Meet INHF’s summer interns

Join INHF in welcoming our summer interns! These young conservationists are hard at work in the office and in the field protecting Iowa’s wild places.

New Office Interns

Two new interns have joined our office in downtown Des Moines. Shoot them an email and say hello!

Jessica Riebkes Ι Grant Writing
Hometown: Cedar Falls, Iowa
School: Central College and Northern Iowa University
Major: Graduated with a B.A. and M.S. in Biology
Favorite native plant/animal: Rough Blazingstar

“I’m looking forward to writing grants to protect properties in Iowa and learn about INHF as an organization.”

Jared Morford Ι Trails
Hometown: Watertown, South Dakota
School: Iowa State University
Major: Graduated with a B.S. in History and a MCRP (Masters of Community and Regional Planning)
Favorite native plant/animal: Coyote

“I’m looking forward to working with INHF to help expand the trails network in Iowa.”

Returning Office Interns

These two interns will continue their work with INHF this summer.

Katie Bandurski Ι Communications
Hometown: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
School: Drake University
Major: Magazine journalism, minors in Marketing and English
Favorite native plant/animal: Wild Turkey

“I’m excited to explore Iowa’s natural places and learn more about conservation.”

Kelsea Graham Ι Graphic Design
Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri
School: Drake University
Major: Graphic Design and Advertising
Favorite native plant/animal: Fox Squirrel

“I look forward to designing the INHF calendar.”

Statewide Land Stewardship Interns

These interns travel all over Iowa to manage the land at our projects. Whether restoring prairies, wetlands or savannas, they help protect Iowa’s natural beauty.

Abby Walling
Hometown: Iowa City, Iowa
School: Carleton College
Major: Biology
Favorite native plant/animal: River Otter

“I am excited to learn more about the ecology of my home state and help to protect the environment for generations to come!”

Katelyn Behounek
Hometown: Chelsea, Iowa
School: Simpson College
Major: Biology and Environmental Science
Favorite native plant/animal: Spotted Skunk

“I’m looking forward to traveling Iowa. I’ve seen a lot of the country but not as much of my home state.”


Nick Jackosky
Hometown: Lakewood, Ohio
School: Iowa State University
Major: Global Resource Systems and Environmental Science
Favorite native plant/animal: American Bison

“I am most looking forward to meeting more incredible people who care about healing and restoring our natural resources as much as I do.”

Sean Kenan
Hometown: Grand Junction, Iowa
School: Iowa State University
Major: Animal Ecology
Favorite native plant/animal: Rattlesnake Master and Peregrine Falcon

“I look forward to seeing the unique lands that Iowa has to offer.”

Riley Dunn
Hometown: Martensdale, Iowa
School: Iowa State University
Major: Landscape Architecture and Environmental Studies
Favorite native plant/animal: Indiangrass and American Sycamore

“I’m looking forward to seeing all the prairie plants out in the field rather than in a book.”

Michael Parker
Hometown: Dike, Iowa
School: Iowa State University
Major: Forestry
Favorite native plant/animal: Burr Oak and White-Tail Deer

“I’m looking forward to seeing the great areas of the state.”

Austin Chipps
Hometown: Ankeny, Iowa
School: Central College
Major: Biology and Chemistry
Favorite native plant/animal: Hoary Puccoon and Scarlet Tanager

“I’m excited to explore the diverse Iowa landscape and learn to manage habitat.”

Taylor Didesch
Hometown: Chillicothe, Illinois
School: Iowa State University
Major: Animal Ecology
Favorite native plant/animal: Red Fox

“I can’t wait to see plants and animals in person and meet the landowners that really care about them!”


Sara Vettleson-Trutza
Hometown: Spring Grove, Minnesota
School: Waldorf University
Major: Biology and Psychology
Favorite native plant/animal: Land Snail

“I can’t wait to know all the prairie plants (or close to it). I know this whole experience is a great growing opportunity for me and I can’t wait to see how it changes me for the better.”

Blufflands Land Stewardship Interns

Blufflands interns focus exclusively on INHF projects in northeast Iowa, helping to restore and maintain remnant and reconstructed prairies, woodlands and oak savannas.

Ryan Crum
Hometown: Mt. Horeb, WI
School: Luther College
Major: Environmental Studies, Policy and Politics
Favorite native plant/animal: White-Tail Deer and Indiangrass

“I’m looking forward to learning different restoration techniques, meeting and talking to landowners and  visiting/seeing the different properties.”

Eric Young
Hometown: Lowden, Iowa
School: Upper Iowa University
Major: Conservation Management
Favorite native plant/animal: Dutchman’s Breeches and Blanding’s Turtle

“I’m looking forward to gaining experience in land           management and ecological restoration.”

James Ostile
Hometown: Decorah, Iowa
School: Luther College
Major: Biology
Favorite native plant/animal: White Pine and American Bison

“I’m excited to learn how to properly manage and restore native habitats.”

