Interns Experience Conservation and Water Quality Outreach

Iowa State students explore outreach and research related to agricultural and environmental issues as summer interns

June 6, 2018, 4:01 pm | Ann Staudt

AMES, Iowa — Five Iowa State University undergraduates are spending the summer traveling across Iowa talking about water quality and conservation issues as part of the Water Resources Internship program. In addition to outreach activities, the interns will also assist with field research on water quality, cover crops and soil health.five Water Rocks interns.

The 2018 Water Resources Interns are Taylor Kuehn, New Hampton; Wyatt Kaldenberg, Indianola; Donovan Wildman, West Branch; Kaleb Baber, Weston, Mo.; and Dawn Henderson, Marcus. The internship is primarily associated with the Water Rocks! and Iowa Learning Farms outreach programs.

During the month of 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,” stated Wildman, 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 first-hand when I’m presenting in front of kids or even teachers.”

Starting this month, the students will be traveling with the Conservation Stations, mobile learning labs  and engaging in conversations with 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, Kaldenberg was surprised by the number of people who were interested in the Conservation Station.

“In the span of two hours, even with a light drizzle, we saw over 160 people,” he said. “It impressed me a lot that people were that involved and interested.”

Interns will also play a role in fieldwork, data collection and lab work for research projects affiliated with the Iowa State Ag Water Management group and Iowa Learning Farms. Students are drawn to the internship program because they are able to do so many different activities in one summer.

“Even if I’m presenting the same material, it will be in a different part of the state and you never know what’s going to happen. I like that variety,” said Baber.

The competitive Water Resources Internship program began in 2007 and has hired over 40 college students from all over the country. A majority of the interns go on to have careers in water quality, agriculture, conservation and natural resources management. 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 the county where I grew up,” said Kuehn. “I really hope to get into water quality and maybe even work with children.”

Henderson agreed, “This internship directly relates to what I would like to do as a career. It combines my two passions of working in agriculture—with the soil and with plants—as well as doing public outreach.”

The Water Resources Summer Internship program is sponsored by the Water Rocks! and Iowa Learning Farms outreach programs. Water Rocks! is a unique, award-winning statewide water education program that fosters 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 To learn more about Iowa Learning Farms, go to


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