Climate and Weather Research Tools

Climate Research Resources

Iowa has not developed a statewide adaptation plan to address climate change. However, farmers and agricultural specialists have taken steps to increase carbon sequestration by eschewing traditional farming and utilizing regenerative farming techniques to build resilience in the soil and protect future food supply against threats of climate change.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): National Centers for Environmental Information

This website has many useful links including but not limited to:; as well as access to additional various data.  I found the interesting as I could locate and evaluate Brayton Forest and the potential for a drought situation in the coming months and how that may affect future seedling plantings and or potential harvesting in the region.

Insect disturbance and Climate Change

This website offered information related to insect outbreaks which may adversely affect my study area (Brayton Forest) in the coming months. Emerald Ash Borer has been sited within the Iowa and may pose an issue to forests which contain native ash trees (Fraxinus sp.) specifically the White, Green, and Black species.  This site also provides “recommended reading”, and helpful “related links” and “research” sub-sections.

U.S. Drought Monitor

Another interesting site which provides trending information related to moisture and drought conditions is the “U.S. Drought Monitor.”  This tool clarifies current trends in moisture throughout the U.S. and more specifically to locations of your choosing.  While providing climate outlooks, soil moisture forecasts, national fire outlook and a western water supply outlook it also has recent years history which provides context on how current trends may be developing.

Butterflies Emerging – Brayton Forest

Video contains a swarm of butterflies emerging and becoming active in early morning of an early summer morning. Enjoy.

ArcGIS – Brayton Forest

Here is my attempt at utilizing ArcGIS for the first time. I found it to be a little less “user-friendly” than the other two applications however as I stated in a previous blog I really like the Living Atlas Layers which provide a variety of terrain, geographical and vegetation variables to the selected area.

Google Earth – Brayton Forest,-91.24718647,303.92368975a,2963.92841395d,35y,0.00000001h,45.0140608t,0r/data=MikKJwolCiExaUtvM3VaOWI5UzdWTmxhc1Axbmlmazh1TmxoMmplN3ggAQ

I also used Google Earth as part of this project and found it easier to use in a few functions including loading and editing the photos as well as adjusting the viewpoint of he terrain. Simply another option.

Google My Maps – Brayton Forest

Google My Maps is easy to navigate, and I really like the ease of adding photos to the various points of interest and a brief description.  This product would be very helpful in providing specific locations for research including sampling of various species, water quality and progress/control of invasive species tracking. Note: I did experience some difficulty in orienting the photos from my iPhone into the location tabs. I found discussions regarding this issue and by locking the orientation on my phone I was able to properly post the photos. This portion of the software could be more intuitive but it was a minor setback.

I have used Google Earth in other classes which tracked the changes in a particular ecosystem over time.  With google Earth you can set boundaries locate GPS locations and take ground level measurements while viewing in satellite mode.  This may also assist the researcher in identifying tree cover and various habitat to secure possible populations of various species prior to arriving at the research locations.

ArcGIS is a much more robust mapping software which allows the user to overlay individual specific ‘sub-areas” to focus attention on portions of the land that may need special attention such as insect control, fire danger, wildlife habitat and flood control.  Additionally, the “Living Atlas Layers” offer unique views of the topography including but not limited to Aspect Map, forest Type, Tinted hillside (which shows how sunlight will affect growth patterns of vegetation.  This can be very important following wildfires, or logging operations to topsoil stabilization and prevent future erosion and support ground cover and pioneer species. All three of the systems utilized have their place and range from ease of use to detail presentations. From a future planning standpoint and research presentation it is evident why ArcGIS systems are popular with government organizations and research institutions.  However, Google My Maps and Google Earth also have excellent tools which adapt well for education, work, or leisure applications.  

Why is Biodiversity Important?

Why is Biodiversity Important?

