Module 1 - Setting the stage: Land, water, and conservation in Iowa

forest stream

The goal for the first session of the course is to "Set the Stage" for the more detailed examination of conservation we will embark on for the rest of the course. To do this, we will explore the people, places, and policies involved in conservation in Iowa and across North America.

At the end of this session, participants should:

  1. Be able to define conservation as it relates to natural resources including forests, water, soil, and wildlife.
  2. Be familiar with the modern structure and challenges facing conservation in Iowa.
  3. Understand the geological and ecological context of Iowa.

Before coming to the in-person session, complete the following elements.

  1. If you haven't done so already, please complete the pre-course assessment at this link to help us document the impact and make improvements to the Master Conservationist Program.
  2. View the introductory lecture for the program titled Setting the stage (17 minutes; download PDF of slides) where Dr. Adam Janke introduces conservation, reviews some conservation history in Iowa, and discusses the structure of the Master Conservationist Program.
  3. Read and reflect on Aldo Leopold's essay titled "The Land Ethic" in your copy of his influential 1949 book A Sand County Almanac (page 201 in the special commemorative edition).
  4. Watch the lecture on Iowa’s Lands and Waters (24 minutes; download PDF of slides) by Dr. Peter Moore for an introduction to the form and function of Iowa's landscape and land features.

As you review these materials and all the materials in the course, start to reflect on the following questions. We'll come back to these at the end of the course and use them as a way to think about how we can apply the things learned in the course to "plant the seeds of conservation" in Iowa. 

  • What’s your “conservation elevator speech”? That is, if you were only given a few seconds to describe what conservation means to you and why others should care, what would you say?
  • Where do you see conservation challenges in your community? Who is working on addressing those challenges? Who’s missing?
  • What's your Land Ethic and how does it shape the way you interact with the land and the animals that inhabit it?

Supplemental resources

References and supporting materials covered in this module. Explore as you have time and interest!

To understand Iowa's lands and waters, it's also important to understand the people that have lived here and shaped these ecosystems for thousands of years. This interactive map from the non-profit organization Native Land Digital highlights, to the best of our knowledge, where indigenous nations once lived and connects viewers to resources to learn more about those cultures and people. Tip: it helps to turn "labels" on, by checking the small box in the lower right side of the viewer to try to find modern places like states and cities you are interested in learning more about

Learn more about the Coon Creek Watershed -- "the birthplace of watershed conservation" --- mentioned in the introductory lecture by watching this video from the NRCS (9:18).

Episodes of Iowa Land and Sky program
The Iowa Land and Sky program from Iowa Public Broadcasting has a wonderful library of short, educational videos about Iowa's landscapes and ecology. Here's a list of episodes that add to the focus of this module.

Maps to explore Iowa

Short readings on Iowa’s ecosystems and conservation history

*Note the Iowa's Nature Series will be featured in many modules of the Master Conservationist Program. Check out the project's landing page for all 10 articles in the series and to download high-resolution graphics developed for the series.

Books about conservation and the environment in Iowa

Biographies about important figures in conservation in Iowa

Nationally significant books about conservation and land stewardship

Iowa Conservation Organizations

Conservation Agencies in Iowa

Periodicals and mass media on conservation in Iowa

  • Iowa Outdoors magazine, published by Iowa DNR
  • Iowa Outdoors television program produced by Iowa Public Broadcasting (YouTube channel with past episodes)
    • This episode (27 minutes) of Iowa Outdoors focused on conservation issues in Iowa and provides a great overview of topics we'll discuss more in the course including habitat restoration, endangered species, invasive species, and community engagement.

Do you have ideas for how we can improve this online module? Did we miss a resource that you think should be included? Were elements too long or too short? Too technical or not technical enough? Please help us improve the Master Conservationist Program by providing feedback on this short online form?