IAS Speaker Series at Saylorville Schedule

All programs are Saturday at 2:00 p.m. in the Visitor Center Theater.
See schedule below.

Public invited free of charge.
Families welcome!

An important part of the Iowa Academy of Science mission is to promote the public understanding of science. The IAS Speaker Series at Saylorville features science based programs for children and adults.  They are presented by members of the Iowa Academy of Science who donate their time and expertise to advance the public understanding of science. Programs may be entertaining, others may address topics of public interest, and some be controversial. It is our goal to foster science based information promoting science education, encourages science based discussion about societal issues, and informs the public about the benefits of science to society. We hope you agree that thanks to the following members and programs we have achieved our goals at Saylorville in 2017. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017
2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Saylorville Visitor Center Theater

The Green Yard Makeover: Restoring Ecosystem Services for People, Pollinators, and Songbirds

with Jim Kessler
Audience: Adults and Children


Program Description

The Green Yard Makeover:
... Is Flexible – All or parts of the makeover can be implemented in a portion of your yard. It can be adapted to a variety of yard sizes. It can be installed gradually quickly or over several years. It may be easily adapted for your bioregion.
… Creates Habitat for Pollinators and Birds - Native trees, shrubs, wildflowers, and grasses that are used in the Green Yard Makeover provide food, nesting sites, and shelter for songbirds, butterflies, native pollinators, and other beneficial insects.
... Provides Food for Families – A small organic garden is planted with raised beds is planted and nut and fruit trees may be included in a privacy border.
... Reduces Storm water and Nutrient Runoff – A rain barrel, rain garden, and raised garden beds absorb storm water in the yard. This keeps water and lawn chemicals out of streams and rivers.

About Jim Kessler
Native Planting and Butterfly Garden Speaker

Jim Kessler currently teaches Environmental Biology and Introductory Biology at Iowa Valley Community College – Grinnell. Jim taught Biology at Newton High School from 1972 – 2005. Jim is a long time member of the Iowa Academy of Science. Jim and Kathy Kessler have restored 30 acres to native habitat south of Grinnell. He has shared presentations over 70 times during the last five years about the importance of native plantings to pollinators, songbirds, and people. He has spoken at Iowa State University, Blank Park Zoo, University of Iowa, and the the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, and to many community and school groups.


Saturday, June  24, 2017
2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Saylorville Visitor Center Theater

Geology of Central Iowa

with Michael Blair
Audience: Adults and Children


Not many people know that one billion years ago Des Moines was in an earthquake zone or that 300 million years ago this area was prime for beach front property. Or that as recently as 12,000 you could cool your fine wine drink with glacial ice. Spend an hour learning about Central Iowa's interesting past and you will never look at Four Mile Creek, Capitol Hill or the east side same way. Feel free to bring in fossils or rocks to be identified.

About Michael Blair

Michael Blair has taught for 39 years in various educational institutions including the Des Moines Public Schools; Escuaela Mazapan, La Ceiba, Honduras; and Levaula College, Faleula, Western Samoa. He has presented at national, state and local levels on various subjects and has been the recipient of many awards, including RadioShack Teacher of the Year, 2001. He graduated from the University of Iowa with a B. S. in geology and a received his M. S. from Iowa State University in earth science. His Master's thesis was on the geology of the Des Moines area. He was also instrumental in advising the Army Corps of Engineers in developing the geological display at the Saylorville Visitor's Center.


Saturday, July 1, 2017
2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Saylorville Visitor Center Theater

Building Biological factories for the production of medicines, fuels and chemicals

with Laura Jarboe, Tom Mansell, Jacqueline Shanks, and Zengyi Shao
Audience: Adults and Children

 Laura Jarboe

Laura Jarboe

 Tom Mansell

Tom Mansell

 Jacqueline Shanks

Jacqueline Shanks

 Zengyi Shao

Zengyi Shao

Program Description

People have always relied on other organisms for survival. We have used trees as a source of building material and fuel for fires that keep us warm and cook our food. We have used other plants as food and medicines. We have used animals as a source of food, textiles, and to help with transportation and farming. In addition to these large organisms that we a familiar with, we have also extensively relied on microbes. Microbes live in our gut and play a vital role in our digestive process. Microbes are also essential to the conversion of milk, grains and other crops into yogurt, cheese, sauerkraut and alcoholic beverages. More recently, we have learned to engineer these microbial cell factories for new applications. For example, the development of a bacteria that could produce human insulin provided a cheaper, safer and more humane alternative to the harvesting of insulin from animals.

