About the Project
The Iowa Watershed Improvement Review Board (WIRB) approved funding to Story County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) for research and development of vegetated floating islands on ISU's Lake LaVerne. The District partnered with researchers from ISU's College of Design on the proposal, Lake LaVerne Nutrient Pollution Reduction: Water Quality Enhancement in Small Ponds and Lakes, Using Vegetated Floating Islands as Public Art. Faculty members teaching in the College's Masters of Design in Sustainable Environments graduate program, Austin Stewart (AVC) and Mimi Wagner (LA), as well as limnologist John Downing (EEOB), are collaborating with the SWCD to design, construct, and monitor the amount of nutrients and carbon the plants can remove from the lake (more info about the Sustainable Environments Studio in About Us). Social media and other public communication associated with the project will begin in early April. The floating islands will be installed and monitored on Lake LaVerne throughout the 2015 growing season.
The project was inspired by the floating gardens, or chinampas, of Lake Xochimilco in Mexico City, Mexico. During pre-Hispanic times these chinampas were made using soil and organic material to create islands for agricultural uses. Contemporary VFIs act more like a hydroponic system with native vegetation, with the root system taking nutrients from the water instead of the soil. At the end of the growing season, the vegetation will be harvested for analysis and to prevent the nutrients from cycling back into the water.
Aside from using the island as a nutrient reduction strategy, the island will also be public art, which will bring the issues of water quality to the attention of a variety of stakeholders. With thousands of visitors coming through Ames and visiting Lake LaVerne, the island will be another source of attraction and a way for education to reach beyond our local scope. The act of creating an art piece that is both informative, educational, and functional is what will set this project apart from other research.
Story County Soil and Water Conservation District helps to guide soil and water conservation programs in the county by determining how state and national programs, such as conservation cost-share and water quality projects, happen on the ground. See the Ames Tribune article about their work. <<<(change the link to their work)
Lake LaVerne floating islands project
During the Sustainable Environments Spring 2015 Studio, we six students, along with our three professors, seek to educate and engage the Ames community on issues of water quality in Iowa. We will implement a relevant, evidence-based design strategy for nutrient reduction in Lake LaVerne on Iowa State University Campus. Through research, prototyping, documentation, and programming, we will educate and encourage the public to become involved in activities that can reduce excess nutrients in Iowa water bodies. Our research will include current and relevant precedents, our building processes will be thorough and based on outreach mechanisms, and our documentation and programming will be used for further research to expand the project to other locations.The Studio will provide a safe working environment that utilizes the consensus format to identify needs and set realistic goals to create a successful project and experience.
Our vision is to proactively engage and educate the community on issues relating to water quality. Through identifying innovative, yet feasible solutions, and referencing notable best practices and education materials, we aim to create an economic, sustainable, practical, and repeatable installation that can be applied to other locations facing water quality issues.
Although nutrients and chemical elements are necessary to sustain all life forms, excess levels of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous can be harmful to aquatic ecosystems and interfere with beneficial water use. Our goal is to identify practices, technologies, and economically-viable programs that meaningfully reduce the effects of non-point pollution, and decrease the loading of nitrogen and phosphorous in our surface water.
News and articles
"Grant funds Lake LaVerne improvement" Ames Tribune
We won the first place poster in 9th Annual Iowa Water Conference