Posts tagged University of Iowa

Dragonflies and Damselflies

My all-time favorite insect, the dragonfly, is finally getting the attention it deserves. This came out today from the University of Iowa:

Dragonflies and Damselflies cover

Dragonflies and Damselflies cover

“Dragonflies and Damselflies in Your Pocket: A Guide to the Odonates of the Upper Midwest,” the new addition to the Bur Oak Guides Series, will become available from the University of Iowa Press May 1.

The pocket guidebook with text and photos by Ann Johnson will be available at bookstores or directly from the UI Press by phone at 800-621-2736 or online at Customers in the United Kingdom, Europe, the Middle East or Africa may order from the Eurospan Group online at

Just as more and more people enjoy watching birds and butterflies, watching the many shimmering dragonflies and damselflies — collectively called “odonates,” from Odonata, the name of this order of aquatic insects — has become a popular outdoor pastime. With their extremely large eyes, elongated transparent wings, long and slender abdomens, and prehensile extendible jaws, dragonflies and damselflies are efficient hunters and quick, darting fliers. Their beauty and their behavior make them delightful subjects for birdwatchers and other nature lovers.

“Dragonflies and Damselflies in Your Pocket” introduces 50 of the showiest odonates of the Upper Midwest. In addition to providing useful general information about broad-winged damsels, spreadwings, pond damsels, darners, clubtails, cruisers, emeralds and skimmers, Johnson includes common and scientific names, sizes, general flight seasons and the best habitats in which to find each species.

Dennis Paulson, author of “Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West,” wrote, “With beautiful photos backed up by concise text, this little guide is simple and easy to use as it introduces birders and general naturalists to a wonderful group of insects, the Odonata. It should be in every glove compartment and backpack.”

Johnson is a management analyst for the Iowa Department of Human Services, a founding member of the Iowa Odonata Survey, and the owner of AJ Endeavors, which specializes in natural history Web development. A self-described birder gone bad, she now spends summers chasing more bugs than birds near her home in south central Iowa.

Named after the state tree of Iowa, the Bur Oak Guides are published to assist the exploration and enjoyment of the natural environment of the Midwest.


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Legal rights for Mother Nature

The following came out today from the University of Iowa:

Law professor leads initiative to protect environment for future generations

A University of Iowa law professor is spearheading an effort to make environmental rights as much a part of the legal vocabulary as economic or property rights so future generations can enjoy a safe environment.

“Our growing climate crisis demands that our laws take seriously the legal rights of children and future generations to inherit a clean, healthy and sustainable environment,” says Burns Weston, professor emeritus in the UI College of Law, senior scholar of the UI Center for Human Rights and project director of the Climate Legacy Initiative (CLI). “In turn, the present generation must take legal responsibility for the ecological legacy we leave behind. It is a rank injustice to our heirs if our behavior does not change.”

The CLI, a joint project of the UI Center for Human Rights and the Environmental Law Center of Vermont Law School, seeks to broaden and deepen the legal means for protecting the earth’s environment for future generations. This week, it is releasing a major policy paper titled “Recalibrating the Law of Humans with the Laws of Nature: Climate Change, Human Rights, and Intergenerational Justice,” authored by Weston and Tracy Bach, CLI associate director and a researcher and professor at Vermont Law School.

“The Climate Legacy Initiative’s work is intended to spark public and professional discussion about how our laws can adapt to and confront the climate crisis,” Weston said. “We seek a fundamental rethinking of how the law, both nationally and internationally, can be made a better steward of the environment, especially in the face of unprecedented climate change.”

The CLI legal and legislative strategy will be unveiled at meetings next Thursday, April 23 of the University of Iowa Center for Human Right and the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council. The ICFRC meets at noon at the Congregational Church, 30 N. Clinton St. in Iowa City. Admission is $7.50 for members, $8.50 for nonmembers.

The UI Center for Human Rights presentation begins at 8 p.m. in 1505 Seaman Center for Engineering. Admission is free.

He said a legal approach is just one tool in confronting this huge challenge, but it is critical.

