Saturday, January 17, 2009

Now That's Neat...

Tropical weather (it's 26 F "above" zero this morning!) is bringing on a celebratory feeling here at Prairie Hill Farm! I can almost feel the spring breeze and see the first bumblebees of the season seeking out the early flowers on the prairie remnant in our north pasture. Sure it's a stretch, but without these bouts of spring fever we'd almost never make it this early in the winter! Something always triggers a spat of spring fever for me, in this instance it was a phone call.

Georgie and I had spent about 3 months afield late in 2007, visiting natural and cultural sites in NW Iowa...this was for a grant project called Watchable Wildlife of NW Iowa. Our job was to spend each day, or several days, visiting specific sites and videotaping and photographing. Poor us! HA! We loved every minute of it!

Other folks were working on the scripting and idea of the project. The project was administered through the Iowa Lakes RC&D, overseen by Jeff Kestel; the creative folks were two area naturalists - one stationed at the Prairie Heritage Center
(Charlene Elyea), and the other at the Lost Island Prairie Wetland Nature Center (Miriam Patton).

The project was worked into a web site of 39 natural and cultural areas, divided into 3 categories - a Glacial Trail loop, a Prairie Pot-hole Birding loop, and a Pioneer History loop. I was asked to design a web site around these loops, to video tape each site and to photograph the sites and flora, fauna, or whatever other characteristics the sites contained. A typical page on the site would introduce a specific site, give the history of the site, a description of the location, and driving directions (pop-up google maps and GPS). There may also be an "Educational Box" that can be used by teachers to explore more facets of the particular site, and there is also a video of the site.

The site's video could be one of two types. We had individuals that were experienced with the site and it's specifics - they were taped on camera talking about the site's characteristics. Or we would just do a composite editing of an overview of the site that would give the viewer a "flavor" of what the site was like, and what may be there.

A good example of a "site" page, this one from the Glacial Trail loop, is the Freda Haffner Kettlehole site page. Scott Moats of the Iowa Nature Conservancy speaks on camera and shows the kettlehole, speaks about the glacial/geological aspects and the wildlife. The text of the page also has pop-up images highlighted to illustrate plants at this location.

There is also a photo gallery page, a "Tip" page (tips on viewing wildlife), and a links page. The links page is loaded with stuff, even a separate video page and a wildlife joke page...OK that one was my idea, I have a silly sense of humor I guess.

I've briefly mentioned this website in this blog before and I guess the only reason I'm mentioning it again is because of the phone call. The web site creator (me) and the agency administering it (Iowa Lakes RC&D) have been given an "Outstanding Media Award" for our work through the Iowa Association of Naturalists and the Iowa Conservation Education Council! Now that's neat! Of course this whole thing would have never happened if Charlene and Miriam hadn't had the original idea in the first place!

Another neat thing (the one that really brings on the bouts with spring fever) is that the website project has just recently received another grant to continue the work and expand to more places in NW Iowa! Hopefully Georgie and I will get to go out and have more fun this summer!

If you're stuck inside and want to kick around the timber or prairies, or just see what's out there, try checking out Watchable Wildlife in NW Iowa and enjoy yourself...who knows maybe you'll find some spots that really peak your interest and can look forward to visiting in person when the mood strikes you!


Anonymous said...


Prairie Painter said...

Thanks Re!

notsilent1 said...

Congrats on the award and the continued work. Always fun when you can not only do something you enjoy but actually have someone else think it was worth the effort as well!

Prairie Painter said...

Thanks Matt!

Diane L. Dodd said...

congrats on the media award!
i can't feel the spring breeze though ; )

Prairie Painter said...

Thanks Diane! You may have to walk to the top of one of those hills down in your area to feel that spring breeze :)

mary-klein said...

Congratulations on your award, Bruce!

I really enjoyed my brief visit to the site and have bookmarked it for further exploration. It does make me want to visit NW Iowa - maybe when things warm up a bit.

Prairie Painter said...

Thank you Mary; and I do agree with your last idea (when it warms up)!