On May 16th I started my internship with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach to gain experience in water resources through a regional initiative called the Watershed Research and Management Internship Program. During the first two weeks, I was immersed in what a busy week working in Extension can be. I had a vast range of opportunities to learn about Extension in different contexts such as professional development, promotion of conservation practices to stakeholders, education, creation of conservation plans and collaboration with local and federal governments.
During my first week I attended the Iowa Watershed Academy with my mentor, Catherine DeLong (ISU Extension Water Quality Program Manager), where I was introduced to the important conservation work that Watershed Coordinators do. Watershed Coordinators are responsible for working with local farmers and landowners to meet water quality goals; these might be reducing levels of certain nutrients or erosion in the stream. Later in the week, I attended the Tri-State Forestry Conference with Dr. Billy Beck (ISU Extension Forestry Specialist) where I learned about forest soils and ecosystems, the practice of crop tree release, prescribed burns and invasive species management as well as erosion control for forests. In week two I attended an Extension feedback session, led by Tama County Extension, for female identifying landowners and managers, as well as the Headwaters of the South Skunk River Water Management Authority meeting in Story County where I was able to see people from different groups work together to achieve the same goal.
The experiences I have had so far have enriched my understanding of careers in conservation work beyond the scope of what I had learned in an academic setting. My academic background is in Agricultural Engineering, Land and Water resources, which has given me valuable insight in the engineering practices that go into managing soil in different contexts. The work that I have done in this internship has been eye opening as to how the information and innovation that happens at university campuses can be diffused to the people who actually have the ability to implement the solutions and generate some real change. Moreover, the work that goes into making knowledge accessible to everyone in the intended audience including people who speak other languages, have a visual impairment, or some other accessibility need.
Up next: I am excited to continue learning about Extension and Geographic Information System Mapping (GIS) which I will use to create a self-updating map with the contact information of Watershed Coordinators in Iowa as easier access to the Watershed Coordinators allows for members of the communities to reach out. Additionally, I am looking forward to working on various projects including presenting my work at the Climate Intersections Conference in Duluth, Minnesota with the other interns in July.