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CERA Open to Visitors over Commencement Weekend

In honor of commencement, the Conard Environmental Research Area (CERA) invites students, families, and friends to visit and explore.

The Environmental Education Center (EEC) will be open 8 a.m.–7 p.m. from Saturday, May 19, to Monday, May 21, 2018.

Visitors are invited to pick up a trail map, view artwork, and check out the native plants growing in the greenhouse before going out on the land for a hike or picnic.

Directions to CERA

11203 S. 12th Avenue E., Kellogg, Iowa 50135

  1. From main campus, take West Ave (Highway 146) south to Interstate 80. 
  2. Take I-80 west to the Kellogg/Sully/Hwy 224  exit #173.
  3. Turn right (north) on Hwy 224.
  4. After 0.5 miles, turn right (east) onto S. 12th Avenue E., a gravel road, and follow for 1.5 miles.
  5. Look for “Henry S. Conard Environmental Research Area” sign and turn right onto the entrance lane at the red gate.
  6. Follow the lane 0.4 miles and take the left fork to the Environmental Education Center and forest parking.

Apply To Be a CERA Summer Restoration Assistant

2018 Job Description

Summer restoration assistants will conduct ecological restoration, wildlife monitoring, and education/outreach at Grinnell College's 365-acre Conard Environmental Research Area (CERA) and on urban prairies in Grinnell.

The positions require willingness to work independently and outside under adverse conditions (humidity, heat, biting insects), but rewards are numerous on the prairie!

Summer restoration assistants are supervised by CERA manager Elizabeth Hill.

Job Duties

  • Conduct ecological restoration activities at CERA and urban prairies
  • Propagate and out-plant prairie, savanna, wetland plant species
  • Conduct plant surveys and animal population monitoring
  • Conduct annual trail maintenance
  • Assist with harvest and storage of prairie seed
  • Assist with prairie and conservation education activities


May 29–July 21, 2018: $9.00/hour, 40 hours/week.


Please merge the following materials into one document and send by email to Elizabeth Hill or bring to Macy House, Room 209 by Monday, March 12, 2018.

  1. Cover letter describing your background and interests and what you hope to gain from the apprenticeship experience
  2. Résumé listing relevant work and research experiences
  3. Contact information for two references

Deadline to Apply

Application materials are due on Monday, March 12, 2018

Conard Environmental Research Area Winter Hours Announced

December 2–17, Closed for Managed Deer Hunt

For two weeks this month, the Grinnell College Conard Environmental Research Area (CERA) will be closed to the public for the annual managed deer hunt. CERA will close Saturday, Dec. 2, and remain closed until Sunday, Dec. 17.

The purpose of the managed deer hunt is to reduce white-tailed deer populations at CERA and surrounding areas by selectively harvesting individuals during the annual shotgun seasons. CERA staff and volunteer hunters coordinate the hunt, which is conducted using lead-free ammunition.

December 18–22, Regular Hours

On Dec. 18, CERA will reopen to the public, resuming regular hours and activities. The field station is normally open to the public from dawn to dusk for hiking, bird watching, photography, painting, drawing, and other nature studies. CERA offers six miles of trails and has hosted various programs for the public, such as a prairie performance art, a papermaking workshop, and volunteer opportunities.

December 23–January 5, Open to Foot Traffic

CERA will be closed to vehicles but open to foot traffic during the College’s winter recess, December 23, 2017, through January 5, 2018. Visitors are welcome to park at the Main gate or River Trail gate in order to access CERA for hiking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing. The Environmental Education Center will be locked during winter recess


CERA is a 365-acre field station located 12 miles southwest of Grinnell at 11203 S. 12th Ave. E., Kellogg, IA.

Take I-80 West to Exit 173 (Kellogg/Sully).

Turn north (right) onto Highway 224 and drive 0.5 miles. Turn east (right) onto S. 12th Ave. E. (gravel road) and drive 1.5 miles.

Look for the “Henry S. Conard Environmental Research Area” sign on the south side of the road, and turn south (right) onto CERA’s main lane.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact CERA Manager Elizabeth Hill or Campus Safety 641-269-4600.

Grinnell's Prairie


Drive west on Interstate 80 to exit 173, head north for half a mile, and take the first gravel road on your right. After 1.8 miles of row-cropland, you’ll come across a sign with the College’s familiar red laurel leaf: Welcome to the Conard Environmental Research Area (CERA).

