Friday, March 1, 2013

Book News: Esther's Town now available!

Esther's Town could be "Any Town, U.S.A.," for the equals of its cast of characters can be found in any small town. And here, as usual, was the town newspaper editor, the observing eye of all the foibles and peccadilloes that form any town's history. Remembering all the years with love and humor, editor Deemer Lee chronicled for the forty-four years he gathered and wrote news--forty-one of them as editor and publisher of his town's newspaper.

The excitement and fun begin with bootleggers, Chautauqua meetings, and an accomplished arsonist--who achieves in less than two months the impressive score of burning seven barns and one feed store, with an unsuccessful attempt on the Methodist church. Scandinavians move in, build crude shelters for the first winter, and add their special characteristics to the town. The Irish arrive and stamp their mark on the whole territory. The circus comes to town and entrances everyone with its ancient pageantry. The railroads come through and add a rowdy element to the population. The Depression begins and farms see 11-cent corn, 108-degree heat, and a twister. All these events, plus adventures with a massive meteorite and haunting river tragedies, create the drama and flow of small-town life, story by story, in a fascinating revelation of Americana.

Esther's Town, by Deemer Lee

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Engineers for a Sustainable World: Interview with Jeremy Bril, Part 2

You organized Iowa City’s first prescription drug drop-off in 2009. Tell us about this.

The prescription drug drop-off was a great project and I was fortunate to work with Christina Balmer (a student in the UI College of Pharmacy), Jennifer Jordan (of the Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center), and Maeve Clark (of the Iowa City Public Library) to make it happen. The goal of the project was to collect expired or unused prescription and over-the-counter medications for safe disposal away from landfills and domestic sewers to better prevent contamination of natural waters. An additional goal was to reduce the occurrences of prescription drug abuse and accidental ingestions many times associated with insecure in-home storage of prescription medications. Due to the success of the project in 2009, Iowa City now holds two prescription drug drop-offs every year (April and September) in coordination with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s National Take-Back Initiative. 

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering awarded you a Ph.D. Dissertation Year Fellowship. You’re assessing the effects of freshwater mussels on lakes, streams, and rivers. In light of Hurricane Sandy, this is an especially timely subject. Tell us more about your research.

My research is investigating how native freshwater mussels influence the nitrogen cycle in the Iowa River. Management of the nitrogen cycle is an especially important issue for agricultural watersheds of the Upper Midwest. The goal of my research is to help inform strategies for nitrogen management by examining the interactions between biological organisms (mussels) and the hydrology and chemistry of large rivers. We hope that understanding these natural interactions will allow us to better predict how changes in environmental conditions (e.g., climate change) will influence valuable ecosystems such as the Iowa River and Mississippi River.

You’re incredibly busy—that’s an understatement—but when you do find time to relax, what natural areas do you visit in Iowa? Besides mussels, what kinds of plants and animals are you interested in?

My favorite place to go is back home to Decorah, Iowa. I especially enjoy camping and kayaking on the Upper Iowa River. My wife and I also enjoy taking our son to F. W. Kent Park—we think it is one of the hidden gems here in Johnson County. I would have to say my favorite animals are my two dogs, Joey and Cora. They always keep life interesting. My favorite plants are native prairie plants/grasses due to their resiliency, diversity, and numerous benefits for the environment.

You’re finishing up your dissertation—congratulations! What’s next?

Thank you! After graduation, I will be working as a postdoctoral research scholar here at Iowa and then I hope to find a job with an engineering company working in the field of water resources management.

Jeremy Bril, University of Iowa Environmental Engineering Graduate Student

Monday, February 25, 2013

This day in Iowa history

The Marion Meteorite fell with loud explosions across Johnson and Linn counties on the same day that the territorial legislature established the University of Iowa.

From The Iowa Nature Calendar by Jean Prior and James Sandrock, illustrated by Claudia McGehee