Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Eager Science Communicator Joins CAST

Kimberly Nelson Joins CAST Staff

Kimberly presenting the early stages of
her graduate research.
Although Kimberly Nelson refers to herself as a "townie" since her main connection to agriculture stems from her father's many years as an agricultural educator, her passion for science communication and previous experience makes her an exceptional addition to the team at CAST. As of recently you can often find Kimberly biking and enjoying the great outdoors or relaxing with a good book or watching a binge-worthy series on Netflix, but for the last few years Kimberly has had her nose to the grindstone.

Starting her academic journey at Buena Vista University (BVU), Kimberly chose to explore her interests in media and literature. During this time she was heavily involved in the student-run newspaper and radio station. Upon her graduation, Kimberly made her way to The Stelter Company editorial department as a copy editor, and also assisted in project management and web design. Kimberly eventually moved to Meyocks, where she ensured food packaging labels were up to FDA and USDA regulations. Throughout this chapter of her life, she discovered a way to bridge her love for science, storytelling, and radio with podcasts. Realizing her true passion, Kimberly chose to attend graduate school at Iowa State University's Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication for science communication.

While at Iowa State University, Kimberly was given many opportunities to enhance her educational experience. Although she served as a co-author on three research publications, the experience she cherished the most was her trip to Guam. Through a research collaboration between Kimberly's major professor and a research team in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology, they spoke to locals about the environmental management issues they were facing on their island. After observing the feedback they received for common themes regarding the island's perspectives on nature, wildlife, and management efforts, their research was published in The Journal of Environmental Management and applied toward Kimberly's thesis.

Kimberly participated in RAGBRAI 2018.
Even though she would someday like to go back to school and obtain her doctoral degree, she is currently eager to join CAST and gain hands-on experience in science communication. "I believe it is extremely important to have real-world experience to share with your students, especially for those who plan to go directly industry instead of pursuing continued education."

Luckily for CAST, Kimberly's passion includes communicating scientific research, and she is excited to take what she has learned through her education and apply it to concrete scenarios. "I am excited to work with people who are passionate about science. Communicating complex research findings to a diverse group of people can be a difficult process, but I am happy to be part of it." The CAST community welcomes her.

By: Kylie Peterson

Thursday, January 10, 2019

CAST Asks for Your Help in the New Year

As CAST works to stay true to the goals of the strategic plan, staff and volunteers gear up for what we hope to be another impactful year. With the leadership of our recently inducted CAST President, changes among CAST staff, a list of forthcoming publication rollouts, increased use of digital marketing, and a website face lift, the new year is already off to a promising start.

Since CAST's mission is to serve as a source for unbiased scientific information, it is crucial for us to continue to be a part of the discussion on science, technology, and all things agriculture. With that being said, your input and influence can play a huge role in making CAST's voice heard. As a board member, volunteer, donor, or friend of CAST, you can help us achieve our vision--a world where decision making related to agriculture and natural resources is based on credible information developed through reason, science, and consensus building instead of fake news and fear.

It's as simple as following CAST on social media and engaging with our posts through likes, re-tweets, shares, and comments. You can help CAST stay on top of the latest and greatest issues in agriculture by submitting an idea for an upcoming project or publication. Providing a donation, becoming a member, or volunteering your time also helps fund our efforts and shows support.

There is still time to get involved and help contribute to a worthy cause. Let's make bringing awareness to CAST and actively advocating for science a part of your New Year's resolution. Find links to our website and social media accounts below.

(pic from

Friday, January 4, 2019

Sorry, We're Open--Attractions of Small-town America

During the past few decades, many small towns have struggled to keep afloat, but plenty of charm still resides in their tree-lined streets, classic churches, and quaint stores. The Midwest is dotted with getaway spots that offer hometown appeal.

A few years back, family commitments eased during winter holiday time, so my wife and I headed for the East Coast—of Iowa. A few hours’ drive took us to the Mississippi River. We avoided 4-lane highways and started cruising through towns with volunteer fire departments and no stoplights. We wanted to drive by dairy barns and see tractors on small-town streets rather than get sucked up in the jet streams of huge trucks on I-80.

The sun was low behind us as we pulled into McGregor, Iowa, and before booking a room at a riverside motel, we drove the bridge spanning the Mighty Mississippi. Eagles soared above, ice chunks floated in the wide channel, and brave or crazy fishermen stood above holes cut in the ice of the frozen backwaters. Both sides of the river were settled about the time Huck Finn started his odyssey, and if the river would have flowed north, this area would have provided fertile ground for Twain’s imagination.

Crowds gather in this area for summer boating and autumn leaf viewing, but December is off season, so the motel owner gave us a break. “I’m in a holiday mood,” she said. “You can have the best riverside room for $45 dollars instead of the usual $70.” It was on the third floor, with a balcony that hung over the river’s edge. No elevator, no room service, no Wi-Fi. But the room was about big enough to play tennis in, and the views out the large picture window were better than TV.

Most of McGregor’s Main Street has been restored in the “settler days” fashion, and we were about the only folks walking the wide sidewalks at twilight. We slid into a quaint-looking bookstore to warm up--and because we were happy to find a place with stocked book shelves that hasn’t been sent off to a digital graveyard. This shop was like a pleasant Twilight Zone visit—orderly rows of classic volumes, historical tomes on antique tables, and collectors’ items of various sorts—from comics to travel and map books.

“Has the e-book phenomenon hurt your business?” I asked the owner.

“Not at all,” he said. “Digital is OK. Anything to get folks reading. But many of them will eventually get back to real books. There’s something special about having a book in hand—especially ones that evoke a different age or other worlds.” He told us about Julien Dubuque, Jacques Marquette, and other early settlers of the area.

Literary inquiry can be thirsty work, so we moved to the next open establishment, the Pocket City Pub. The sign on the door was enticing—Sorry, We’re Open. The place was only big enough for a few tables and a large horseshoe bar. Twelve patrons sat on stools while a woman inside the horseshoe served drinks. As we entered, she was obviously finishing a story that had the locals’ attention. “… so after that, of course I asked them to leave.” All eyes turned toward us, so I said, “You talkin’ about us?”

“Not yet,” said a woman to our right. Folks laughed—we took two open seats at the bar and started chatting with a couple who owned a cabin five miles down river. The place was “Cheers” without a Boston accent and nobody knew our name. That didn’t matter. The owner entered a bit later and told stories about his days as a tuba player for the Kansas State marching band. “That was long ago,” he said. “Our exotic band trip was to Omaha.”

Before returning to the motel, we had a fish dinner at a restaurant that clung to the edge of the river. The owner looked like he cast a line out the window to catch the evening special, and the waitress was friendly and helpful. “I’m a city council member,” she said. “I just like being around people in a place like this.”

I have a feeling there are still plenty of spots in rural America where it’s worth hanging out with people “in a place like this.” When you take time to travel the back roads, you won’t be sorry to find that small town America is still “open.”

by dan gogerty (pic combination from and popeyexpress.blogspot, pic of sign from