Heather Wilson (Izaak Walton League staff)
Goal: To foster a connection between people and nature, and to help them make a difference for their local waterways!
Favorite Monitoring Moment: I love the realization – especially with kiddos – that there are so many critters to be found in the water. It is an amazing realization that the stream is ALIVE!
Inner Macroinvertebrate: Caddisfly larva. Many caddisflies create elaborate casings from pebbles, sand, or other items from their surroundings. “I admire the resourcefulness of caddisflies, and I feel like we have that in common! Just like the caddisfly, I’ve taken in bits and pieces based on where I am and where I’ve been, and I carry it with me as I journey along.”
Special Skills: In my spare time, I’m most likely playing a board game, riding my bike, working on a puzzle, or enjoying the great outdoors.
Leah Baethke (Staff for Green Iowa AmeriCorps)
Habitat: Cedar Falls, Iowa
Goal: To increase awareness of water quality issues and help provide solutions through the service work of Green Iowa AmeriCorps members across the state of Iowa.
Favorite Monitoring Moment: Working with new groups of monitors who are just beginning to learn that there's a lot more than just fish and frogs in the streams!
Inner Macroinvertebrate: Water Penny. "Find a penny, pick it up, all day long, you'll have good luck (or at least some good clean water)!"
Special Skills: I have a passion for helping others learn and I am also a frog magnet. If there's a frog nearby, you can bet I'll find it!
Susan Heathcote (Volunteer)
Habitat: Des Moines, Iowa (the state capital)
Goal: “To provide training and support for Iowans interested in adopting local streams to learn about water quality, and to effectively advocate for state and local action to improve water quality in Iowa.”
Favorite Monitoring Moment: “I love getting outside and meeting new people who share my love of rivers and streams. I particularly like sampling for bugs and learning about the diversity of life in even the smallest streams.”
Inner Macroinvertebrate: Aquatic worm. “While I prefer clean water, I do like mud.” (Aquatic worms are usually found in streams that contain a lot of silt and organic debris.)
Special Skills: Susan cites her scientific mind and policy experience. “I am a problem solver and I love a challenge. I’m looking forward to sharing my knowledge of water quality and empowering Iowans to be problem solvers for the betterment of Iowa waters.”
Sara Carmichael (Staff for Story County Conservation)
Habitat: Des Moines, Iowa (I'm originally from Florida but have lived up and down the East Coast, including in the Chesapeake Bay region)
Goal: To get more volunteers trained in water quality monitoring – both chemical and macros – for Story County, Iowa
Favorite Monitoring Moment: Any time there is a unique specimen that we don't usually see and need to bring out educational materials or a phone to identify.
Inner Macroinvertebrate: Crawfish – there are many ways to say their name, but they are always fun to find in waterways. Another fun fact: if they lose a limb due to fighting or getting caught, they are able to grow it back. Crawfish boils are a great way to spend a warm summer evening with friends and family.
Special Skills: I can touch my tongue to my nose. When I’m not doing that “special skill,” I enjoy many outdoor activities like hiking, camping, and exploring new areas of the Midwest. My partner Scott is an avid cook and mixologist, and I gladly consume while assisting him in sous chef-like tasks. We have a black cat named Zachary Binks that enjoys going on walks and bike rides.
Ginny Malcomson (Staff for Polk County Conservation)
Habitat: Polk County, Iowa
Goal: To help the citizens of Polk County understand the complexities of water quality and encourage them to just get out there: play, explore and experience. When I was a Polk County Conservation naturalist, I always said to those I was exploring with, “You didn’t have any fun if you didn’t get dirty.” My new motto is “Get out there. You didn’t have any fun if you didn’t get dirty AND wet!”
Favorite Monitoring Moment: As awe-inspiring as it is to see wildlife in a creek, my favorite moment is an experience a field monitor shared. While he was volunteering, a very protective mother bird dive-bombed him. He captured the attack on video, and when he shared it with me, it made me laugh aloud (while in a very quiet office). Field monitors share vacation photos to watery destinations, suggestions of books and podcasts, and updates on their families. I treasure these connections with our world and our volunteer field monitors. This is the good stuff of life.
Inner Macroinvertebrate: Riffle beetle. These benthic macroinvertebrates are not terribly large, and being of small stature myself, I can identify. Found in riffles, they have special adaptations that allow them to hold on amid turbulent waters. I can appreciate their struggles, as what human isn’t faced with some turbulent waters from time to time? They are sensitive to pollutants and environmental changes. As the Water Quality Coordinator, making note of water quality trends and things of concern are among the goals of our program.
Special Skills: I’m drawn to all types of waterbodies. Any ocean, lake, stream, waterfall, hot spring or even a hot tub or pool will do. When not seeking out water, I enjoy creating props for the local theater, traveling to all types of watery or mountainous destinations, organizing (closets, garages, kitchen pantries, the messier the better), reading, playing ball with our golden retriever pup Lincoln, and hiking with my family.
Taylor Schaefers (Staff for Dubuque County Conservation)
Habitat: Dubuque County, Iowa (Driftless Area!)
Goal: To teach others the importance of our waterways and give them a hands-on experience while also making a difference!
Favorite Monitoring Moment: Every time a kid catches a crawdad and has to show it off to everyone else in the group and repeat all the cool facts they learned about crawdads on the trip.
Inner Macroinvertebrate: Scud! They are small but mighty and they are constantly on the move!
Special Skills: I love spending time in nature through mountain biking, kayaking, running, skiing, trout fishing, and wandering through new places! My ultimate special skill I like to show kids is that I can name a dinosaur for every letter of the alphabet.
Jennifer Meyer (Staff for Jackson County Conservation)
Habitat: Jackson County, Iowa
Goal: Make everyone I work with feel a bit more connected to the natural world.
Favorite Monitoring Moment: When people make the connection between this weird little bug in the water and the beautiful dragonfly they see.
Inner Macroinvertebrate: Case Maker Caddisfly Larva – I love the feel of a good current.
Special Skills: Unabashed enthusiasm for all things wild.
Jennifer Cochran-Biederman (Volunteer)
Habitat: Stockton, Minnesota (just west of the Mississippi River)
Goal: “To expand the protection, appreciation, and understanding of freshwater ecosystems by helping connect people who love the outdoors with Save Our Streams – an amazing citizen program.”
Favorite Monitoring Moment: “I adore aquatic macroinvertebrates, and I’m always amazed (but not really surprised) when first-time stream monitors fall in love with them too after an afternoon of bug sampling and identification.”
Inner Macroinvertebrate: Mayfly. “At the moment, my life mirrors that of a mama mayfly, who amidst successfully producing offspring doesn’t even have time to eat!” (Adult mayflies don’t have functioning mouths or digestive systems! The macroinvertebrate you’ll find in streams is the mayfly larva. Most mayfly larvae are sensitive to pollution and indicate good water quality when you find them.)
Special Skills: Jennifer embodies the old adage that if you want something to get done, ask the busy person to do it. “My life is pretty packed with trying to keep up with my three little girls, a 6-year-old lab mix, and my husband. I spend a lot of time dragging my husband off the beautiful little trout stream that flows behind our old farmhouse (he loves to fly fish) while trying to keep the rest of the family from falling in it!”