Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

Advisory Board

Advisory Board GroupThe 1987 Iowa Groundwater Protection Act that created the Leopold Center, established a board to advise the director on funding of research proposals, policies and procedures, budget development and program review. In 1994, four ex-officio members active in farming and agribusiness were added to the board and received full voting privileges in 1999.

The board includes representatives from Iowa State University, the University of Iowa, University of Northern Iowa, the Iowa Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and a man and a woman actively engaged in agricultural production, appointed by the State Soil Conservation Committee. The board also includes representatives from four Iowa farm groups: Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Practical Farmers of Iowa, Agribusiness Association of Iowa and the Iowa Farmers Union.

The advisory board meets four times each year. See our calendar for details about the next meeting.

Erin Irish

Chair; Associate professor, University of Iowa

(319) 335-2582
Department of Biological Sciences, 143 Biology
Iowa City, IA 52246

Irish represents the University of Iowa on the Leopold Center Advisory Board. She is a corn geneticist; she grows and hand-pollinates approximately a half-acre of corn each summer for her experiments. Her work addresses a basic question in biology about how plants develop. A native of Ohio, she has lived in Iowa since 1990. She and her husband have begun to restore a 40-acre pasture in Cedar County to the oak savannah that it once was by removing invasive species of plants and introducing locally collected seeds of native species. Results of her research, funded by the National Science Foundation and the USDA, have appeared in numerous scientific journals and presented at conferences throughout the United States.
She has a bachelor's degree in biology from Hiram College in Ohio and a Ph.D. from Indiana University with post-doctoral training at the University of Pennsylvania and Yale University. She was appointed to the advisory board in 2008.

Doug Gronau

Vice-Chair, Farmer

(712) 677-2364
3245 K Avenue
Vail, IA 51465

Gronau represents the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation on the Leopold Center Advisory Board. For the Farm Bureau, he represents 11 counties in west central Iowa. He farms with his wife, Judy, and their son, Greg. They grow corn, soybeans, and hay in a system that has been no-till since 2003. The Gronaus are members of the Iowa Corn Growers Association and Iowa Soybean Association. They have participated in the soybean association's Certified Environmental Management Systems for Agriculture (CEMSA) program, a process by which participants can measure the impact of current practices to reduce energy use and use of commercial fertilizers. Their farm also is enrolled in a carbon credit program. Gronau has a degree in history and economics from Wayne State college in Nebraska. Since joined the Crawford County Farm Bureau in 1974, he has served in numerous leadership capacities including the federation's speaker corps and on several statewide environmental committees. He has served on the county extension council and is a member of the Crawford County Board of Adjustments.
He was appointed to the advisory board in 2008. Read a profile on him in the Leopold Letter [Spring 2008].

Dennis Dahms

Professor, University of Northern Iowa

(319) 273-6845
Department of Geography
215 Innovative Teaching and Technology Center
Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0406

Dahms represents the University of Northern Iowa on the Leopold Center Advisory Board where he is a professor of environmental geography. He is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America and serves on the advisory board of the Center for Global and REgional Environmental Research (CGRER) at the University of Iowa. teaches undergraduate and graduate classes in earth systems, soils and landforms, field methods, and environmental/landscape developments during the Quaternary period (the most recent 2.6 million years of Earth’s history). His research focuses on paleoclimate and landscape change in Yellowstone region of Wyoming.

He has a Ph.D. from the University of Kansas, master’s degrees from the University of Colorado and University of Missouri, and an undergraduate degree from the University of Missouri. He was appointed to the advisory boardin 2013. Read a profile on him in the Leopold Letter [Summer 2013].

Bill Ehm

Division administrator, Iowa Department of Natural Resources

(515) 281-5817
Wallace State Office Building
502 East Ninth Street
Des Moines, IA 50319-0050

Ehm represents the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on the Leopold Center Advisory Board. Formerly DNR's Water Policy Director, he led the development of a statewide strategy to create a water use plan that addresses water quality and quantity issues, from transportation and water-based recreation to flood plain management, water supplies, allocation and conservation policies. He also worked with Iowa's impaired waters program. Prior to his work with the DNR, Ehm was director of the Soil Conservation Division of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. Before joining state government, Ehm was a full-time farmer in southern Iowa for about 20 years and had served on the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission. He has a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business from Iowa State University and a MBA from Drake University. He is a member of the Soil and Water Conservation Society and the AM Rotary Club of Des Moines, and a former school board member.
He and his wife Rose Ann live in West Des Moines but continue to own a cash grain farm in Clinton County and a broiler chicken operation in Union County. He was appointed to the advisory board in 2009 and served as chair in 2012 and 2013. Read a profile on him in the Leopold Letter [Spring 2009].

