Morris and Arbuckle’s Twitter Takeover

On April 7, Chris Morris and J. Arbuckle took over the Iowa Water Center’s Twitter account with another edition of our #TwitterTakeover series. Morris and Arbuckle delve into a discussion on their research process behind farmer adoption of conservation practices, as well as the transition to working from home due to COVID-19.

Morris is a graduate student in the Sustainable Agriculture program at Iowa State University. Arbuckle is a rural sociologist with emphasis on social dimensions of soil and water conservation. Arbuckle is the director of the Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll and administers an annual farmer survey. He also is the Chair of the Sustainable Agriculture Graduate Program at Iowa State University.

Morris’s first research project that he conducted revolved around analyzing the 2016 Iowa Farm Poll to study the connection between a farmer having a Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) conservation plan and their application of the nine recommended conservation practices by the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

His initial prediction of what the data would show was that applying the NRCS conservation plan would lead to the adoption of all nine recommended conservation practices. Their research did not show this, as a surprise to Morris. The research analysis concluded that having the conservation plan only predicted applying two of the nine conservation practices. This data also showed that the more frequent a farmer visits their local United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) service center, the more likely they will adopt conservation practices. The overall outcome that they found from this research was that farmer interaction with conservation specialists was the most consistent predictor of practice application.

The current project that Morris is working on is centered around targeted conservation, referring to science-based techniques to pin-point areas on land that are the most vulnerable to soil erosion and water quality issues.

Morris explains that targeted conservation is seen as a way to improve agriculture impacts in a watershed more efficiently, as opposed to just using “random acts of conservation.” Farmers are contacted by personnel and presented with the information, as well as offered technical assistance if needed. Targeted conservation is starting to be adopted by state and federal conservation agencies, and even private consultants, but its feasibility and success relies on the acceptance of the farmer.

Morris and Arbuckle analyzed data from the 2009 and 2014 Iowa Farm Polls to see if farmers’ relationships and attitudes about targeted conservation have changed over time. Their research found that even though the approval of targeting has slightly decreased in those five years, the majority of farmers still approve of targeted conservation.

The duo also examined in-depth interviews and focus groups to add to their survey analysis. Overall, they found that even though most farmers supported the idea, some farmers had concerns about being targeted, the use of the data and the need for cost share programs. Here are some snippets from the interviews that Morris shared on Twitter:

To end this #TwitterTakeover, Arbuckle and Morris shared the struggles that have come along with adapting to remote work. This is a quick glimpse into their working-from-home life:

You can follow Chris’s personal Twitter account, @JChrisMorris81, J’s personal Twitter account, @Jfullstop, their ongoing project’s account, @ISU_CCHANGE, and of course, the Iowa Water Center account @IowaWaterCenter to see the Twitter takeovers in live action.

Grace Wilkinson’s Twitter Takeover

Grace Wilkinson, a limnologist, ecosystem ecologist and assistant professor at Iowa State University, took charge of our Twitter account on March 27th for our #TwitterTakeover series. She shared her experiences on her group research projects and statewide water quality monitoring programs.

Wilkinson starts her #TwitterTakeover by making sure everyone knows what limnology is (the study of inland waters, FYI). She explains further that limnology is the basis of understanding the physical, chemical and biological components of rivers, lakes, reservoirs, wetlands, etc. Wilkinson also has a research emphasis on links between lakes and the landscape.

Wilkinson and her lab group monitor over 130 lakes and reservoirs in Iowa. They measure the concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorus, algae, zooplankton, stratification and even more. This summer marks the 21st anniversary of the Iowa Ambient Lake Monitoring program.  This program consists of Iowa State University students preparing to be limnologists that collect data from each 130+ lakes through the months May-September. The data that is found is used for listing and reporting lakes as a part of the federal Clean Water Act, as well as for additional research. All of this data is open to the public, and you can access it here.

Wilkinson’s research team also partners with the United States Army Corps to monitor the Des Moines River and its key reservoirs. This has been an ongoing program for over 45 years, with continuous data collection all year. She explains that long-term data is crucial to understand ecosystems and how they change over time. Her team published a paper revolving around the Des Moines River data to shed light on the importance of wavy patterns in aquatic ecosystems – you can read the paper here.