However, Weston said this not a task for the law alone. “Law underwrites all we do and how we go about doing it,” he said. “In a democratic society, this makes law’s relation to the environment everyone’s problem and everyone’s responsibility, and it cannot wait. Events may overturn intention unless we are expeditious.”

The CLI policy paper lays out a legal framework for constructing intergenerational rights and duties, and for assessing the strengths and weaknesses of existing law. It also offers 16 recommendations that governing bodies from local to global can implement to safeguard the environment.

The CLI engaged more than 40 legal and public policy experts from across the country to help with the policy paper, including Jonathan Carlson, a professor in the UI College of Law; Jerald Schnoor, a professor in the UI College of Engineering; Maureen McCue, an adjunct professor in the UI Global Health Studies Program and coordinator of the Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility; and Sharon Benzoni, formerly a research associate at the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, currently executive director of the Council for International Visitors to Iowa Cities and the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council.

“The CLI’s ultimate goal is a fundamental change in the way legal systems think about the environment,” said Weston. “We hope it leads to a paradigm shift in the way the law — and everyone and everything else — relates to the environment.”

Weston said that the obligation to do right by our children and grandchildren carries great moral weight, but that this has not been reflected in our legal systems to a degree sufficient to meet such environmental challenges as climate change. The concept of the common good, he said, is not only to establish a civil society for the current generation, but to make sure a functioning society can be handed to our heirs and their descendants.

In an environmental sense, he said, this means that current generations must act to ensure future generations’ rights to, for instance, biological diversity, environmental quality, and access to resources.

“Leaving the earth better than we found it is not merely a nice idea,” Weston said. “It is our responsibility to our children, grandchildren, and generations beyond.”

However, Weston said that for this to happen the legal system must be reformed. As it is now, he said environmental rights and especially those of future generations are only peripherally considered by the legal and political system, if they’re considered at all. Most of the time, they’re trumped by such values as property rights and economic development.

“We must align the laws of humans with the laws of nature,” he says.

Among the CLI’s 16 legislative, regulatory and judicial proposals:

–Urging states to adopt constitutional amendments implementing environmental rights for future generations and to pass state laws to enforce them.

–Enacting a National Environmental Legacy Act that would require defining in concrete terms the environmental legacy that should be left to future generations and providing a mechanism to ensure it.

–Creating “Environmental Stakeholder Trusts” such as “sky trusts” to safeguard and make clear the shared ownership of our environmental commons.

–Instituting cap and trade regulatory strategies.

–Asking governments to establish offices of “legal guardians” to act on behalf of the ecological rights and interest of future generations.

–Urging the United Nations General Assembly to adopt a declaration formally recognizing the atmosphere as a global “commons” shared by present and future generations.

Weston said the CLI will spend the coming months discussing their policy proposals with public policy organizations, think tanks, citizens groups, scholars, political and government leaders, faith-based organizations and others.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

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Earth Day Every Day


Frank Cicela of Cedar Rapids gives daughter Mariana, 8, a lift, with daughter Elea, 13, by his side Saturday, April 11, 2009, during an Earth Month Wildflower Walk at Wickiup Hill Outdoor Learning Center near Toddville.

Frank Cicela of Cedar Rapids gives daughter Mariana, 8, a lift, with daughter Elea, 13, by his side Saturday, April 11, 2009, during an Earth Month Wildflower Walk at Wickiup Hill Outdoor Learning Center near Toddville.

Earth Day will be celebrated on Wednesday, April 22, but in Eastern Iowa, it’s more than just one day. Corridor Earth Project, a collaboration of about 20 organizations between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, has events scheduled throughout the month. The University of Iowa also has activities slated for the coming week.

 I already attended one Earth Day walk at Wickiup Hill Outdoor Learning Center near Toddville. Despite finding just one flower in bloom — a dainty white bloodroot — it was a gorgeous day to be outdoors.  Conservation education specialist Gail Barels noted that two years ago “everything was up” and plants were blooming before mid-April. That was an early spring, she said, while this year appears to be a normal spring, if Iowa has such a thing.

