By Ann Staudt
Five undergraduates from Iowa State University are spending their summer traveling across Iowa talking to folks about water quality and conservation issues as part of the Water Resources Internship program. In addition to outreach activities, the interns will conduct field research on water quality, cover crops and soil health.
The 2018 Water Resources interns are Taylor Kuehn, New Hampton, Iowa; Wyatt Kaldenberg, Indianola, Iowa; Donovan Wildman, West Branch, Iowa; Kaleb Baber, Weston, Mo.; and Dawn Henderson, Marcus, Iowa. This internship is primarily associated with the Water Rocks! and Iowa Learning Farms outreach programs.
Helping students learn
During May, the interns visited schools across Iowa helping the Water Rocks! program engage young people about watersheds, biodiversity and soil. “I like that the kids are interested in what we are talking about,” says Donovan, who just finished his first year at ISU. “I want to know that I’m doing something that has an impact, and I can see that firsthand when I’m presenting in front of kids or even teachers.”
In June, the students are traveling with the Conservation Stations, mobile learning labs designed to engage Iowans of all ages at county fairs, farmers markets and other community events about the importance of clean water and healthy soil. Interns will also participate in Iowa Learning Farms field days and Water Rocks! day camps.
At a recent event in Burlington, Wyatt, an ISU junior, was surprised by the number of people interested in the Conservation Station: “In the span of two hours, even with a light drizzle, we saw over 160 people. It impressed me that people were that involved and interested.”
Experience in field valuable
Interns will also play a role in fieldwork, data collection and lab work for research projects affiliated with the ISU AgWater Management group and the Iowa Learning Farms. Students say they are drawn to the internship program because they can do so many different activities in one summer. As Kaleb, a senior, notes, “Even if I’m presenting the same material, it’ll be in a different part of the state and you never know what’s going to happen. I like that variety.”
The competitive Water Resources Internship program began in 2007 and has hired over 40 college students from all over the country. Many of the interns go on to have careers in water quality, agriculture, conservation and natural resources management. In fact, the desire to work on environmental issues is what draws many of the students to this internship.
“After this internship, I hope to find a job in conservation in my local county where I grew up,” says Taylor, a senior. “I really hope to get into water quality and maybe even work with children.”
Dawn, also a senior, agrees, “This internship directly relates to what I would like to do as a career. It combines my two passions of working in agriculture — with soil and plants — as well as doing public outreach.”
Iowa’s water education program
The Water Resources Summer Internship program is sponsored by the Water Rocks! and Iowa Learning Farms outreach. Water Rocks! is a unique, award-winning statewide water education program fostering the interplay of knowledge, caring and engagement among Iowa’s youth. Iowa Learning Farms is building a Culture of Conservation among farmers and other Iowans. For more information about Water Rocks!, visit waterrocks.org. To learn more about Iowa Learning Farms, go to iowalearningfarms.org.
Staudt is program manager for ILF. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.