Students present on unique Iowa area during outdoor education conference

This spring, Mount Mercy students participated in a two-day Student Outdoor Educators Conference during which they presented information about Iowa algific talus slopes – geological areas with unique microclimates, plants, and animals. 

The conference was held at Northland College in Ashland, Wis. Professor of Biology and Department Chair Neil Bernstein, Ph.D., said the purpose of their presentation was to make people aware of this unique area in Iowa where outdoor educators could take students to learn about the ancient history of Iowa.

"There are rare plants and animals found here, and it's also a great place to visit to learn about geology and glacial effects of the landscape," Bernstein said.

One of the plants in the algific talus slope community is the Northern Monkshood, declared by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service to be a Northern Monkshoodthreatened species. The Northern Monkshood is known for its blue hood-shaped flowers. Stems can range from one to four feet in length with many flowers found on a single stem. Students also provided information about the Iowa Pleistocene Snail, a federally endangered species, which is approximately one-quarter inch in diameter. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reports these species have been seen at only 30 sites in Iowa and Illinois, and it is believed that the populations are remnants of larger numbers present during cooler glacial periods.

In addition to participating in various seminars pertaining to outdoor education, Bernstein said the students also benefited by interacting with students from other colleges and universities who had similar interests in the field. Mount Mercy was the only school representing Iowa at the conference.

For more information on the presentation, contact Bernstein at nbernstein@mtmercy.edu.

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