   The Corridor Earth Project events can be found on its Web site at:

 Following are the University of Iowa events:


Saturday, April 18

–The UI Green Summit will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Room W401 of the Pappajohn Business Building. The Green Summit is an academic conference created to empower student environmental leaders and equip them with practical social, scientific, political and business skills to put their passion into practice.

   The keynote address will be given by Iowa State Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, followed by forums featuring the following speakers: environmental planner Mike Berkshire; Alec B. Scranton, UI professor of chemical and biochemical engineering; Mark Kresowik of the Sierra Club; and Craig Just, coordinator of sustainability programs in the UI College of Engineering.

The day will continue with an interactive Expo of community organizations and progressive local projects. The Expo begins at 1 p.m. on the Pentacrest.

The Green Summit and Expo are free and open to the public, but registration for the summit is recommended at For more information contact Abbie Gruwell at

Sunday, April 19

–“Take Me to the River” Iowa Riverbank Cleanup, 1 to 4 p.m. Volunteers will clean up flood debris and develop the Iowa River portage trail. Participants should wear old clothes and sturdy shoes (no flip-flops) as work will be dirty and strenuous. Volunteers can park and meet at the Iowa City Peninsula Thornberry Off-Leash Dog Park lot, 1790 Canton St. off Foster Road, or on the Coralville side of the Iowa River near the pedestrian walkway adjacent the Iowa River Power Restaurant, 501 1st Ave.

The City of Iowa City, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Johnson County Conservation Board, and UI Civic Engagement Program are sponsoring this event.
For more information call 319-335-7589 or email

Monday, April 20

–The film “The 11th Hour,” narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, will be shown at 8 p.m. in Room 101 of Biology Building East.

Tuesday, April 21

–Pappajohn Business Building waste characterization audit, 8:30 to 11:00 a.m. at the Kautz Plaza, between Trowbridge and Calvin Halls. The Tippie College of Business has been a campus leader in sustainable practices. The waste audit will help identify areas for further improvements in recycling and reducing the environmental footprint of the Tippie College of Business.

The audit will be held in cooperation with the UI Office of Sustainability, City of Iowa City, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, City Carton Recycling, East Central Iowa Council of Governments, UI Facilities Management and other public and private agencies. The teams will work together to examine the composition of the college waste stream and provide baseline data needed for planning future reduction efforts. By identifying the amounts of key waste components, the UI can target specific recyclable products and the processes to divert them from the landfill.

UI geography student Eric Holthaus, a member of UI Environmental Coalition, will coordinate the project. Among the student organizations pledging support for this project are UI Student Government, the UI Environmental Coalition, the UI Public Interest Research Group, Engineers for a Sustainable World, and Future Physicians for the Environment.

–“Careers for Change” lecture, 4 p.m., in 1124 University Capitol Center (UCC) and a public lecture on climate change at 7 p.m. in 1117 (UCC). Both lectures are sponsored by the UI Center for Human Rights and will be given by energy and environmental lawyer Carrie La Seur, founder and president of Plains Justice, a Cedar Rapids-based public interest environmental law center that works for environmental justice.

— The film “Who Killed the Electric Car?” will be shown at 8 p.m. in Room 101 of Biology Building East.

Wednesday, April 22

–Bike to School Day and ice cream social, 1 to 5 p.m. on the Pentacrest. The UI Environmental Coalition and Office of Sustainability are hosting this event. World of Bikes will offer a free bike tune-up clinic, and Heyn’s Ice Cream and New Pioneer Coop will provide scoops of ice cream to bikers. The UI Touch the Earth program and Bicyclists of Iowa City club will share information on biking and outdoor trips. For more information contact Eric Holthaus at or Katie Fassbinder at

–The film “An Inconvenient Truth” narrated by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, will be shown at 8 p.m. in Room 101 of Biology Building East.

