Ames, Iowa – Graduates of Iowa State University’s Master Conservationist Program are invited to gather in the Loess Hills this September for the first-ever statewide meetup.
“The goal for this event is to get graduates together to explore different parts of Iowa while providing space for socializing and learning,” said Kaycie Waters-Brocka, natural resources field specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and co-director of the Master Conservationist Program.
The event will begin with a dinner and social at the Desoto National Wildlife Refuge on Sept. 29, followed by a day of field trips around the Loess Hills on Sept. 30. Graduates will get the opportunity to meet conservation professionals in western Iowa and learn about how management in the Loess Hills differs from other places in Iowa. Saturday’s tour will begin at the new Willow Lake Nature Center, where participants will learn about various water quality conservation practices happening in the area. Participants will then get to hike around a few scenic places in the Loess Hills while learning from County Conservation Board and Department of Natural Resources biologists. Lunch will be provided, and during lunch attendees will learn about the unique fire management that happens in the Loess Hills.
The Master Conservationist Program started in Iowa in the 1990s but was redesigned and reinvigorated in 2017. Since then, over 700 people have completed the curriculum that combines online lectures about statewide efforts for conservation and land stewardship with in-person lessons led by local natural resources professionals in over half of Iowa’s counties. Graduates are encouraged to volunteer in their communities and continue to stay engaged with one another and local instructors. This statewide meeting will be the first of its kind. The program’s goal since its inception has been to “Plant the seeds of conservation in Iowa.”
Adam Janke, program co-director and extension wildlife specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach, said he hopes graduate engagement efforts such as this will help those seeds flourish.
This year’s event is hosted by ISU Extension and Outreach Harrison County. Future graduate meetups will be hosted in other areas of the state, with the goal of giving graduates more opportunities to network and learn from one another, while also explore more of Iowa’s unique natural resources.
Graduates of any Master Conservationist Program offering from any year are invited to attend the event. The registration for this event is $35 and payment in the form of cash or check will be accepted at the event. Dinner on Friday evening and lunch on Saturday will be provided. Pre-registration is required, and registration closes on Monday, Sept. 18.
Lodging is not provided. Those traveling can explore surrounding areas for overnight accommodations: Missouri Valley, Onawa, Denison, Harlan and Council Bluffs, Iowa, or Blair, Nebraska.
This event is only open to those who have previously completed the Master Conservationist Program. For more information, contact Kaycie Waters-Brocka at 515-294-5820 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or reach Adam Janke at 515-294-7429 or email@example.com
Shareable photo: Preparation Canyon from the Loess Hills, which will be featured in the field tours for Master Conservationist Program Graduates on Saturday Sept. 30. (Photo courtesy of Carter Oliver)