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Find out what farmers in Dickinson County are doing to protect and enhance water quality.

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The organizing committee of the Prairie Lakes Conference are pleased to announce a limited number of first-come, first-serve scholarships to support attendance at the PLC on August 8-9, 2019.  The scholarship will cover the cost of conference registration.  Click here to download the application: Application for Prairie Lakes Conference Scholarship











Michelle Balmer currently works for the Lake Restoration Program at the DNR. She started at the DNR in 2012 as the Lake Monitoring Coordinator and took her current position in the fall of 2015. Michelle holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree from Iowa State University in Biology and Anthropology, and a Master’s of Science in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, where she studied limnology under John Downing.


Przemek (“Shemick”) Bajer is a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota. His work focuses on understanding why common carp become invasive in some geographic regions, but not in others, and how this process might be controlled using integrated pest management approaches. He also studies the effects of carp on ecosystems using whole-lake manipulations.


Ben Wallace is a Fish Management Biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. He manages the public water bodies in a 12 county district in northwest Iowa. Management duties include fish sampling, habitat and watershed improvement work, formulating a fish stocking plan, evaluating fishing regulations, education and outreach, and operating a satellite hatchery for walleye during the spring. Ben obtained is B.S. in Animal Ecology from Iowa State University in 2007 and M.S. in Fish and Wildlife Science from North Carolina State University in 2010. Ben has been a biologist with the Iowa DNR since 2010.

Grace Wilkinson is an Assistant Professor at Iowa State University in the department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology and Natural Resource Ecology and Management. Her research focuses on linkages between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and how this influences the dynamics of aquatic ecosystems. Her lab uses a combination of comparative surveys, ecosystem experiments, and time series to investigate patterns and controls on aquatic ecosystem function, such as predicting the onset of harmful algal blooms in lakes.


Kaitlyn Taylor is a Water Resources Planner out of the Saint Paul, MN Tetra Tech office. She holds a B.S. in Conservation Biology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a M.S. from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Sciences. While Kaitlyn is a Wisconsin native, she enjoys working throughout the Midwest states to create comprehensive watershed-based restoration and protection plans that can be implemented at a local level. She has worked previously in both the non-profit and public sectors and enjoys working collaboratively with stakeholders from all sectors to achieve the best plan possible.

Dr. Keith Schilling is State Geologist of the Iowa Geological Survey at the University of Iowa and an adjunct assistant professor at both the University of Iowa Department of Earth and Environmental Science and at Iowa State University Department of Natural Resources Ecology and Management. He received an M.S. degree in Water Resources from Iowa State University and a Ph.D. degree in Geology from the University of Iowa. His research has focused on a variety of water-related issues in Iowa, including groundwater flow and quality, surface and groundwater interaction, nonpoint source pollution and watershed and floodplain processes.

John Wills  has been involved in water quality and conservation work for more than 20 years.   His specialties include coordinating projects, communicating with landowners, educating youth, and funding projects that protect the lakes of Dickinson County. His work with the Clean Water Alliance has him operating with over 80 groups and organizations whose mutual goal is to protect the water resources of the county. John works in both the agricultural and urban community. He has 4 goals when working with the Clean Water Alliance: to educate people about clean water, to coordinate various projects within the watersheds of Dickinson County, to communicate about clean water and what is being done to protect our lakes, and to fund projects that improve water quality.

He has an Associate Degree in Environmental Studies, a Bachelor’s Degree in biology (with Secondary Teaching Endorsement), a Master’s Degree in Political Science, and a Master’s Degree in Environmental Policy and Management.

Since 2007 Mike Hawkins has worked as a Fisheries Management Biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.  Mike is responsible for leading efforts to protect and improve fishing opportunities for Iowa’s anglers through improvements to water quality, habitat, and watersheds.  He is also responsible for developing stocking and harvest regulations to further protect and enhance fisheries populations in his nine county district.  His work focuses on developing strong relationships with communities and other partners to protect and enhance our water resources.  Mike has worked with Fisheries Bureau of the Iowa DNR since 1996.  Prior to his current position Mike was a Fisheries Research Biologist working on Iowa’s natural lakes.

Mike has a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science from the University of Dubuque and a Master’s Degree in Fisheries Science from South Dakota State University.  Mike is an Iowa native and grew up on dairy farm in northeast Iowa.

Dr. Howe leads the Genomics and Environmental Research in Microbial Systems (GERMS) Laboratory. The goal of the GERMS Lab ( is to understand and manage the impacts of microbiology as we continuously change the environment that we live in. Our research provides data that is needed to inform our decisions and policy by developing innovative scientific methods that detect and quantify microbial activity in the environment. Our broad interests include the production, resilience, and safety of food, energy, and water resources; the impacts of land management strategies; the connection of environmental and animal microbiomes; and the large-scale detection of biomarkers for environmental health.

George Antoniou has been with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources in Des Moines, Iowa since 2007. He is responsible for the administration of the Lake Restoration Program including identification of priority projects and working with local, state and federal agencies to implement restoration activities. George works to develop lake restoration projects that ensure a cost-effective investment for the State of Iowa; foster a community commitment to lake and watershed protection; and provide significant improvement to the quality of Iowa lakes.

Dr. Charles Ikenberry holds a B. S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, M.S. in Biological & Agricultural Engineering from Kansas State University, and a Ph.D. in Agricultural & Biosystems Engineering from Iowa State University.  His doctoral research focused on improving the simulation of hydrology and nutrients in tile-drained landscapes and wetlands.  He currently serves as the Iowa Market and Water Quality Lead for FYRA Engineering in Des Moines.  Charles had the pleasure of assisting the City of Emmetsburg and the Iowa DNR Lake Restoration Program with the development of a Water Quality Management Plan for Five Island Lake – a “Prairie Lake” facing many of the same challenges as other natural lakes in the region. 

Rachel Vanausdall is a Research Associate II in the Dpt. of Natural Resource Ecology and Management at Iowa State University. She received her M.S. in Wildlife Ecology in 2018 at Iowa State University, where she studied the impact of shallow lake restoration on migrating and breeding marsh birds. Before that she obtained her B.S. in Wildlife from Purdue University in 2010.


Molly Hanson is an Iowa native and currently serves as the Executive Director of Iowa Rivers Revival- a non-profit river a advocacy organization for the state.  Her background in conservation and environmental education have highlighted the beauty and importance of our natural resources, and she considers it an honor as well as a passion to help  Iowans protect, restore and enjoy Iowa’s rivers.


Martin Simonson is a PhD student in the Fisheries Ecology and Management Lab at Iowa State University, where he currently studies common carp and bigmouth buffalo in Northwest Iowa. He earned a BS in Fisheries and Wildlife from Michigan State University in 2015 and a MS in Environmental Science from the University of Toledo in 2017.



Joe Bischoff is a Principal Limnologist with Wenck Associates, Inc. in Golden Valley, MN. Joe’s work focuses on lake and reservoir restoration and management throughout the Upper Midwest. Specific areas of expertise include internal phosphorus loading, shallow lake restoration, and nutrient management. Joe is currently co-chair of the North American Lake Management Society Policy Committee.