Though CERA is just 9 miles from the town of Grinnell, the College’s sprawling field station feels worlds away from the bustle of campus. Just beyond the low-slung, LEED-certified Environmental Education Center, 365 acres of prairie, savanna, wetlands, and oak forest beckon. 

Grinnell College acquired CERA in 1968 and named it for the late Henry S. Conard, internationally recognized botanist and beloved Grinnell professor. In the 49 years since, students, faculty, and staff have worked to preserve, restore, and learn from its complex ecosystems. CERA is planning events and activities to celebrate its 50th anniversary during the 2018-2019 academic year. Please contact CERA Manager Elizabeth Hill if you are interested in taking part in the festivities.

 Birdwatchers, artists, historians, and ecologists alike value CERA for its beauty, vibrancy, and immersive learning opportunities. Through these photographs, we invite you to experience CERA over the calendar  year.

CERA plantlife in the summer

Left: Biennial Guara (Guara biennis)
Right: Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea)

Grasshopper on yellow flower

Red-legged grasshopper sitting on a cup plant

Lightt snow on the ground in January

Compass plant (Silphium laciniatum) flowering stalks overlooking Wilson Prairie

Winter plantlife

Drying seedpods of Illinois bundleflower (Desmanthus illinoensis) expose the seeds

Snowy trail at CERA

White-tailed deer hoofprints through Big Basin prairie.

CERA in the fall

Left: Tall Coreopsis (Coreopsis tripteris) flowering stalks in the sunset
Right: Wind turbine and the night sky

White flowers blooming in the spring

Spring ephemeral wildflowers bloom in late April in the oak-hickory woodlands

Yellow flowers in the prairie

Fall-blooming Sawtooth sunflower (Helianthus grosseserratus) is found in the wet prairie draws

Trees with turning leaves

Fall colors of forests and prairies along Willow Creek

CERA in the fall

Left: Canada geese fly over Perry Pond
Right: Sunrise over Perry Pond


Sunrise lights up the dew on Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans).

Prairie burn

Smoke settles after prairie prescribed fire is complete

Blazing a Trail of Opportunities

As a high school student in Las Vegas, Jarren Santos ’17 never anticipated that he would attend college in rural Iowa. But once he arrived on campus for the Grinnell Science Project, a pre-orientation program for science students from underrepresented backgrounds, it didn’t take long for the Nevada native to feel right at home.

“On my second night of GSP, I went to the Conard Environmental Research Area with a bunch of my new classmates. As I was spending time with my peers, looking out at the stars, something just clicked. I knew that Grinnell was the right place for me.”

By the summer after his second year, Santos had declared a major in biology, joined a plethora of extracurricular activities, and completed two Mentored Advanced Projects (investigating the relationship between diet-induced obesity and food-reinforced motivation in rats) with Andrea Tracy ’99, associate professor of psychology.

While working on MAP research, Santos became frustrated with his limited statistical knowledge. “I wanted to be able to understand the analyses I was running, and I began to realize how powerful a role statistics play in so many fields, including the health professions,” he says.

Jarren Santos and other students on a fall break tour to New York City pose in front of the Wall Street bull. Determined, Santos enrolled in statistics courses and changed his major to general science-biology, in order to enroll in more statistics and computer science coursework. He also went on a fall break trek to New York City sponsored by the Donald and Winifred Wilson Center for Innovation and Leadership. The trek featured visits to a variety of employers where Grinnell alumni work in data analysis, technology, and applications-based careers.

Santos was particularly inspired by Emily Zabor ’04 and Ann Eaton ’08, who gave a presentation on their work with big data in healthcare at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. From there, the opportunities began to pour in at a pace that Santos likens to a “rollercoaster.”

Shortly after the trek, Zabor put Santos in touch with Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s internship manager. Given his limited coursework in statistics, the manager recommended that Santos apply for the BEST (Biostatistics and Epidemiology Summer Training) Diversity Program at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. In the meantime, he completed a spring MAP under the guidance of Shonda Kuiper, professor of mathematics and statistics.

Santos’s summer at BEST was a success. In addition to conducting a research project on perceived versus actual risk of colorectal cancer, he also completed two free classes at Columbia: Introduction to Biostatistics and SAS programming.

Jarren Santos holds his laptop with digital maps appearing behind himWhen Santos returned to Grinnell for his senior fall, his resume was thicker and his passion for biostatstics was stronger than ever. With help from Sarah Barks in the Center for Careers, Life, and Service and Shannon Hinsa-Leasure, associate professor of biology, he enrolled in the 4-1 Master of Public Health Cooperative Degree Program. Through this new undergrad-to-graduate program, qualifying Grinnell students may earn their MPH from the University of Iowa with just one year of additional study. Santos chose the quantitative methods track, and he will receive his degree in the summer of 2018.