Thursday, April 23

–At 1:30 p.m., an open house at the UI Environmental Coalition Student Garden will include a visit from President Sally Mason. Students and the Office of Sustainability will showcase the new student demonstration garden, located off of Hawkeye Park Road near the Hawkeye Recreation and Tennis Complex.

–The film “The Future of Food,” will be shown at 8 p.m. in Room 101 of Biology Building East.

Friday, April 24

–Arbor Day tree planting by UI Landscape Services, 9 a.m. on the Pentacrest.

The UI is also encouraging students, faculty and staff to take the “Power Down for the Planet” pledge at By signing the pledges, computer users agree to use their computer power management tools whenever possible and to look for Energy Star-qualified equipment when making purchases. The deadline to pledge is Friday, April 17. The UI and college campuses across the nation are taking part in this effort. At the end of the campaign, the university with the highest percentage of pledges wins the challenge. At the UI, the results will be announced by President Mason on April 23 during the student garden dedication event.

For a complete calendar of events during Earth Month visit


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What does Climate Change mean for Iowa?

“Climate Change Threat and Opportunity: Will Iowa Respond?” is the subject of a free, public forum from 5 to 6 p.m. Thursday, April 16, 2009, at T-Spoons, corner of Linn and Market streets in Iowa City. The forum will be led by Jerry Schnoor, Allen S. Henry Chair in Engineering, professor of civil and environmental engineering and co-director of the University of Iowa Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research in the UI College of Engineering.

Schnoor, who chairs Gov. Chet Culver’s Iowa Climate Change Advisory Council, said that the council’s recent report can be summarized by asking whether or not Iowans are going to respond to climate change and take advantage of the obvious opportunities presented in transforming the state’s economy towards energy efficiency and renewable energy resources, or are they going to be left behind by other states and other countries?

The talk is presented by Café Scientifique of Iowa City, whose discussion sessions are held on the third Thursday of the month from September to May. Café Scientifique of Iowa City is a meeting forum where the public is invited to explore and debate the latest ideas in science, mathematics, medicine and technology.

For more information on Café Scientifique visit

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Database of waste

This just in from the University of Iowa:

Students help Cedar Rapids economic development group with database of waste

Business students at the University of Iowa are helping to chronicle the biodegradable waste and by-products produced by some of Cedar Rapids’ manufacturers in the hope of finding other businesses that can re-use the material.

The program could help companies save money, encourage sustainability by diverting waste from landfills, create new products, and attract new businesses to the region.

The program is overseen and funded by Priority One, the economic development division of the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.

“Instead of throwing this material away, we can use it to attract other companies that will convert it into something useful, and in the process, build a new plant and employ people,” said Frank Rydzewski, a lecturer in marketing in the Henry B. Tippie College of Business who coordinated the students’ efforts in a marketing field studies class. He is also former CEO of American Profol, a Cedar Rapids manufacturer of polypropylene films.

The raw-material-from-waste model of sustainability is already being used in a partnership between the city’s Quaker Oats plant and the University of Iowa. The university burns Quaker’s oat hulls in its power plant to create energy, keeping the hulls out of the waste stream, and providing cost effective alternate fuel for the university.

For the class, Rydzewski had 14 students accountable for recording the materials they found in the waste streams of 23 participating companies. They also researched potential applications for the material.

In some cases, the students determined the composition of the material by reviewing paperwork supplied by the company and visiting the facilities. In others, the students gathered samples and brought them to the University of Iowa’s Center for Biocatalysis and Bioprocessing on the Oakdale campus, which used chemical analysis to break down and identify the compounds in the waste.

The list — which includes such potentially recyclable material as carbon dioxide gas, ethanol, oat hulls and diatomaceous earth — is now being compiled. It will be used to show other firms the kinds of raw materials readily available in Cedar Rapids, said Mark Seckman, president of Priority One.

“The students did a great job and laid a foundation for the next step of this effort,” Seckman said. “This would not have gotten done without their work, and the process they set up will allow us to identify companies that could use the material.”

One possible industry sector the students identified was pet food, which could use some of the waste produced by the area’s food processing plants to make dog and cat food. They developed a marketing plan for Priority One including potential candidates to pursue.

