Kate Lucas from Lake St. Louis, is spending this summer immersed in conservation and water quality field research, education, and outreach as part of Iowa State Universityís (ISU) Water Resources Internship Program. As an ISU water resources intern, Kate is a part of Iowa Learning Farms, a leading source of conservation and water quality resources and education in Iowa, and the award-winning Water Rocks! youth education program. She is having fun, learning, sharpening her skills and contributing to the creation of new program elements driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In years past, water resources interns like Kate would spend the first weeks of summer visiting schools to deliver Water Rocks! programs, working directly with elementary and middle-school students. With school closures and pandemic-related restrictions, that part of the internship is on hold, but she has been active in developing educational resources for county parks around Iowa, assisting with ISU research, and supporting ongoing natural resources and agricultural best practices outreach efforts.
"This internship gives me the opportunity to explore a career in conservation outreach where I can share my passion for the outdoors and the environment,î said Kate. ìI love being outside, exploring and learning, and sometimes just hanging out with friends in our hammocks. I was hoping to put my teaching skills to work, but am excited about all I'm learning about Iowa, its natural resources and ecosystems."
Kate has had her first taste of field research this summer, participating in earthworm surveys in farm fields, and working with researchers to assess populations of pollinators such as monarch butterflies.
"Being out in the fields is great, but getting to work with expert researchers is awesome," commented Kate. "I learn so much just talking with the scientists as we work together."
She took advantage of some of her new-found knowledge during her drive home to Missouri for Memorial Day. She said, ìI found myself much more attuned to what is happening along the road and paying more attention to the beauty of both Iowa's and Missouri's varied landscapes.î
Together with her fellow interns, Kate has also been traveling around Iowa to visit county parks, gathering information for the creation of family activity guides as part of a new Water Rocks! county park adventure series. They look for interesting features, natural habitats, different ecosystems, and local plant and animal populations. From this information they are creating activity guides for use by families and youth of all ages to learn about their environment while enjoying the local park resources.
"I've truly enjoyed adding my creative flair to the county park project," said Kate. "We were given a blank canvas, and it's been great fun collaborating to create something that can be used by families for a long time to come."
"The summer internship program provides college students with a broad range of practical learning and skill-building opportunities ranging from hands-on field experience working with experts in agriculture, conservation and water quality research, to outreach and education of Iowans of every age," said Jacqueline Comito, Water Rocks! executive director. "This has been a different year for our programs, but the creativity and enthusiasm we see from these young people helps reinvigorate our mission to build a culture of conservation in Iowa and beyond."
Kate is entering her junior year at ISU, majoring in biology.
To learn about the water resources internship program at ISU, please visit www.waterrocks.org.