As his time at Grinnell drew to a close, Santos reflected on his journey from the Grinnell Science Project to a master’s in public health: “Grinnell does a really good job of filling up this pool of opportunities that are within your reach. If you’re willing to put in the work, I don’t think there are any goals that Grinnell can’t help you achieve.”

Communicating Climate Change, Composing Hope

Connie MutelNoted ecologist and science writer Cornelia Mutel will visit Grinnell on April 25-26 to discuss the challenges of confronting climate change. Her campus visit will include a lecture, a presentation in the biology department’s weekly seminar series, class appearances and a nature walk at the College's Conard Environmental Research Area. The events are free and open to the public.

Mutel’s most recent book, A Sugar Creek Chronicle: Observing Climate Change from a Midwestern Woodland (2016, University of Iowa Press) is an account of Mutel's exploration of climate change's impact on a woodland near her home in east-central Iowa. Her previous books include A Watershed Year: Anatomy of the Iowa Floods of 2008 and The Emerald Horizon: The History of Nature in Iowa.

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 25, Rosenfield Center, Room 101
Lecture: "Communicating Climate Change, Composing Hope."
"Climate change is alive and active in the Midwest and around the globe," Mutel says. "What is it already touching? What are its effects? How can we address the growing challenges?" In the lecture, Mutel will provide a summary of the basic character of climate change and its most recent expressions.
11 a.m.  Tuesday, Noyce Science Center, Room 2022
Panel discussion: "Communicating Science-based Problems to the Lay Public," part of the biology department seminar series
2 p.m. Tuesday, ARH, Room 102
Class Visit: Professor Emeritus Doug Caulkins' Sustainability of Social Responsibility of Organizations class.
2 p.m. Wednesday, April 26, Conard Environmental Research Area (CERA)
Informal Nature Walk: led by CERA Manager Elizabeth Hill. 
CERA is in rural Kellogg, Iowa.
Driving directions: Take Interstate-80 west from Grinnell to Exit 173. Go north on Highway 224 and take the first gravel road on the right (S. 12th Ave. E). Follow it east about 1.5 miles to the main entrance of CERA. Watch for CERA's main entrance sign.

Mutel's most recent book, A Sugar Creek Chronicle: Observing Climate Change from a Midwestern Woodland is an account of Mutel's exploration of climate change's impact on a woodland near her home in east-central Iowa. Her previous books include A Watershed Year: Anatomy of the Iowa Floods of 2008 and The Emerald Horizon: The History of Nature in Iowa.

Mutel's visit is sponsored by the Center for Prairie Studies.

Prairie Meanders at CERA

Prairie Meanders installation at Grinnell College's Conard Environmental Research Area (CERA) in rural Kellogg is an engaging hybrid art form that combines nature trail, gallery display, land art, and immersive performance. Visitors meander through maze-like pathways and viscerally experience global ecology on a local, human-sized scale.

Prairie Meanders opened to the public on Saturday, Sept. 10. The installation will remain open for tours by individuals and small groups, with instructions provided, until Nov. 1. All children must be accompanied by responsible adults.

Professors Baz Kershaw and Susan Haedicke of Warwick University (UK) created Prairie Meanders with help from students of Lesley Delmenico, associate professor of theatre and dance.   

An associate professor of theater and performance studies at University of Warwick, Haedicke focuses her recent work on performance and agriculture, particularly the performance of farmscapes.

Emeritus professor of theater and performance studies at University of Warwick, and creator of Earthrise Repair Shop, Kershaw has been the keynote speaker at many international conferences and a visiting researcher at leading universities on five continents.


Office of Community Enhancement and Engagement, Center for the Humanities, Center for Prairie Studies and CERA, Public Events Concert Series, concentration in environmental studies, and the theatre and dance department.

Grass Workshop

The Grass Workshop at Conard Environmental Research Area (CERA) will consist of intensive, hands-on learning guided by one of Iowa’s top botanists, Dr. Thomas Rosburg. Field-based identification blended with classroom lectures, guided examination of live and pressed plant specimens, and use of technical identification keys will help participants gain practical knowledge of grasses. Participants will learn the language of grasses, the distinguishing features of the grass family, its major taxonomic subdivisions, and many grass genera and species, as well as the habits and ecology of common and rare members of the Poaceae family.