Students participating in the class said they liked helping with economic development and increasing manufacturing efficiency in a way that also promotes environmental sustainability.

“It’s a great way to turn a waste material into a raw material in a way that makes things better for everyone,” said Jenny Matkovich, a senior in the class.

They said it also unwittingly improved their understanding of science, as they viewed the processes used by the UI’s Center for Biocatalysis and Bioprocessing and visited manufacturing facilities in the region.

“One of the big challenges for me was understanding the terms and concepts because I don’t have a biology or chemistry background, so that was helpful,” said Hilary Cochrane, also a senior.

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Sen. Harkin served (rBGH-free) milk and cookies; Sen. Grassley makes “Biggest Biofools” list; UPDATE – Grassley’s response

 New Thursday: see Sen. Chuck Grassley’s response to “Biofools” list below…

Milk and cookies outside Sen. Harkin's Cedar Rapids office

Milk and cookies outside Sen. Harkin's Cedar Rapids office

Photo: Paul Deaton, of Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility; Angela Gadzik, University of Iowa student and volunteer with Food and Water Watch and Stephanie Rynning, UI student and intern with Food and Water Watch, listen Wednesday as Theresa Carbrey, at right, addresses the benefits of organic milk outside Sen. Tom Harkin’s Cedar Rapids office at the Wells Fargo Building, 150 First Ave. NE. Carbrey is education and member services coordinator for new Pioneer Co-op in Iowa City. 

 It wasn’t Sen. Harkin himself, but members of Food & Water Watch, along with representatives of New Pioneer Co-op and Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility, presented hormone-free milk and cookies and more than 1,000 petitions today to Sen. Tom Harkin’s Office in Cedar Rapids. The petitions call on Harkin to support including language in the Child Nutrition Act that allows local jurisdictions to choose milk free of artificial hormones for school lunch programs. According to Food & Water Watch, the United States is the only industrialized nation that still uses rBGH – recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone – despite major concerns about its links to cancer. As major retailers have moved away from rBGH, “this risky milk is being dumped into our public school system,” members said.

According to Roberts Dairy’s Web site, the genetically engineered drug, injected into dairy cows to induce them to increase milk production, is estimated to be used in 15 to 20 percent of the cows in the United States. It was approved by the FDA in 1993. As of Feb. 1, 2008, Roberts Dairy uses only milk from dairy farmers who have pledged to not treat their cows with artificial growth hormones. While the FDA has found no significant difference between milk from treated and untreated herds, “some of our customers prefer their milk to come from untreated cows,” the dairy’s Web site says. Others, including Anderson-Erickson and Swiss Valley, have also gone rBGH-free.

Caitlin Seeley, field organizer for Food & Water Watch, said that Harkin supports local farmers and child nutrition. “We’re urging him to support (the language change) and really be a champion on this issue,” she said.

Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. The group challenges the corporate control and abuse of food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what people eat and drink.
More information about the School Milk Campaign is at:

Also today, Friends of the Earth and the Rainforest Action Network singled out Grassley with other policy-makers and corporate leaders as the top national “biofools” in a contest sponsored by the two organizations. The grassroots contest is part of a nationwide effort to highlight the dangers of industrialized biofuels as a false solution to climate change.

The groups noted that Sen. Chuck Grassley supports claims that biofuels are “contributing to a cleaner environment,” ignoring the scientific evidence that biofuel production is contributing to the rapid destruction of rainforests abroad and the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico here at home. I have an inquiry in to Grassley’s office, but haven’t heard a response yet.

NEW – This just came today (Thursday) from Sen. Grassley’s office:

“The International Energy Agency just released a report that corn-ethanol reduces greenhouse gasoline emissions compared to gasoline by nearly 40 percent.  They also say that number will improve to 55 percent by 2015.  So, if being pro-biofuels, pro-farmer, pro-Iowa, pro-environment and pro-jobs and anti-imported foreign oil gets you recognized like this, then Senator Grassley is happy to have it.” 


