Module 2c - Understanding Iowa's Ecosystems: Aquatic environments


The second module -- Iowa's Ecosystems -- offers a crash course in each of the three major ecosystems found in Iowa: prairies, forests, and aquatic ecosystems. The goal for each submodule is to introduce the history of the ecosystem, describe the current status and function of the ecosystem, and discuss the challenges facing the ecosystem in Iowa. In future modules and during the in-person sessions, we'll discuss approaches to address those challenges and how conservationists are using these natural ecosystems to address other challenges in Iowa like water quality and wildlife habitat.

At the end of this session on Iowa's Aquatic Ecosystems, participants should:

  1. Understand the distribution, structure, function of Iowa’s streams, rivers, and wetlands.
  2. Identify how natural factors and artificial modifications affect integrity of aquatic ecosystems throughout the state.
  3. Be familiar with stressors on aquatic ecosystems and how they impact organisms found in aquatic environments.

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

  1. Watch the recorded lecture (64 minutes; download PDF of slides here) by Dr. Tomas Isenhart for an overview of the major aquatic systems in the state, their history, how they work ecologically, and what challenges they face in our modern landscapes.
  2. Read the article on Aquatic Environments (pdf) from Iowa's Nature for a written general overview of aquatic ecosystems found in Iowa.
  3. Watch the video Incredible Wetlands (23 minutes) to learn more about Iowa's wetland ecosystems.

Supplemental resources

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

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.

Resources from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

Resources from the Iowa DNR

Online maps to learn more about aquatic communities

  • Wetlands Mapper Application from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Survey's National Wetland Inventory. Although not a perfect representation of wetland locations, many major wetland types are mapped and can be viewed throughout Iowa and the U.S.
  • Water monitoring mapping application from the Iowa DNR allows users to explore watersheds throughout the state.

Miscellaneous resources


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?