Since her research group is commonly referenced, Wilkinson took the time to highlight the group members and what they are studying.

First, we have Ellen Albright, a PhD student studying the mechanisms that control internal P loading in shallow lakes that are often found in Iowa. This field of interest helps guide in-lake management interventions, including alum application, dredging, fishery renovations and more.

Next, there is Tyler Butts, a PhD student studying the understanding of how a food web structure mediates the response of algae to changes in the environment that could potentially alter biomass. This can be caused by a big storm or an event similar. Butts is also one of the 2020 Iowa Water Center Grant Recipients for his research on the relationship between food web structure and ecosystem resilience, as well as how food web structure affects greenhouse gas flux.

Here is a little insight into the projects Butts has done in the past:

Finally, Quin Shingai, a master’s student studying cryptic fluxes of microcystin, is the last lab research group member. Microcystin is a cyanotoxin that can lead to human exposure. For those that don’t know, a cyanotoxin is a type of toxin produced by bacteria that can be found almost anywhere, but specifically in lakes and oceans. Shingai is interested in the absorption of microcystin to sediment particles that could be resuspended in shallow waters, such as beaches.

You can follow Grace’s personal Twitter account, @goodgracious23, Ellen’s personal Twitter account, @limnoellen, Tyler’s personal Twitter account, @Eco_Butts, Quin’s personal Twitter account, @Shingai_Science, and of course, the Iowa Water Center account, @IowaWaterCenter, to stay updated with recent news and events happening in the Water World.

Dennis Todey’s Twitter Takeover

Dennis Todey, the director of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Midwest Climate Hub, took the reigns of our Twitter account on April 23rd to discuss the ongoing conversation around climate and water issues in Iowa.

The climate hubs were created in 2014 by the USDA and consist of 10 hubs spread around the United States. Each hub develops the latest information regarding topics including climate change, agriculture and forestry. The hubs also help to develop new tools, work on adaption efforts in ag-climate change and several other areas of regional agriculture and forestry.

The Midwest Climate Hub (MCH) includes the states: Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. A main objective of the MCH is working hand in hand with the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center (NWSCPC) to compare and contrast current information with the information presented by NWSCPC to make accurate predictions of future climate issues. The MCH also revolves heavily around work with agriculture climate issues, especially impacts on specialty crops.

The MCH also collaborates with many services, including federal and regional partnerships. Some of these partnerships include National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), High Plains Regional Climate Center (HPRCC), National Drought Mitigation Center, USDA Farm Service Agency and USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. The MCH works with many extension programs across the Midwest as well to discuss climate issues and land grant programs.

Todey explains that one of the largest issues the Midwest sees in regards to climate is increased precipitation. Precipitation totals have increased 10-15% in the central United States in the last 100 years, with this causing wetter springs and falls that lead to various agriculture issues including floods and increased surface runoff. With more wetness comes with the possibilities of soil and nutrient loss, as well as an interest for more agriculture draining systems.

Picture attached in tweet:

Of course, another “hot” topic in this discussion was the increase in temperature. The temperature is rising year by year, with positives and negatives in result. One positive is that now Iowa winters are not as painful – it is still cold, but not as severe or lasting as long.

Pictures attached in tweet:

To end the Twitter takeover, Todey inquired about the community’s favorite weather based songs. Here is a link to a Spotify playlist of all of the replies – as well as some of my own additions.

Todey received his Bachelor of Science in meteorology from Iowa State University, his Master of Science in meteorology from South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and earned his PhD in agriculture meteorology from Iowa State University. He served as the South Dakota state climatologist for 13 years at South Dakota State University and has been in Iowa working with the USDA since 2016.

You can follow Dennis’ personal Twitter account, @dennistodey, the USDA Climate Hub Twitter account, @USDAClimateHubs, and of course, the Iowa Water Center account @IowaWaterCenter to see the Twitter takeovers in live action.