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To Me, Science Means Hope

Des Moines, Iowa

The word “science” means many things to different people. While some see science as nerdy and boring, others are in awe of the discoveries that have been made and the technologies that change our lives.

To me, science means hope.

As the Director of Stewardship for The Nature Conservancy in Iowa, I spend my days tracking such threats as habitat fragmentation, poor water quality, unnatural flooding, unsustainable soil loss and climate change. You might think it would be depressing.

But science provides the tools to overcome these threats. Science has achieved once unimaginable things – the internet, human flight, antibiotics, modern medicine, and space travel. And I fully believe science will help us navigate a quickly changing world and help us develop strategies to save the planet for us and the other 8 million species that live on it.

As we celebrate Earth Day this year, science and hope are firmly at its core.

Tens of thousands of people around the world will take part in the March for Science on Earth Day, calling on our elected officials to continue investing in scientific research that serves as the foundation of a strong, healthy and productive society and world.

The Nature Conservancy will join those marching here in Iowa and across the nation to raise awareness of the central role science plays in conserving the natural systems we all rely upon for survival.

For example, science shows how wetlands and healthy soil can store water to reduce the risk of floods like those that devastated the state in 1993, 2008 and 2011. Water filtered through these same wetland areas also helps improve water quality for Iowa communities struggling to provide safe drinking water to their residents by reducing nutrients. They also provide the added benefit of wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities.

But we don’t need to wait for disaster to find inspiration in science.

In Iowa, The Nature Conservancy is working with farmers, agricultural businesses, food distributors and communities to scientifically test practices that reduce erosion, keep rivers clean, improve soil health, reduce flood risk and save farmers money.

Science also underpins how collaborating with other Conservancy state programs, private companies and state agencies can achieve meaningful and scalable conservation outcomes to restore and protect natural features in areas as large as the Missouri and Mississippi river basins.

By understanding the positive impact that grazing has on prairie structure and diversity, we were able to reintroduce bison to the Loess Hills at the Conservancy’s Broken Kettle Grasslands preserve just northwest of Sioux City. Since the reintroduction of bison, Iowa’s largest native prairie has experienced the return of species like the upland sandpiper that hadn’t been seen in decades, a resurgence of plant and animal species adapted to disturbance, and frequent prairie chicken sightings.

Armed with science, we can find the hope needed to overcome even the greatest challenges and build a stronger future.

As global populations grow, the demand for food, water and energy are putting unprecedented pressures on our natural systems. Disastrous storms and floods are also increasing as a result of climate change.

But around the world – and here in Iowa – businesses, government agencies and communities are using science to support jobs, feed families, power cities and protect nature.

That’s why, to me, science means hope.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.