Iowa's Nature Series

From river to river or topsoil to bedrock, Iowa's lands and waters are teeming with diversity and fascinating stories that inspire awe and appreciation for our rich natural heritage. Iowa's Nature seeks to tell these stories.

This ambitious project pooled the talents of 35 different authors hailing from all corners of Iowa with careers and passions as varied as Iowa's natural world itself with gifted students and recent graduates of Iowa State University's design programs to create this 10-part article series called Iowa's Nature. Each article in the series seeks to serve as a one-stop shop for introductory information on many dimensions of Iowa's biological and geological diversity. The series explores the history of the land and life-sustaining soils of our state; the three major ecosystems found here; plant and animal diversity that call those ecosystems, and others, home; and explores some of the people and symbols of Iowa's rich biological, ecological, and cultural diversity.

Find each article here, and be sure to explore the supplemental information below for resources for educators and communicators passionate about Iowa's Nature, including access to high-resolution versions of each of the graphics featured in the article series for educational use.

 Landforms and geology article

Landforms and geology

From ocean-front property to spruce forest to today's rich organic prairie soils, Iowa's geological past is a fascinating story that can be told through careful inspection of the land beneath our feet. This article explores the long-view history of Iowa's landscapes and explains how the hills and valleys we call home were formed over millennia.

 Soil article

Soils

It is widely accepted that Iowa's soils are some of the richest and most productive in the world. But how and why? This article explores those rich soils, how they form, how scientists describe and classify them, and the conservation challenges they face.

 Prairies article

Prairies

Iowa, like no other state in the U.S., is defined by its tallgrass prairies. This article takes a deep dive into those prairie ecosystems, learning about the cast of plants, animals, and people dependent on them and how people today are working to manage and protect this critical ecosystem.

 Forests article

Forests

The forests of a prairie state like Iowa are unique refugia of biological diversity and important ecological and economical function. This article explores Iowa's forest ecosystems and the critical roles they play in our environment, economy, and quality of life.

 Aquatic Environments article

Aquatic Environments

From the ephemeral pool of a prairie pothole to the giant pools of the mighty Mississippi, Iowa's lands are defined by their diverse, and critically important aquatic ecosystems. This article takes a deep dive into the ecology and intrigue of these systems found across the state and discusses the challenges they face and the promises of conservation actions taken there.

 Vertebrates article

Vertebrates

From city sewers to pristine prairies, the reptiles, amphibians, birds, mammals, fish, and lamprey found within Iowa's borders are as diverse and fascinating as the people found there. Members of these varied groups of wildlife are collectively called vertebrates and this article explores all the diverse life history strategies and behaviors demonstrated by Iowa’s non-human vertebrates.

 Invertebrates article

Invertebrates

Asked to picture Iowa's wildlife diversity and many people may think first of vertebrates, rather than the invertebrates who comprise the vast majority of diversity found among the living animals of Iowa's lands and waters! This article features the stories of a few of the thousands of insects, spiders, crustaceans, butterflies, moths, worms, snails, mussels, and leeches found in Iowa, everywhere from our border rivers to our homes.

 Plants article

Plants

From the bur oak tree towering over the savanna to the humble bladderwort, floating untethered in the water of wetlands, Iowa's plants and plant-like organisms are fascinatingly diverse. This article explores that diversity, describing the classification Iowa's plants, the varied places they occur, and the remarkable adaptations they have to life in Iowa.

 State Symbols article

State Symbols

Some characteristics of Iowa's Nature are so fundamentally Iowan that they've received special designation as such by the state legislature. This article explores those uniquely Iowan symbols including the state bird, tree, flower, and rock along with a sampling of other natural features that define our state and inspire awe in all the diversity found here. 

 Influential Voices article

Influential Voices

For as long as the tallgrass prairie blooms have blown in the breeze and the muddy Missouri flowed past its western border, the land we call Iowa has been stewarded and cared for by people. From the diversity of Native cultures that have called this land home to the 20th century advocates who fought for its protection and care amid unprecedented exploitation, thousands of influential voices have fought to protect this land and its diversity. This article features a few of those voices that have been influential in the care of Iowa's Nature and who set an example for future generations to follow in protecting the rich natural heritage we all inherit.

Supplemental Resources

Download the series graphicsCollage of educational graphics from Iowa's Nature Series

Each of the original graphics or maps developed as part of the Iowa's Nature project are available for high-resolution download at this web page for use in educational programs or materials. Attribution to the Iowa's Nature Series and the original author is encouraged in all non-commercial educational uses of the graphics. In some instances noted on the website, special attribution to the original producers or data sources is required as indicated by copyrights.

Original Iowa Association of Naturalist Publication SeriesCollage of covers of the original Iowa Association of Naturalists series

The Iowa's Nature Series is a modern adaptation from an original, 40 article series published by the Iowa Association of Naturalists. Each article in that series is digitally archived and available for download at this link.

Acknolwedgements

Each article in the Iowa's Nature Series was produced through a collaborative project led by members of the Iowa Association of Naturalists (IAN) and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach (ISU). Each article in the series were reviewed and approved by the Iowa’s Nature Editorial Board including Heidi Anderson (Polk County Conservation), Rebekah Beall and Elizabeth Waage (Story County Conservation), Lilly Jensen (Winneshiek County Conservation), Stephanie Shepherd (Iowa Department of Natural Resources), and Adam Janke and Julia Baker (ISU). Original graphics for the series were created by Travis James, Madeline Schill, Irah Dhaseleer, Natasha Orton, and Alison Peters. Funding for the project was provided by a Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) Conservation Education Program grant.

Iowa DNR Resource Enhancement and Protection program logo