The Grass Workshop will take place at the 365-acre Grinnell College Conard Environmental Research Area (CERA), near Kellogg, in Jasper County. Morning sessions will take place in the Environmental Education Center and focus on (1) learning and identifying characteristics on sample specimens and (2) using dichotomous keys. Half-day field sessions will involve identification practice in restored and reconstructed prairies at CERA and prairie remnants and old fields at the Reichelt Unit of Rock Creek State, located west of Grinnell and close to CERA.

Dr. Thomas Rosburg (aka “Draceae”), Professor of Ecology and Botany in the Biology and Environmental Science and Policy Departments at Drake University, teaches numerous courses in ecology, limnology, botany, biological research and statistics, natural history and nature photography and regularly incorporates field trips in his classes to enhance learning opportunities. He often teaches summer courses at Iowa Lakeside Laboratory located near Spirit Lake, Iowa, and leads identification workshops across the state. Dr. Rosburg has served as President of the Iowa Academy of Science and on the Board of Directors for The Nature Conservancy, as well as an adviser or member on many conservation and science-oriented committees. Dr. Rosburg lives on a small farm, where he and his wife practice self-sufficient living raising livestock, fruits and vegetables. He has three children and one grandchild, and Tom’s hobbies include camping, backpacking, climbing, running, nature photography, reading and watching the Packers.

See the Grass Workshop 2016 brochure (pdf) for more information and registration information. Contact Elizabeth Hill with questions.

Sponsored by:

Celebrate the Earth

Grinnell College will host a series of events throughout April and early May in celebration of Earth Month. The free, public events will be focused on local food, creativity, volunteering, and exploration.

The events will take place throughout the campus and city, with a focus toward "getting rooted in the community." Featured events include Fred Magdoff’s lecture “Capitalism and Agriculture” on April 11, the National Water Dance on April 16, and the Eco Fair on April 23.

Some events will take place off-campus at Arbor Lake Park and the Conard Environmental Research Area (CERA), including a lake cleanup and woodland wildflower hike. Free transportation is provided from Grinnell's campus to these events. RSVP to Elizabeth Hill  for transportation.

Calendar of Events

Local Food

Monday, April 11

Fred Magdoff

4 p.m. Noyce 1022 (Roundtable)

7:30 p.m. Joe Rosenfield ‘25 Center, Room 101 (Public Talk)

Fred Magdoff, Professor Emeritus of Soils at the University of Vermont, will give a roundtable on “Soil and Soil Health” and a public talk on “Capitalism and Agriculture.”

Saturday, April 16

Spring Fest

Noon-4 p.m. Ecohouse

Join Ecohouse members for a celebration of spring, local foods, music, and community. Explore Ecohouse’s environmental projects and take part in seed planting. Enjoy live music from student performers, springtime crafting, and more!

Wednesday, April 20

Richard Oppenlander

7:15 p.m. ARH Auditorium, Room 302

Consultant and researcher Richard Oppenlander, author of Food Choice and Sustainability, will guide the audience through a fact-filled journey of the food choice-animal agriculture-environment connection, revealing why humanity is currently on a path of pseudo-sustainability.

Friday, April 29

Food For Thought May Day Celebration

5-8:30 p.m. Cleveland Beach

Join members of Grinnell College’s Food For Thought group to celebrate early May Day. Bring a dish to the potluck and enjoy face-painting, music, and a discussion about campus food activism. Come and find out what Food For Thought is doing to increase the amount of “real food“ on campus!


Saturday, April 16

National Water Dance

3 p.m. CERA

Join campus and community dancers and musicians in celebrating the importance of water in our lives.

Email Jan Graham to reserve transportation. Van leaves the Rosenfield Center drop-off zone at 2:15 p.m., and Mayflower Community at 2:25 p.m.. If driving on your own, meet at CERA’s Environmental Education Center at 2:50 p.m.

Monday, April 18

Site-Specific Studio Critique

1­–4 p.m. CERA

Join Professor Lee Emma Running and her Site Specific Studio class for the critique of their place-based art installations at CERA. Student art installations explore how we connect to the Iowa landscape.

Email Elizabeth Hill to reserve transportation

Wednesday, April 20

Ecohouse Movie Night

9 p.m. Bob’s Underground Café

Join Ecohouse members to watch The Secret Life of Plants, a 1979 documentary based on the book of the same name. The film features time-lapse photography of plants and fungi growing and an original score by musician Stevie Wonder.