Karyl Clarete
Hometown: Winnipeg, MB, Canada
School: Iowa State University
Major: Environmental Science and Global Resource Systems
Favorite native plant/animal: American Bison

“I’m really looking forward to learning more about native plants of Iowa and seeing more of its natural areas.”

WORKSHOP: Feeding zoo animals with invasive species

servletJoin Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, Trees Forever and other partners for an exciting classroom/hands-on training focused on identifying and removing invasive woodland plants. Volunteers will participate in “upcycling” the invasive plants to be used as food for animals at Blank Park Zoo. Your help is needed to remove these forest invaders and feed the zoo animals! Note: We will not directly feed zoo animals, but pull the plants that will go to the zoo.

Invasive species of Iowa workshop. We will learn how to remove invasives.

Thursday, June 9th from 5:30 – 8: 30 p.m.

Jay Spence Shelter House. This is “up the hill” from Greenwood/Ashworth Park.

No experience necessary. A light dinner is included in your sign-up cost of $10. We will go outside for part of the class to remove invasive plants, so please wear long sleeves, long pants and closed-toe shoes. Bring a refillable water bottle!

For more information or to register, click here.

5 MORE of Iowa’s most invasive species (and how to get rid of them)

We listened to your comments! Here are five more threatening invasive species in Iowa.

Autumn Olive

Autumn Olive

Autumn Olive
Identification: This shrub or small tree holds dark green, oval-shaped leaves, small, yellow or white flowers and bountiful reddish/pink fruits. 
Threat: Autumn Olive can survive in areas with poor soil quality, including along roads, pastures, open woodlands and prairies. The plant can survive without much water and is known to invade woodlands or grasslands.  
Removal: Small, sprouted plants can be pulled by hand, while larger shrubs require cutting. Apply herbicide to the leaves or freshly cut stumps, being careful not to affect native plants.  

Frank Mayfield

Creeping Charlie. Photo by Frank Mayfield via Flickr Creative Commons.

Creeping Charlie
Identification: Round, shiny leaves with a scalloped edge, and small purple flowers.
Threat: Although creeping charlie oftentimes doesn’t pose much of a threat to natural areas, this fast-growing ground cover can easily overtake grass, native gardens and landscaping in your yard.
Removal: There are several different ways to combat creeping charlie, and the best method depends on where the weed is located. In small areas, such as a flower bed, hand-removal can be beneficial, but make sure to completely remove the root system or the plant can regenerate. A thick layer of mulch in between plants can also choke out the weed. For grassy areas, herbicide treatment in fall and spring works well. Direct competition from a native prairie plot or garden has also proven to be successful. Keep in mind that creeping charlie is a persistent plant, and it usually requires a few years to completely eradicate.

Annie Roonie

Wild Parsnip. Photo by Annie Roonie via Flickr Creative Commons.

Wild Parsnip
Identification: Large, celery-like leaves and stems with small, yellow flowers. Usually two to five feet high. 
Threat: Wild parsnip is typically found along roadsides, in pastures and prairies or on field edges. They produce many seeds, which allows the plant to easily spread. The weed’s fluids also contain psoralen, a substance that causes skin to burn when exposed to sunlight. These burns often lead to severe blistering. 
Removal: Before attempting to remove wild parsnip, be sure to cover up any exposed skin. Then, work to eliminate seed production of the plant. This can be achieved through hand-pulling, digging out the roots or repeated mowing when the plant is flowering.  

Japanese Knotweed 1

Japanese Knotweed

Japanese Knotweed
Identification: Hollow, brown, bamboo-like stems with greenish-white flowers. Mature plants can grow up to 10 feet tall.
Threat: Japanese Knotweed was introduced in the late 1800’s and was used for landscaping and erosion control. The plant has deep roots–up to nine feet–and spreads quickly. Knotweed colonies can grow in such dense clusters that they crowd out any other native plant life. The state of Iowa passed a law in 2013 prohibiting the import or sale of certain invasive ornamental plants, including Japanese Knotweed.
Removal: The plant should be cut down and the stump treated with herbicide. This method prevents re-sprouting, but may need to be done more than once. Small infested areas can also be covered with tarp to hinder growth.

Paw Paw

Leafy Spurge. Photo by Paw Paw via Flickr Creative Commons.

Leafy Spurge
Identification: This branching perennial features smooth stems and yellow flowers. 
Threat: Leafy Spurge shades out other plants, devours available water and nutrients and releases toxins that prevent other plants growth. The herb invades prairies, savannas, pastures, fields and roadsides. 
Removal: Introducing natural insect enemies of leafy spurge has been proven effective in some areas, but this requires professional assistance. Systemic herbicides are also effective, especially when applied in June as flowers and seeds are developing, or when the plant is moving its nutrients to the root in September. 

For more information about these species and other invasives in Iowa, check out the Iowa DNR’s guides.

Looking to learn more about invasive species? Contact Land Stewardship Director Ryan Schmidt at or 515-288-1846, ext. 13.


