water Network
Extension-led, community-driven outreach and education
Director's Update

 What Is SERA-46?


"Great discoveries and improvements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds." -Alexander Graham Bell

Water resource management is complex. Jurisdictions are overlapping and unclear, changing conditions that make measuring progress difficult, and there are as many different constituencies to satisfy as there are people. When it comes to water, cooperation is critical to get the job done. The Mississippi River Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force (Hypoxia Task Force) has been working together since 1997 to address both state nutrient management and the interstate challenge of reducing the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico. While land-grant universities have been informing nutrient management decisions for decades and have been instrumental in the development of several state nutrient strategies, we recently formed a new team of researchers and extension educators from the 12 states along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers to work in partnership with the Hypoxia Task Force and its members. The goal of the team (SERA-46) is to "promote effective implementation of science-based approaches to nutrient management/conservation that reduces nutrient losses to the environment."


The team met for the first time on January 22-23 to develop a specific work plan. Ellen Gilinski, USEPA Co-Chair of the Hypoxia Task Force, and Ray Knighton, a National Program Leader for the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, joined the group to present their perspectives on priorities for university research and outreach. Jason Hubbart, Director of the University of Missouri Center for Watershed Management and Water Quality and I will be co-chairing SERA-46 in 2015. If you are interested in participating or following the work of SERA-46, please let Jason or me know.


While there were many factors that led to the development of a stronger collaboration between the Hypoxia Task Force and land-grant universities, members of the North Central Region Water Network, and our Extension and Experiment Station Directors in the North Central and Southern Regions played a critical role in the process. We look forward to developing SERA-46 into a team that contributes "great discoveries and improvements" for water resources, agriculture, and communities.


Rebecca Power, Director

North Central Region Water Network


Network Initiatives
We are pleased to introduce the following 2015 North Central Region Water Network seed funded initiatives. Stay tuned to our website where you will be able to learn more about these innovative projects.  

Capacity Building Workshop for Irrigation Professionals in the North Central Region
Project Leaders: Joshua Stamper, University of Minnesota Extension

Watershed Management: Developing Leadership Capacity in Collaboration and Civic Engagement for Collective Action

Project Leaders: 

Joe Bonnell, The Ohio State University

Barbara Radke, University of Minnesota Extension

Mapping the Pathways for Effective Information Dissemination & Education between Manure Nutrient Management Agricultural Professionals

Project Leader:

Erin Cortus, South Dakota State University

Integrating Volunteer Nutrient Monitoring and Outreach With Extension Across States

Project Leaders:  

Kris Stepenuck, University of Wisconsin-Extension

Project summaries coming soon! 
Leadership Spotlight: Iowa State University Extension
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. 
Featured Project: 

Iowa Cover Crop Working Group

by Jamie Benning

As interest in cover crops has grown in Iowa in recent years, the Iowa Cover Crop Working Group formed to address farmers' cover crop questions and promote best management practices for successful cover crop implementation. The group originally formed in 2006 as part of the Green Lands/Blue Waters consortium.  Partners in the working group include Iowa Learning Farms, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Practical Famers of Iowa, the National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment, and Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS).  The working group has secured funding from state and federal sources to establish research and extension projects to evaluate cover crop seeding techniques, appropriate cover crop mixtures for Iowa, and long term impacts of cover crops on soil and water. 

While there are currently other long-term cover crop research plots in Iowa, the ICCWG long term project is the only long-term on-farm research being conducted in the state.  Cover crops are one practice identified in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy that minimizes the loss of both nitrogen and phosphorus. The ICCWG has found the data from the on-farm research to be an effective outreach tool with farmers and local stakeholders seeking to improve soil health, minimize nutrient loss, and gain an additional forage source for livestock.


In 2014, the group sponsored 25 field days and workshops that were attended by over 1,140 people.  ICCWG members are often invited to share research data from the projects at events hosted by other agencies and organizations.  In addition to extension and outreach events, research reports, decision support tools and calculators, and cover crop videos have been developed by the ICCWG and its partners.


For more information, visit:

Iowa Cover Crops Working Group


Iowa Learning Farms Cover Crop Resources


Jamie Benning
Water Quality Program Manager, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

Jamie Benning is the Water Quality Program Manager with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates extension program activities related to water quality, connects with water researchers, and develops new programs to meet current and future needs. Benning connects with external partners and stakeholders to support water quality improvement efforts throughout the state.  Benning obtained a bachelor's degree in Agronomy and master's degree in Soil Science, both from Iowa State University. She has 13 years of experience in multi-disciplinary research and extension projects focusing on water quality, watershed management, farmer-leadership in agricultural watersheds, soil quality, and nutrient management.


