Friday, November 2, 2012

Carl Kurtz's Photo Essay: Woodies

In preparation for the upcoming second edition of A Practical Guide to Prairie Restoration by Carl Kurtz, we're excited to be sharing Carl's beautiful photos and observations about nature!

Carl Kurtz is a professional writer, teacher, naturalist, and photographer. He and his wife and partner, Linda, live on a 172-acre family farm in central Iowa that is one of the few prairie seed sources in the Midwest.

Small ponds congested with willows, backwaters with downed trees, small streams and rivers are what wood ducks consider prime habitat.  As cavity nesters, they utilize old trees or constructed bird houses and are known to nest in many urban environments if there is water nearby.  They are also known as dump nesters with several females laying eggs in a common nest.  As a result the occasional brood of young may have more than 20 ducklings.  Once the young leave the nest the mother leads them to a stream or river where they can find food and cover.  

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October Gardening

Happy Halloween!

In October, everything seems to be dying. But in a carefully planned garden, you can expect a final burst of bloom in the autumn before the first snows hit.

Burning bush is a fall favorite because of its seemingly flaming red leaves. Mums, asters, and sedum "Autumn Joy" are also commonly planted for their fall color. Some plants produce beautiful fruits in the fall. Bittersweet, which is a vine, is a prime example.

There are many other less commonly grown plants that do very well in Iowa. Autumn crocus, for example, provides a surprising bit of color poking through the fallen leaves.

Excerpt from Gardening in Iowa and Surrounding Areas by author Veronica Lorson Fowler

Monday, October 29, 2012

Thomas Rosburg Interview Part 3

With the changing climate, are you seeing new species moving into Iowa?
Not with any certainty. In my research I have documented new plant species for Iowa and range expansion northward, but it was due to seeding in a reconstruction. There has been so much moving around of species by people planting seeds of species outside of their range that it is impossible to attribute changes in range to natural migration. One thing that does seem to be sure is that more and more nonnative and invasive plant species are being observed in Iowa (meaning higher abundances). That may be in part an indirect result of climate change, because if native species are being stressed by climate change, this could be helping to open the door for nonnative species already in the state to expand.

Besides teaching, what other projects are you involved with right now?
Research that is aimed at investigating the effects of goat browsing on savanna restoration (do goats make good partners in conservation and restoration work?). Similarly two projects are assessing the effects of cattle grazing on prairie (both reconstructed and native remnant). Do cattle make a good surrogate for bison? Another project is providing ecological data relevant to building 25 miles of new trail at Whiterock Conservancy. One part of this project involves setting up long-term monitoring plots to assess the impacts of trail use by horses and mountain bikers on plants, small mammals, butterflies, and ground-dwelling invertebrates. I am also finishing up a natural resource inventory of all the land in the Des Moines park system. This is mostly focused on mapping and delineating the plant communities present and describing their plant species composition, their structure, and their successional status.

How do you balance your teaching and writing with your hands-on research and fieldwork?
I certainly have to prioritize tasks. And that is often determined in part by the amount of funding provided. Somehow most tasks get done in a timely manner, albeit with long work days and not very many days off. My research agenda has been expanding quite a bit over the last few years, which has put a damper on some other pocket guide projects (ferns and sedges). However, I do anticipate making significant progress on them next field season. Unfortunately some of the things I most would like to work on – Field Guide to the Loess Hills and a revision of the Checklist of Iowa Vascular Plants – seem to constantly be out of reach due to the lack of funding they need in order to raise their priority.