This talk, intended for a general audience of all ages, will give an overview of the field of metabolic engineering and its application in the engineering of bacteria for the production of medicinal compounds, industrial chemicals and fuels. By applying engineering principles to biological systems, we aim to improve human health, add value to agricultural residues, and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

In this presentation, faculty from the Iowa State University Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering will discuss the history of metabolic engineering, their research in these areas, and some of the challenges and opportunities in these fields.

About the Speakers

Associate Professor Laura R. Jarboe has been a faculty member at ISU since 2008. She grew up in Kentucky, graduated from the University of Kentucky, and remains a loyal fan of Kentucky Basketball. She earned her PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles, and worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Florida Center for Renewable Fuels and Chemicals at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

Karen and Denny Vaughn Assistant Professor Tom Mansell has been at ISU since 2015. He is from rural Pennsylvania, with undergraduate and master’s degrees from Johns Hopkins University and a PhD from Cornell, and worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Manley Hoppe Professor Jacqueline Shanks is an Iowa native, and earned her undergraduate degree at ISU. Her PhD is from the California Institute of Technology, and she spent several years as a faculty member at Rice University in Texas, before returning to Iowa.

Assistant Professor Zengyi Shao joined ISU in 2013. She earned a BS in Biochemistry from Nankai University and a PhD from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She continued as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Saturday, July 15, 2017
2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Saylorville Visitor Center Theater

The Winneshiek Geologic Discoveries - An Unusual Setting for Exceptional Fossil Preservation

with Paul H. Liu
Audience: Adults

As part of “The Strange Truth” television series, an Ordovician scorpion-like fossil from northeast Iowa was featured on the National Geographic Channel on January 31st, 2016. This fossil is highly renowned because it is the oldest (465 million years) and the largest (5-6 feet) Ordovician eurypterid in the fossil record. However, this eurypterid is just one of many exceptionally preserved fossil taxa from the Winneshiek Lagerstätte near Decorah, Iowa. The Winneshiek fauna is significantly different from normal marine faunas, therefor, this discovery has improved our knowledge of Ordovician life. Paleoenvironmental studies of the Winneshiek fauna led to another discovery, the Decorah Impact Structure, a new meteorite crater with a diameter about 5.6 km. It is the second meteorite structure recognized in Iowa so far. This presentation will tell the story of an unusual geologic setting for the exceptional fossil preservation.

About Paul H. Liu

Paul H. Lui_web96.jpg

Dr. H. Paul Liu is a Geologist and a Research Specialist of the Iowa Geological Survey, IIHR Hydroscience & Engineering, University of Iowa. Paul has worked as a bedrock geologist and paleontologist in the Iowa Geological Survey since 1994. He is one of the discoverers and the NSF research project leader of the unusual Middle Ordovician Winneshiek fossil fauna and the meteorite impact structure found near Decorah, northeastern Iowa. The Winneshiek fossil fauna is characterized by its specific fossil component and exceptional preservations, and it has been considered as “the discovery of the decade in early Paleozoic paleontology”. The Decorah Impact Structure is the second meteorite crater recognized in Iowa. Several journal articles on the unusual geologic discoveries have been published by him and his collaborators, and the results from the research have been widely used for public education including the television show on the National Geographic Channel.

Program flyer to be available soon.