Friday, April 22

20 Minutes @ 11: Culling the Herd

11 a.m. Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, Faulconer Gallery/Room 131

Explore our human relationship to white-tailed deer with Professor Lee Emma Running, who will present her recent project “Cure” in which she carves and gilds the bones of roadkill, and CERA Manager Elizabeth Hill, who will provide background on deer management in Iowa.


April 12 and 14

Undergraduate Research Symposium

11 a.m.-1 p.m. Rosenfield Center, various locations

Undergraduate research panel and poster presentations include many student talks on local and global environmental and food justice topics. Arrive at 11 a.m. to grab a free lunch and full presentation schedule.

Panel presentations in Rosenfield Center, Rooms 202, 203, 209, 225-227

Poster session in Rosenfield Center, Room 101

Tuesday, April 19

Fracture: Essays Poems, and Stories on Fracking in America

7:30 p.m. Rosenfield Center, Room 101

Join Taylor Brorby (ed.) and Iowa-based writers and thinkers Debra Marquart, Carolyn Raffensperger, and Frederick Kirschenmann for a book reading and question and answer session on the impacts of hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

Saturday, April 23

The Power is Ours!, Spiritual Reflections on Earth Day

12:30 p.m. Grinnell United Church of Christ

Join UCC members in welcoming Grinnell College faculty Liz Queathem and David Campbell, together with Associate Chaplain and Rabbi Rob Cabelli, who explore spiritual connections to Earth Day and climate change.

Thursday, April 28

Ecofeminist Organizing Workshop

4-5:30 p.m. ARH 102

Learn about inclusive organizing with two extraordinary activists! Join Bakken Resistance Pipeline Coalition co-founders and Women Food and Agriculture Network board members Ahna Kruzic and Dr. Angie Carter for a workshop on ecofeminist activism and organizing.


Saturday, April 23

Eco Fair

11 a.m.–1 p.m. Rosenfield Center, 1st floor and outdoor patio

SEC and Off-the-Grid students will present posters and demonstrations on topics pertaining to sustainable and off-the-grid living, including the tiny home movement, water sanitation and heating, backcountry camping tips, permaculture, urban gardening, and composting toilets.

Sunday, April 24

Arbor Lake Cleanup

2 p.m. Arbor Lake Park, 123 Pearl Street

Join IOWATER club in removing waste and beautifying Arbor Lake Park. Be prepared to get dirty, please wear rain boots and old clothes.

Email IOWATER to register.

Meet at GORP room in Harris Center or at Arbor Lake Park.

Tuesday, April 26

Woodland Wildflower Hike

4:15-6:15 p.m. CERA

Join CERA Manager Elizabeth Hill on a 1.5 mile spring ephemeral wildflower hike at CERA.

Wear sturdy walking shoes. Hike starts 4:45 p.m. at CERA.

Van leaves from Rosenfield Center drop-off zone at 4:15 p.m. Email Elizabeth Hill to reserve transportation

Saturday, May 7

Tallgrass Audubon Bird Banding

8 a.m.-noon Bob and Connie VanErsvelde’s house

Join members of the Tallgrass Audubon Society to learn about bird banding and the natural history of migratory birds. Families welcome!

Van leaves from Rosenfield Center drop-off zone

Email Elizabeth Hill for transportation or address

Event Sponsors

Center for Prairie Studies, CERA, Environmental Studies, Faulconer Gallery, Peace and Conflict Studies, Food for Thought, Iowater, Student Environmental Committee, Ecohouse, Poweshiek County SWCD, Advancing Animal Compassion Together, Student Government Association.

Volunteer Opportunity at CERA

Savanna Restoration and Greenhouse Work Day​

Join Grinnellians and other volunteers on Saturday, February 20, 2016, for a volunteer work day at  Conard Environmental Research Area (CERA). 

The group will be working on two projects:

  • savanna restoration mop-up (making piles and salvaging firewood), and
  • transplanting prairie and savanna seedlings in the greenhouse.

Work gloves and light refreshments will be provided; please bring your own water bottle.

Wear clothes and boots appropriate for work outside in the snow unless you’d like to stay in the greenhouse. 


If you plan to drive out to CERA, please park by the Environmental Education Center and meet the group at the Maintenance Shed at 10 a.m.

Need a ride? Please contact Nick Koster to reserve one. Riders will meet at the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center drop-off area at 9:30 a.m.