Dale E. Farnham

Private consultant and agronomist

(515) 291-5094
4924 Hemingway Drive
Ames, IA 50014-6717

Farnham represents the State Soil Conservation Committee, where he is serving a six-year appointment by Governor Branstad as the committee's "cities and towns" representative. He lives in Ames in Washington Township. He has worked in a number of positions as agronomist and agribusiness manager.

He grew up on a corn, soybean and livestock farm outside Gowrie in southwest Webster County, where he farmed with his family for five years after earning a bachelor's degree in agribusiness management from Arizona State University. In 1987 he enrolled in a graduate program to study agronomy at Iowa State University. He received a master's degree in 1989 and a Ph.D. degree in 1992, both in crop production and physiology.

He has worked as a manufacturing engineer for Motorola and with Cenex Land o' Lakes. He also has worked for Iowa State University Extension as Webster County Extension Education Director in Fort Dodge, then as a crops field specialist in north central Iowa serving Calhoun, Franklin, Hamilton, Hardin, Humboldt, Webster and Wright counties. In 1996, he returned to campus where he was a state corn specialist and an assistant professor in the Department of Agronomy.

In 2001, Farnham left ISU to join Monsanto, Inc., as technology development manager for southwest and northeast Iowa. He worked at Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance from 2004 to 2014. He was appointed to the advisory board in 2012. Read a profile on him in the Leopold Letter [Spring 2013].

Gail Hickenbottom

Farm owner and retired commodity market analyst and teacher

(515) 256-7876
810 Browns Woods Drive
West Des Moines, IA 50265

Hickenbottom represents the Practical Farmers of Iowa on the Leopold Center Advisory Board. He currently serves as treasurer of Practical Farmers of Iowa and is a lifetime member. Reared on a grain and livestock farm in Fulton County, Illinois, he remains a partial owner of that farm and is a member of the Illinois Farm Bureau. He worked more than 19 years as an agriculture instructor in Illinois and 25 years as a commodity market analyst for a major seed company in Iowa. He has an undergraduate degree in agriculture education from Western Illinois University and a master of education from the University of Illinois.

He was appointed in 2015. Read a profile in the Leopold Letter (Fall 2015).

Jody Kerns

Farmer, small business owner and radiologic technologist

(563) 928-7226
2142 110th Street
Edgewood, IA 52042

Kerns represents the State Soil Conservation Committee on the Advisory Board. She and her husband Jim own and operate a 620-acre conservation farm, about half of which are managed woodlands that they have added since buying the property in 1986. They also have a small beef cattle herd and Jim operates a family business, Edgewood Locker, a meat processing plant, retail and catering operation. Jody works as a radiologic technologist and is Director of Religious Education at her church. She serves on several boards and committees including the Northeast Iowa Forestry Advisory Committee, the Iowa Tree Farm committee, Iowa Woodland Owners Association and both the Clayton and Delaware County Pheasants Forever chapters. Jody is a farmer partner with Iowa Learning Farms. Jody and her husband were named Iowa Tree Farmers of the Year in 1997 and National Outstanding Tree Farmers in 2001. They are the parents of six children, ranging in age from 9 to 25 years.

She was appointed to the board in 2015. Read a profile on her in the Leopold Letter [Spring 2015].

Cathy Kling

Director, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development

568D Heady Hall - Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011-1070

Kling represents Iowa State University on the Leopold Center Advisory Board. She is the Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor of Agriculture and Life Sciences and a professor of economics. She was appointed director of CARD in July 2013, after having served many years as the division head of CARD's Resource and Environmental Policy Division. She received a bachelor's degree in business and economics from the University of Iowa and a doctorate in economics from the University of Maryland. In her work at CARD, Kling is undertaking research to examine how agricultural practices affect water quality, wildlife, soil carbon content and greenhouse gases. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the first woman and 11th faculty member from ISU to receive the honor.

Kling is married to Terry Alexander, also an economist at Iowa State, and they have two children, Danny and Maggie. She spends her time away from CARD attending her children's activities, gardening, and participating in outdoor activities. Read a profile on her in the Leopold Letter [Spring 2015].

Paul Lasley

Professor, Iowa State University

(515) 294-0937
107 East Hall
Ames, IA 50011

Lasley represents Iowa State University on the Leopold Center Advisory Board. Lasley has been an ISU Extension sociologist since 1981. His research focuses on the organization of U.S. agriculture and how changes in agriculture affect rural communities. A major focus examines trends in rural culture and what these trends suggest about the future of rural communities, families and social organizations. Lasley also is co-investigator of the Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll, a series of statewide surveys among farm operators on major agricultural and rural development issues. Areas of research and extension expertise include rural development, community development, sustainable agriculture, and leadership in agriculture.
He grew up on a farm in northern Missouri and holds M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in sociology from the University of Missouri-Columbia. His undergraduate work was in animal husbandry. Lasley also is a board member for Youth and Shelter Services and a deacon at the United Church of Christ-Congregational in Ames. He was appointed to the advisory board in 2006.