Saturday, July 22, 2017
2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Saylorville Visitor Center Theater

Track'em Down and Dig'em Up-Dinosaur Discoveries in Alberta

with Bill Desmarais
Science Teacher, Washington High School, Cedar Rapids, Retired

Audience: Adults and Children

Program Description

Alberta, Canada is a known hot bed of dinosaur discoveries and fossils. Come on this virtual expedition and find thousands of dinosaur tracks and track ways uncovered in a large coal mine in the Canadian Rockies. The expedition continues with discoveries of multiple Albertosaurus skeletons in the badlands of the Red Deer River that hint at the pack hunting nature of large tyrannosaurs. There will be interactive parts where you will be able to apply your paleontologist skills and observe real dinosaur fossils and footprints.


About Bill Desmarais

Bill Desmarais was a high school science teacher in Iowa for 36 years before his retirement in 2007. He taught biology, earth sciences, and Advanced Placement Environmental Science at Washington High School in Cedar Rapids. Since 1982 he has had the good fortune to work with Dr. Phil Currie of the University of Alberta at Edmonton and Pete Larson of the Black Hills Institute, Hill City, South Dakota at several dinosaur quarries in South Dakota, Wyoming and several locations in Alberta, Canada. Bill is a member of the Iowa Academy of Science and the Cedar Valley Rock and Minerals Society, as well as the Mid America Paleontology Society.

Saturday, August 5, 2017
Parking Lot Display: 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 pm
Theater Presentation: 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 pm

Saylorville Visitor Center Theater

University of Iowa Mobile Museum

The University of Iowa Mobile Museum launched in 2014 as a partnership between the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development, the Office of the State Archaeologist, and the Pentacrest Museums.

The Mobile Museum inspires visitors to understand the world by bringing exhibits with cutting-edge research, one-of-a-kind artifacts, and interactive digital media to Iowa’s communities statewide.  We promote interdisciplinary partnerships and collaborations to present UI research and stimulate understanding, appreciation, and pride for the University of Iowa and the state.

Oneota Archaeological Connections

Our state was named after the Ioway Indians, whose ancestors are known to archaeologists as the Oneota. Explore what University of Iowa archaeologists know about these communities of innovative farmers and hunters who lived in villages across Iowa from about A.D. 1000-1650. See incredible artifacts on display, and learn how archaeologists work with Iowans and descendent Native American tribes to make sure all places, people, and artifacts connected to archaeological sites are well-cared for and respected.

Delving Deep: Scientific Discoveries from Iowa's Ancient Sea

Researchers from the Iowa Geological Survey discovered evidence of a meteorite impact near Decorah, Iowa in Winneshiek County. This event took place during the Ordovician Period, 465 million years ago, when Iowa was covered by a warm shallow sea. The meteorite created a deep crater in the sea floor. The unusual environment within the crater allowed for the extraordinary preservation of a unique assemblage of fossils which reveal new information about Ordovician sea life.  One of the most spectacular fossils found is that of a giant eurypterid, sometimes called a "sea scorpion". It was 5 to 6 feet long and the top predator in its environment. View a life size model of this animal and learn about other creatures from Iowa's ancient past.

Speaking of Work: The Iowa Labor History Oral Project

How has work in Iowa changed over time? What jobs have women and men held, and how have workers’ experiences and struggles shaped our state? Every Iowan’s story contains unique answers to these questions. Forty years ago, the Iowa labor movement began working with The University of Iowa and State Historical Society of Iowa to record and preserve these stories through the Iowa Labor History Oral Project (ILHOP). Today ILHOP continues to gather stories of new generations of Iowa workers. Come learn about oral history, listen to the voices of the past, and ask yourself, “What’s my story?”


Saturday, August 26, 2017
2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Saylorville Visitor Center Theater

CAFO Agriculture.jpg

Unintended Consequences of CAFO* Agriculture

with Bob Watson

Presentation Description

 This will be a 45 minute presentation about hog confinements. In that time, people should gain an understanding of the technology of modern hog confinements, and the human health and environmental damage that these systems cause. After viewing and discussing what is in the presentation, they then should be able to take part in any conversation about this issue. This issue is what Bob work's on most in his activism. And this is an up to date presentation of what Bob has come to know during the last 25 years working on this issue.

*concentrated animal feeding operations

About Bob Watson

Bob Watson is an environmental activist who makes his living in the wastewater industry. And, is a member of the Iowa Academy of Science, and the Iowa Water Environment Association.