AMES, Iowa — Iowa Learning Farms program manager Jacqueline Comito and ILF team member Ann Staudt were recognized at the Technology Association of Iowa’s fifth annual Iowa Women of Innovation awards ceremony on Thursday, Nov. 15. TAI’s chosen honorees work in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). One woman was honored in each of the 10 categories such as Research Innovation and Leadership, Business Innovation and Leadership and STEM Champion. DuPont Pioneer, CDS Global, Principal Financial Group and Rockwell Collins sponsor the event.
Comito and Staudt are Iowa State University Extension and Outreach staff members and part of the ILF team, a program that brings awareness of successful conservation farming practices to Iowa farmers, landowners and youth—the next generation of landowners.
Comito received the award in the Government Agency/Non-Profit Innovation and Leadership category. She was recognized for her accomplishments and leadership in raising environmental literacy including: creation of "Water Rocks!," a statewide campaign that educates K-12 students about water quality; researching, writing and publishing the book "Water Quality Matters To Us All"; managing the Iowa Learning Farms program and producing the Culture of Conservation video series, which includes "Troubled Waters" and "Out to the Lakes." Both films have earned Iowa Motion Picture Association honors for documentary and educational production.
Staudt earned the Rising Star award for her work in STEM including: the creation of Water Rocks! materials including the website and online game “Rock Your Watershed,” development of Conservation Station and Water Rocks! curriculum for grades K-12 classroom visits. Staudt also is a composer and wrote music for the Culture of Conservation video series and music videos created for Water Rocks! Comito and Staudt’s integration of STEM with art and music is vital to increasing environmental literacy within Iowa and beyond.
Erin Rollenhagen, founder of Entrepreneurial Technologies, nominated both women. In Rollenhagen’s nomination of Comito and her body of work, she writes, “Dr. Comito’s passion for her work is evident within a few minutes of meeting her. She is wholly dedicated to producing the best possible result from complex projects bringing together art, science, music, engineering and education and is willing to do whatever needs to be done to achieve that goal. She is a true leader in the STEM field.”
And in Staudt’s nomination, she states, “In her young career, Ann has tackled myriad challenges with enthusiasm and diligence to share her passion for soil and water conservation with kids across the state. Her can-do attitude and strong scientific background make her a great asset to any project. She is a true rising star in the STEM field.”
Iowa Learning Farms takes a grassroots approach offering innovative ways to help all Iowans have an active role in keeping our state’s natural resources healthy and not take them for granted. A goal of ILF is to build a Culture of Conservation, encouraging the adoption of residue management and conservation practices. Farmers, researchers and ILF team members are working together to identify and implement the best in-field management practices that increase water and soil quality while remaining profitable.