Joe Otto joined the Iowa Water Center in November of 2018 as the Communications Specialist. His duties include academic researching, copy writing and editing, contributing to the Iowa Water Center blog, and engaging the public via meetings, educational presentations, and other professional outreach efforts.
From Jasper County in central Iowa, Joe grew up on an acreage near the city of Colfax. Growing up in rural Iowa allowed Joe to develop an appreciation for those unique places where land and water come together – ponds, creeks, swamps, strip mines, quarries, and the timbered bottomlands along Skunk River.
Joe holds a Bachelor’s degree in History from Iowa State University, a Master’s degree in History from Appalachian State University, and is in the final stages of a PhD in History from the University of Oklahoma. He specializes in the agricultural history of Iowa with a focus on water management. His Master’s thesis was a case study of drainage district formation and administration in his home county of Jasper. His dissertation is an expanded history of drainage throughout Iowa from statehood to the 1920s. His research has taken him to county courthouses and small-town public libraries across Iowa, as well as several state and federal archives, and a few private collections.
As the Communications Specialist for the Iowa Water Center Joe looks forward to connecting Iowans to water-related research, conservation techniques, and meaningful stories in an accessible way. He also hopes to advance interdisciplinary collaboration and cross-pollination between social scientists and agronomic researchers who share an interest in conserving Iowa’s soil and water resources.