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Aldo Leopold Distinguished Lectures @ UNI

Events - Tending Iowa's Land

Tending Iowa's Land

An Evening of Discussion About Iowa's Lost Biodiversity 


Pauline Drobney, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - retired
Dr. Elizabeth Lynch, Luther College
Dr. James Pease, Emeritus, Iowa State University
Dr. Thomas Rosburg, Professor & Curator of the Drake University Herbarium, Drake University

Among the four environmental themes addressed in Tending Iowa’s Land, the devastation of biodiversity is perhaps the most visible and important to the citizens of Iowa. Considering the extensive loss of its native landscapes – at least 99.5% of prairie, 92% of wetlands, and 75% of forest and woodlands – it’s amazing Iowa has any semblance of its once rich legacy of biodiversity left. There is good evidence that Earth is in the midst of the 6th great extinction. This is alarming for many reasons, one being the direct effect it has already had and will continue to have on impaired ecosystem function and processes. It's our native biodiversity that provides ecosystem services, those intangible outcomes of nature that benefit the lives of humans in so many ways. It's biodiversity that can mitigate and restore the damage done to our soil, water and air. The biodiversity authors in Tending Iowa’s Land will offer short readings and discussion that reviews the complexities of biodiversity and its role in ecosystems, the history of Iowa’s amazing biodiversity seen in the prairies and wildlife that made Iowa one of the most productive and diverse places on earth, and what we can do to return to a time when Iowa’s native biodiversity and its people could both call Iowa home. 

Friday, April 21, 2023 at 6:30pm in West Towers Lounge

Towers Center, University of Northern Iowa Campus

The event is free and open to the public. 

Speaker Biographies


Pauline Drobney has spent much of her life becoming intimate with the natural world. Her love affair began as a teenager growing up in north-central Iowa, where her grandfather “planted the (prairie) seed in her” – the seed of seeing the complex and sacred in remnant prairies.  With BAs in biology and art and a MA in Biology from UNI, she has traveled a 40-year career path of learning to read, study, tend, and reconstruct prairies and savannas. That career led to her guiding the ecological restoration of the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge near Des Moines, serving nationally as the Prairie and Savanna Land Management and Research Demonstration Biologist and eventually becoming the Prairie and Savanna Zone Biologist for the Midwest Region of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  She has authored three invited book chapters, led development of national monitoring protocols for prairie and savanna, and has authored or co-authored numerous scientific and technical publications. A few things have remained constant throughout her prairie and job wanders: her passionate love for things wild and native to Iowa, and her creative interpretations of our complex native systems. Pauline’s passion and dedication are reflected in her chapter, “Knitting it back together, Iowa’s tallgrass  prairie.” 

Dr. Elizabeth Lynch, associate professor of Biology at Luther College, enjoys teaching and engaging undergraduate students in research. She earned her BSc Honors from Trent University and a PhD in Ecology with a minor in Quaternary Paleoecology from the University of Minnesota, then worked as the botanist for Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission before moving to Iowa to take a position at Loras College. Her research has focused on how fire and past climatic changes have shaped pine and oak forests of the western Great Lakes region. Her curiosity about plant communities of northeastern Iowa has resulted in publications concerning the conservation of rare plants and plant communities closer to home. In 2015, she received the Lawrence and Eula Hagie Heritage Award given by the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation for outstanding service to Iowa’s natural heritage.

Dr. Jim Pease, Emeritus Assoc. Professor, Dept. of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Iowa State University

Jim Pease grew up along the Mississippi River in southeast Iowa exploring the rivers, woods, and other wild areas with his brothers. He has nearly half a century of experience as a front-line naturalist, extension wildlife specialist, and professor of interpretation at Iowa State University. Since retiring from ISU, he has continued to teach, write, and speak widely and has led natural history trips to Central and South America, Africa, and other wildlife-rich areas.  He has paddled and reported on over 2,200 miles of Iowa rivers and written water trail brochures for the public.  He continues to hold leadership positions in several conservation organizations.

Dr. Thomas Rosberg

Dr. Thomas Rosburg is a Professor of Biology at Drake University and teaches courses in ecology, botany, statistics, and Iowa natural history. During his 27 years he has served as the Chair of the Department of Biology and the Director of Environmental Science and Policy. His research addresses topics in plant ecology that investigate the factors that affect the species composition and structure of plant communities in prairie, forest and wetland ecosystems. Dr.

Rosburg has a Collaborator Faculty appointment with Iowa State University and has provided his expertise in prairie and plant ecology to several ISU graduate students. He has served as a mentor for over 60 students completing undergraduate thesis research or independent studies, and has acquired over $1.77 million in grant awards for over 130 different research projects. He has contributed his expertise to 4 books and has produced over 350 scientific papers, reports, articles and presentations. He has made over 400 presentations in public settings on a wide range of nature topics and published over 540 photographs in books, magazines, calendars and reports.

Tom has served the Iowa Academy of Science as a Board member (8 years) and its President (2011). He was given the Distinguished Iowa Scientist Award from the Iowa Academy of Science in 2018. Dr. Rosburg received a B.S. in Fish and Wildlife Biology, a M.S. in Plant Ecology, and his Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Iowa State University. He lives on a small farm in Story County.