Iowa is a conservation leader for the nation. We’ve seen it time and again when studies, research projects and conservation initiatives from Iowa are recognized and rewarded on the national scene. Building on this success, and looking toward a future of even more impact, we’ve formed the Conservation Learning Group, housed at Iowa State University, to enhance our ability to continue leading, teaching and learning.
The purpose of the Conservation Learning Group is to provide a flexible and supportive forum that encompasses multiple conservation-minded organizations and extends support to many more. Providing this umbrella organization will facilitate sharing knowledge, resources and best practices between researchers and other experts. Creating an ecosystem to support creative collaboration and crossover will invigorate the community to uncover and explore new ideas and concepts.
CLG will also be a one-stop shop for educators and the public to access the latest advances in conservation practices as well as the tried-and-true results from decades of research and practice. In addition, the group establishes a platform to engage with other research organizations sharing complementary objectives to enable synergies in curation and delivery of new ideas.
One way to think of CLG is as a think-tank model: a place where we can explore new ideas or new ways of educating folks or evaluating programming. The group will take a multidisciplinary-systems-thinking approach to solving environmental problems.
Key organizations and programs under the CLG canopy include Iowa Learning Farms (ILF), Conservation Learning Labs (CLL), and Water Rocks! Partners that may participate include Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.
Solving a good problem
We are receiving rapidly increasing requests for help and information. Interest in conservation is on the rise, a positive trend seen and enhanced by ILF outreach programming over nearly 15 years. And along with rising interest, the quantity and variety of requests for information and studies exceeding the scope of ILF or the Water Rocks! programs have also grown. The broader scope and flexible structure of CLG will enable a much richer response ability, and it will provide fertile ground for more innovation and inventive studies and solutions.
WATER QUALITY: Farmers learn about the health of rivers and streams, and how to use practices to improve and protect water quality.
CLG will be a think tank comprising talented minds in bioengineering, social science, agronomy, crop science, soil science, wildlife management, water resource management and conservation. The hive-like atmosphere will encourage teams to collaborate and build on each other’s knowledge and successes to deliver the greatest impacts on the environment and society.
Using the established outreach and education channels made available through ISU Extension and nurtured by ILF, new programs and concepts can be easily incubated and tested in the field without significant new investment or channel development. Bridging training, outreach, evaluation and research across conservation, land use, and cropping systems, the potential for effecting change is limitless.
Bringing more ideas into the stream will enhance the range of topics and education available through field days, school programs and education seminars across the state.
The CLG leadership team is very excited for the possibilities just around the corner. To follow our progress, stay tuned to conservationlearninggroup.org.
Comito is the director of Iowa Learning Farms and Water Rocks! and Conservation Learning Group Team leader.