Here is more from Friends of the Earth and Rainforest Action Network:

Three policy makers and three corporate leaders were singled out today as the top national “biofools” in a contest sponsored by Friends of the Earth and Rainforest Action Network. The grassroots contest is part of a nationwide effort to highlight the dangers of industrialized biofuels as a false solution to climate change.

Despite growing scientific evidence that they contribute to air pollution, deforestation and climate change, industrialized biofuels are being promoted by government and agribusiness as a ‘clean’ solution to climate change and to our nation’s fossil fuel addiction. Replacing just 10 percent of world demand for diesel for road transport with biodiesel would require 75 percent of the world’s existing soy, oil palm and rapeseed crops. Even current government mandates for these so-called renewable fuels will create enough demand for biofuels to cause food shortages and environmental catastrophe around the world.

The online contest will be held on April 1, 2009, as concerned citizens vote online to determine the nation’s biggest biofool. The winner will be announced on the group’s joint webpage:

Nominees include:

Linda Cook, Executive Director, Shell Oil. Citing economic concerns, Cook recently announced that Shell Oil will no longer invest in wind and solar energy and focus their energy solely on liquid fuels, hugely increasing the oil giants investment in biofuels.

Hugh Grant, CEO, Monsanto. The global biofuels rush has provided a perfect new market for Monsanto’s genetically modified plants, an inevitable ingredient of biofuel feedstocks. The agribusiness giant dismisses evidence that biofuels are harmful for the environment or have anything to do with food price spikes and shortages.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Senator Chuck Grassley supports claims that biofuels are “contributing to a cleaner environment,” ignoring the scientific evidence that biofuel production is contributing to the rapid destruction of rainforests abroad and the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico here at home.

Rep. Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin (D-SD). Representative Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin has been a strong advocate for reducing global warming pollution, but supports attempts to strip federal forest protections from biofuels policy, claiming that prohibiting the clear-cutting of our federal forests for biofuel production keeps us dependent on foreign oil.

Sen. John Thune (R-SD). A longtime proponent of biofuels, Senator John Thune recently advocated increasing the amount of biofuels that can be blended into gasoline, removing critical forest protections, and potentially eviscerating the global warming standards in biofuels policy.

Patricia Woertz, CEO, Archer Daniels Midland. A former Chevron executive before her tenure at ADM, Woertz is leading the agroenergy charge. ADM is a leading importer of palm oil, a popular biofuel feedstock and a leading cause of deforestation in Southeast Asia.

Friends of the Earth – – is the U.S. voice of the world’s largest grassroots environmental network, with member groups in 70 countries. Since 1969, Friends of the Earth has been at the forefront of high-profile efforts to create a more healthy, just world.

Rainforest Action Network campaigns to break North America’s oil and coal addictions, protect endangered forests and Indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments around the world through education, grassroots organizing, and nonviolent direct action. For more information, visit:

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Senior gardening in Iowa City

Seniors in the Iowa City area are invited to check out the Senior Center Garden Club. The club meets on the 2nd and 4th Friday of the month in room 202 at the Iowa City/Johnson County Senior Center. Start at 9:30 am for conversation, coffee and refreshments, followed by the program at 10 am. The club has a variety of programs including speakers, video presentations, field trips, and conversations related to a shared interest in the growing of plants or the care of the environment.

Senior Center membership is required for on-going participation in the Garden Club. However, you can try it out for free during the month of March. (Membership is $25/year for Iowa City residents, a bit more for those who live outside the Iowa City limits.)

Already this month, the members heard from Mary Stigers, groundskeeper at the University of Iowa, who described and showed photos of seasonal plantings on the University grounds and at the president’s Home. They were also audience guests at Chuck Porto’s KXIC radio garden show broadcast.

This Friday, March 27, will be Johnson County Master Gardener Marilou Gay’s program “Collecting Flowers for Drying and Pressing.”

For questions, call Gracie Mayer at (319) 338-1775 or Lois Lee at (319) 354-0699.


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