If you’re passionate about water quality, check out this program

Photo of a dirty stream

Water quality is a murky issue.

Clear it up by participating in the Master River Stewards Program April-May in the Iowa Great Lakes area.

“It’s going to be an in-depth program with conservation professionals going over most aspects of water quality,” said Charles Vigdal of the Dickinson County Conservation Board. “Water quality is important, and taking this class will give you a leg up on understanding water quality issues and concerns in Iowa. Protecting wetlands, lakes and rivers is a complex issue, and this class will help clear the murky waters of water quality.”

The Master River Stewards Program — a water quality curriculum similar to the Master Gardeners program — includes six weeks of classes with 32 hours of hands-on training and 32 hours of volunteer efforts.

“This will be a combination of classes and outdoor activities,” Vigdal said.

Master River Stewards will begin Wednesday, April 19, with an introductory class at the Dickinson County Nature Center in Okoboji on watersheds, taught by Mary Skopec and Jane Shuttleworth of Iowa Lakeside Lab.

In the subsequent weeks, participants will learn about topics such as river form and function, river chemistry and monitoring, agricultural production and policies, Iowa’s rivers, stream and riparian zone restoration and their impacts on fish and wildlife, and how to navigate Iowa’s waters. There will be in-class time as well as outdoor activities, such as kayaking.

Courses will feature industry professionals such as Dennis Heimdal — a water quality chemist with Iowa Lakeside Lab, Mark Schutt — a soil specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Gary Philips — a retired Iowa Lakes Community College professor, Aric Ping — vegetation specialist with the Dickinson County Conservation Board, and Mark Foss — a certified American Canoe Association instructor.

Master River Stewards Program Objectives UPDATED FEB 2017

At the end of the course, participants will choose a water quality project to work on for 32 volunteer hours.

“To get a certification and patch for completion, participants will need to do a water quality project related to what was learned in class,” Vigdal said. “Examples in the past have included participating in Project AWARE, adopt-a-stream and invasive species control. They will come up with their own project, and the sky’s the limit.”

For those who are passionate about water and keeping Iowa’s rivers, lakes and streams healthy, Master River Stewards will give you the tools to make a difference.

In addition to the courses, all participants will receive a flash drive with reference materials, a book, a Master River Stewards embroidered patch, a certificate of completion and ongoing support from Iowa Rivers Revival, which created the program. Check out some of Iowa Rivers Revival’s informational sheets here:

River basics

River problems

Nutrient reduction

River restoration

How river restorations work

River restoration benefits


Registration for Master River Stewards opens March 15 on our registration page and closes April 12. A minimum of five registrants is needed for the course to be held, with a maximum of 30.

For more information on the program, visit Iowa River Revival’s website or call 712-336-6352. You can also keep up with the latest nature center happenings on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


  1. Sue on April 4, 2017 at 10:59 am

    Is there a similar course in the Cedar Rapids, IA area?

    • kiley on April 4, 2017 at 2:15 pm

      Iowa Rivers Revival puts on the program, so they should have a list of all statewide opportunities!

  2. Ronda Sherbon on March 13, 2017 at 7:01 pm

    What days and times will these classes be held?

    • kiley on March 14, 2017 at 8:15 am

      If you click on the Master River Stewards Program Objectives link above, it will give you all the class dates and times/subjects/teachers in that PDF document. Thanks!

  3. Jane Shuttleworth on March 13, 2017 at 2:14 pm

    How do we register? Did not show up on registration page. Thanks, Jane

    • kiley on March 13, 2017 at 2:41 pm


      Registration will be open on March 15 if you could check back Wednesday!


Leave a Comment