Seeds for the future


Helen Gunderson during 2014 visit to DeElda Heritage Prairie. The prairie planting on Tuesday was on land up the hill to the right.

“Now I truly understand the sense of pride landowners get when seeing projects come to fruition,” Helen Gunderson said to me when we went to Pocahontas County to observe a 70-acre prairie planting on a portion of the 180 acres she recently donated to INHF with a reserved life estate. The property adjoins a 60-acre remnant prairie/pasture Helen previously donated to INHF, called DeElda Heritage Prairie (named after her grandmother, DeElda Lighter Gunderson).


A few of the many bags of Carl Kurtz prairie seed for the May 2016 planting

Helen is an accomplished photographer and videographer and on that day we filmed and photographed Jon Judson planting the prairie seed (grown by Carl Kurtz, a longtime friend of Helen’s and INHF). She and I even got to hand scatter seeds along the terraces where the equipment couldn’t reach.

The 77 acres planted to CRP pollinator habitat surrounds a cornfield under transition to an organic operation by a young woman farmer, Betsy. Helen hopes that the new prairie buffer will help minimize cross contamination of the organic corn, as well as provide critical habitat.

Helen said that she had always thought the land would have more prairie someday, but it’s nice to see it happen during her lifetime.

For me, it was rewarding to be able to fulfill the dreams of a landowner, to support a young woman farmer and to give back to the earth — so that it can sustain the birds, insects, wildlife, water and air necessary for the existence of all life on the planet, for those who follow.

Thank you, Helen….
“Namaste prairie”


3 events, 1 great weekend in the Loess Hills

There’s always a good reason to get outdoors, but this trifecta of events will make it impossible to stay inside. Join Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation in western Iowa over the first weekend of June. We’re celebrating our great state’s natural areas with a combined volunteer event, the dedication of a new Bird Conservation Area and the Loess Hills Prairie Seminar.  Continue reading

It’s a Lark! It’s a Crane! It’s the Big Day of Birding


Explore southern Iowa’s Lucas County on Saturday, May 21, during the Big Day of Birding! This first-time event marries bird enthusiasts and conservationists as we count as many bird species as possible in 24 hours.

Lucas County is a popular spot for our feathered friends. The area boasts critical nesting habitat for rare species such as American woodcock, whip-poor-will and wood thrush. Plus, Stephen’s State Forest is home to a large number of woodland birds, including the vibrant warbler. 238 bird species have already been identified, and we hope to grow that number on the Big Day of Birding. Continue reading

5 of Iowa’s most invasive species (and how to get rid of them)

garlic mustard

An infestation of Garlic Mustard.

Invasive plant species are like the common cold: They’re easily caught, undesirable and if left untreated, can lead to something much more serious. Across Iowa, a variety of species threaten our native ecosystems. These weeds dominate and choke out wild and native plants, leading to less diverse native natural areas.

The following are five of the most common and threatening invasive species in Iowa.

Continue reading

5 things you didn’t know about the “Easter Bunny”


Photo by Michelle Tribe via Flickr Creative Commons

Here comes Peter Cottontail — and he’s right in your backyard! The cottontail rabbit is one of Iowa’s most popular native species and can be found across the state. These cute critters are common, but still hold a few surprises. Here are five unusual facts about the species:

  • Female cottontails are slightly larger than the males, but the average rabbit weighs around two pounds and is 14 to 20 inches long.
  • In states with high agriculture production, like Iowa, cottontails seek out waste grains — including corn, soybeans and wheat — to eat in the fall and winter.
  • Cottontails have eyes on the sides of their heads, which makes it easy for them to spot danger without moving.
  • Most cottontails spend their whole life within a five-acre radius.
  • Ideal rabbit habitat in Iowa includes a mix of cropland, grassland, brushy woodland, briar patches and hedgerows.

Want to learn more about the cottontail rabbit? Check out additional information from our friends at the Iowa DNR under “Mammals,” here.

Happy Easter!

Where the Wild Things Are: Greater Prairie Chickens

Welcome to “Where the Wild Things Are,” a monthly series where we feature a unique native species — and the best spots to glimpse these creatures. This month we’re featuring the eccentric Prairie Chicken.


Large, feathered, and noisy, the prairie chicken isn’t all that different from a typical fowl. However, a few distinct qualities set the birds apart. Male prairie chickens feature orange feathers above their eyes and a pair of inflatable neck sacs. These sacs are also bright orange and puff up during the bird’s notable mating practice. Continue reading

Indulge your sweet tooth at Iowa maple syrup festivals

Maple Tree TappingSmooth, sticky and the perfect pour over a stack of flapjacks, maple syrup is one of nature’s sweetest gifts. Sap is harvested from maple trees by tapping into the trunks. The collected liquid is heated, water evaporates, and a thick syrup is left behind.

Sap collection takes place in early spring, and numerous festivals have popped up to celebrate the harvest. We’ve compiled a guide to maple syrup events across Iowa. Sweet! Continue reading