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ISU adds 2 Extension ag specialists

A new climatologist and forage specialist join the Iowa State University Extension staff.

Rod Swoboda

February 9, 2024

4 Min Read
Madelynn Wuestenberg
PASSION FOR WEATHER: Madelynn Wuestenberg is the new ISU Extension climatologist. An Iowa State grad, she has a passion for weather and climate topics. Photos by Iowa State University

Two new specialists have joined the ag team at Iowa State University Extension — Madelynn Wuestenberg as climatologist and Shelby Gruss as forage specialist. Both have offices on the ISU campus at Ames, and will assist farmers and the industry by providing information on issues of interest and helping solve problems.

Wuestenberg began her position Jan. 2. She says she’s looking forward to working with the ag community and getting to know farmers.

“It’s very important for me to hear their stories and challenges, while providing evidence-based research and reliable data,” she says. “Understanding data and how measurements are made is a good way of starting to understand some of these complicated systems.”

Wuestenberg earned her bachelor’s in meteorology from ISU in 2022 and her master’s in ag meteorology in 2023. She grew up in Slater in central Iowa, and both of her parents come from farming families.

Providing climate information

Wuestenberg developed an interest in math and physics during high school and decided to study meteorology at ISU. Working in Extension is a dream job, she says, and she looks forward to sharing climate-based information with the public.

“We are thrilled to have Madelynn on board,” says Jamie Benning, assistant director for ag and natural resources with ISU Extension. “This role will build capacity within Extension to deliver timely research-based information and tools for ag and natural resources stakeholders as they respond to extreme weather and adapt to changing climate conditions.”

Although she will be based on campus, Wuestenberg works with Iowans across the state, including county Extension offices. She is a member of the Central Iowa National Weather Association and is active with the American Meteorological Society.

Her role is supported by funding from the USDA Climate Hub. She will collaborate and leverage expertise with the Hub and the state climatologist to address needs in Iowa. Wuestenberg can be reached at 515-294-6014 or [email protected].

ISU forage specialist

Gruss joined ISU Extension as the state forage specialist in November. She will help educate Iowans about the value of forage production and address issues related to forage management, pests and diseases.

Gruss grew up on her family’s farm in northeast Indiana and earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of Illinois. Gruss earned her Ph.D. in plant breeding and genetics from Purdue University in 2021 and completed her postdoctorate at Michigan State in 2022.

Shelby Gruss

“I look forward to helping Iowa farmers use forages in the best way they can,” she said. “There are so many different species that are classified as forages, and so many uses for forages, so no day will ever look the same.”

Gruss also has teaching and research duties. She looks forward to the many interactions she will have across campus and out in the field. She will work closely with ISU’s Extension crops team and also the Extension livestock specialists.

“I see forages playing a role in almost any type of farming system,” she says. “They can help build soil health, help reduce soil erosion and help with water quality, and they’re a feed source for livestock.”

Filling important role

Josh Michel, ISU Extension field agronomist in northeast Iowa, says he’s pleased to welcome Gruss as she fills an important role for Iowa producers.

“As the state forage Extension specialist, Shelby will collaborate with field specialists across Iowa to deliver forage-related programs and content to farmers and others,” Michel says. “This is something we field specialists have been looking forward to for quite some time, and we’re very eager to work with her. Her diverse background and experience will be extremely valuable as she begins to identify priority areas and issues in forages across the state.”

While Gruss has a passion for forages, she is also an accomplished wheelchair basketball athlete, having played for the University of Illinois and the U.S. Women’s National Team. She is the athlete representative for the U.S. Paralympic women’s basketball team, and is an avid fan of basketball in general.

Gruss can be reached at [email protected] or 515-294-1360.

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Extension

About the Author(s)

Rod Swoboda

Rod Swoboda is a former editor of Wallaces Farmer and is now retired.

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