When you think of biodiversity do you imagine a tropical rainforest with a myriad of lush green and flowering plants, teeming with birds, insects, and other creatures? Of course, the rainforests are diverse, but biodiversity is important in our everyday lives as well. Biodiversity is important locally, regionally, nationally, and of course globally.

photo courtesy of

Local biodiversity is important to produce backyard gardens and flowering plants. Without habitat for butterflies, bees, and other pollinators their populations would not be able to cross pollinate plants to produce our decorative flowers and vegetable gardens.

photo courtesy of BBC

Likewise, from a regional standpoint, biodiversity provides for the propagation of fruit trees, agricultural crops. It provides habitat for birds and insects which enrich the soil and transfer seeds throughout natural areas. Providing habitat to some predator species like coyotes and raccoons which keep other species from becoming overpopulated such as rabbits and rodents. A variety of species provides “insurance” against floods and periods of seasonal drought (e.g., Mangrove barriers provide erosion control).

photo courtesy of

On a national scale biodiversity provides opportunities including economic, recreational, and cultural. Economic opportunities include exporting excess food production and timber for harvesting. Recreational opportunities are created or preserved by providing a variety of species to protect water resources, providing hunting opportunities and observation of nature. Cultural opportunities include sacred sites which may include historically preserved forests (e.g., redwood forests) or individual species (e.g., Bald Eagles or California Condor).

photo courtesy of

On an international scale biodiversity is important by keeping nature in balance. Globalization has brought invasive species to every shore reducing native floral and fauna in many places. Changing the climate reduces the natural balance of species with a limited range or the ability to adjust in a short amount of time.

Biodiversity is an important element in the cycle of nature and we as humans need to protect the diversity of species for our own continued existence.


As part of this blog to understand the many issues the State of Iowa environment is facing is the issue of its biodiversity. As Iowa continues and intensifies its monoculture approach to agriculture it threatens the very basis that once made Iowa and other great plains states so suitable for agriculture 150 years ago. Its biodiversity.

Dr. Thomas Lovejoy first coined the phrase Biological Diversity (Biodiversity) in the mid – 1980’s to describe what he was witnessing first hand as a researcher in the Amazonian rainforests of South America.

I have incorporated a few sources to namely, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the National Geographic and Encyclopedias Britannica to come up with a definition which I will use during this semester.

Biodiversity – Is a state of evolution where an ecosystem thrives in a state of equilibrium in which a variety of species interact in harmony. These species may include bacteria, fungi, reptiles, birds, all types of plants, and mammals. This species richness works together to create an intricate web, to maintain balance and support life on Earth.

Let me know what you think, edits, additions, subtractions are all welcome.

Brayton Memorial Forest

Brayton Memorial Forest

My semester research project will focus on Brayton Memorial Forest, a working research forest associated with Iowa State University and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Located in N.E. Iowa, Brayton Forest is a 307-acre diverse forest stand consisting of oaks, hickory, black walnut, butternut, soft and hard maple, and ash.  The forest also provides habitat for pheasant, wild turkey, whitetail deer, rabbits, squirrels, and a variety of birds.  An original survey of the property was completed in 1839 showing the forest dominated by oaks (red, white, black and bur), by the late 1850’s most of the timber had been harvested for railroad ties to support growing towns. The property was donated to Iowa State University by Emma L. Brayton in 1949.

I was first introduced to Brayton during a summer internship as part of my undergraduate studies in Forestry at ISU. During the summer I was tasked with conducting an inventory of black walnut stumpage, planting native tree species and amelioration of downed limbs and timber waste following an oak timber sale conducted the previous winter. I have often returned to Brayton as it contains many of the elements that first drew me to Forestry, preservation of a forest which provides multiple-use opportunities.

  • Economic opportunities through timber harvesting.
  • Varied wildlife habitat margins near agricultural areas or provided by harvesting.
  • Uniquely wild portions reflecting Iowa in the 1800’s.
  • Hunting and wildlife viewing opportunities.

The Depths of Winter

It is now mid-February and the ground is covered in 12-15 inches of snow here in Iowa. Last week the temperatures were consistently below zero for daytime highs and frigid at night. This weekend we are expected a respite from the arctic cold as the temperatures will be in the twenties and low thirties.

The snow cover while covering the ground has created a surreal element to all the fallen trees from last summer’s Derecho. Many of the trees although uprooted still remain in a perpetual “fall” as they are trapped at a 45 degree angle with the ground.

I will capture some photos this weekend and share on this site next week.