 More about Jamie Benning

The Current Webinar Series
Our webinar series is your connection to our Network and water outreach, research and collaboration efforts across the North Central Region. Designed for busy working professionals like yourself, the webinars are only an hour and won't take up much space on your calendar. We hope you will join the conversation. 

Please visit our webinar overview page for details on upcoming and past webinars. 

Upcoming Webinars:


Educating the Next Generation of Water Leaders -
Feb. 18, 2:00PM CST

Elizabeth Juchems, Conservation Station Coordinator - 
Water Rocks!: Making a Splash with Youth Water Education 
Catherine Techtmann, Environmental Outreach State Specialist - 

Kate Reilly, Outreach Program Manager - 
Think Water
Past Webinars:
If you happened to miss one of our webinars in 2014, be sure to visit our webinar archive page to get caught up on the latest from our Network. You can also view these by going directly to our NEW NCRWN Youtube Page. Thank you!


Ten Years of Watershed Assessment in CEAP: Insights and Lessons Learned

Feb 5, 2015 | Online 12:00-2:00 p.m. CST

Please join us as we review insights and lessons learned from the past 10 years of USDA's Watershed Assessments in the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP). CEAP addresses USDA's need to quantify the effects and benefits of agricultural conservation practices. The goal of CEAP Watershed Assessments is to develop scientific understanding of and quantify conservation practice effects at watershed scales. The projects are focused on understanding how the suite, timing, and spatial distribution of conservation practices influences their effect on local water quality outcomes. Modeling, monitoring and human dimensions approaches were utilized in CEAP Watershed projects...Event Details


Changing Weather and Climate in the Great Lakes Region - MOOC

Feb 23-March 31, 2015 | Online

From University of Wisconsin Madison

This 4-week course will feature a new season each week through short lectures and activities covering Great Lakes weather, observed changes in the climate, and societal impacts of climate change. Along with sharing our passion for weather and climate, we'll convey information from NOAA's National Weather Service (NWS) Weather-Ready Nation initiative as well as findings from the recent National Climate Assessment and the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI)... Event details

Funding Opportunities

Great Lakes Protection Fund

Deadline: The Fund is open to project ideas and pre-proposals at any time.

The Great Lakes Protection Fund welcomes proposals for projects that enhance the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem and will return the greatest ecosystem benefits. The Fund supports teams that are testing catalytic innovations-new ways of doing new things-that change how people and institutions interact with the Lakes for the better.  More info


McKnight Foundation - Mississippi River Program

Deadlines: February 1 for May consideration, May 1 for August consideration, August 1 for November consideration, November 1 for February consideration

The McKnight Foundation, a Minnesota-based family foundation, seeks to improve the quality of life for present and future generations. Through grant making, collaboration, and encouragement of strategic policy reform, we use our resources to attend, unite, and empower those we serve.  More info

USDA Seeks Applications for Conservation Innovation Grants
Deadline: February 24 for pre-proposals for initial review before inviting entities to submit full proposals
USDA is also soliciting proposals for projects to stimulate natural resource improvements, including, but not limited to, improvements in water quantity, soil health, and wildlife habitat. Applications from this funding pool may also emphasize expected benefits to historically under-served producers, veterans, and organic producers. Applications in the fields of economics and sociology as they relate to natural resources are also being welcomed. More info


Mississippi River Program Goal: to restore the water quality and resilience of the Mississippi River.  More info

In Case You Missed it...

Reaching the Next Generation Through Fun and Interactive Activities - Webinar

Available Now! | Online

From Livestock and Poultry Environmental (LPE) Learning Center

Youth are an important audience for manure management professionals - they are the next generation of producers, consumers, and scientists (in other words, you!). Fairs, 4-H events, classroom visits are just a few of the numerous opportunities every year to share what we do, educate youth, and simply interact with people. However, coming up with
appropriate activities can be daunting. This webinar will share ideas and activities that have been used with youth across the country on manure, air quality, and sustainability. The range in activity complexity and experiences of the presenters will hopefully spur some creative ideas for your next event... Event details

 Full post


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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