Aaron Heley Lehman


(515) 685-3228
3190 NW 142nd Avenue
Polk City, IA 50226

Lehman represents the Iowa Farmers Union on the Leopold Center Advisory Board. Lehman is a sixth generation farmer in northern Polk County, where he has a corn-soybean-hay operation. He is a member of the Iowa Farmers Union, formerly its executive director and legislative director. He also is a member of the North Polk Community School District and is a teacher and choir member at his church.
He has a bachelor's degree in physics from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. He was appointed to the advisory board in 2006.

Marc Linderman

Associate professor, Department of Geographical and Sustainability Sciences, University of Iowa

(319) 335-1451
312 Jessup Hall
University of Iowa
Iowa City, IA 52242-1316

Linderman represents the University of Iowa on the advisory board. He teaches several courses, including the use of unpiloted aerial vehicles (UAVs) for various applications. His research interests are ecosystem dynamics and land cover change as gauged by remote sensing and spatial-temporal models. His work has taken him to a giant panda reserve in China to study the spatial and temporal dynamics of panda habitat, particularly the relationship between local farming and fuelwood harvesting and understory bamboo regeneration, as well as sub-Saharan Africa and Iowa prairies and watersheds where he is studying the effects of land-use change and vegetation dynamics.

He has a B.S. in Physics from the University of Michigan, an M.S. in Environmental Monitoring from the University of Wisconsin, and a Ph.D. in Fisheries and Wildlife from Michigan State University.  Prior to arriving at the University of Iowa in 2006, he was a National Science Foundation post-doctoral fellow at the University of Louvain, Belgium. More about Dr. Linderman. Read a profile on him in the Leopold Letter [Spring 2014].

Steven Mickelson

Department Chair and Charles R. and Jane F. Olsen Professor of Engineering, Iowa State University

(515) 294-1434
104 Davidson Hall
Ames, IA 50011-3080

Mickelson represents Iowa State University on the Leopold Center Advisory Board. He joined Iowa State in 1982 as a faculty member in Freshman Engineering. He joined the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (ABE) in 1996.  Mickelson served as the Associate Chair for ABE from 2005-2011.  He was also the Director for the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching and the Co-Director of Learning Communities at ISU from 2008-2011.  He was named chair of ABE in 2011. His research has focused on assessment of agricultural best management practices for improving water quality.

He grew upon a family farm near Rembrandt, Iowa, and received his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degree in agricultural engineering from ISU. He was appointed to the advisory board in 2012. Read a profile on him in the Leopold Letter [Winter 2012].

Michael Naig

Iowa Deputy Secretary of Agriculture

Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship
502 E. 9th Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50319

Naig represents the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship on the Advisory Board. As Deputy Secretary at IDALs, he assists in management responsibilities focusing on personnel and budget.  He also supports IDAL's efforts to be accessible to Iowans by traveling regularly to represent the department at meetings across the state. He grew up on a farm near Cylinder in northwest Iowa and is a graduate of Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, with degrees in biology and political science. He has been active in agribusiness for more than 13 years, having served in public policy roles for state and national trade associations and in private industry.  He and his wife Jaime have two sons.

Read a profile on him in the Leopold Letter [Spring 2014].

John Olthoff

Professor, Dordt College

(712) 722-6270
498 4th Avenue NE
Sioux Center, IA 52150

He represents the Iowa Association of Independent Colleges and Universities on the Leopold Center Advisory Board. Olthoff teaches a range of courses in animal science and courses that support the general requirements of the college. He also is associated with the College's Agriculture Stewardship Center. Olthoff also chairs the Sioux County Extension Council and is a member of the Sioux Center Christian School board and involved with Laotian ministry.
He has a Ph.D. in animal science from the University of Nebraska, an M.S. in animal science from the University of Minnesota, and a B.A. in biology from Trinity Christian College. He was appointed to the advisory board in 2006 and served as chair in 2011 and 2012.

Keith Summerville

Professor of Environmental Science and Policy, Drake University

(515) 271-2265
131 Olin Hall, Drake University
Des Moines, IA 50311

Summerville represents the Iowa Association of Independent Colleges and Universities on the Leopold Center Advisory Board. He teaches courses in conservation biology, entomology, restoration ecology, sustainable development and zoology as well as a beginning course, Foundations of Environmentalism. A native of Richfield, Ohio, he has an undergraduate degree in environmental science from Westminster College in Pennsylvania. He earned a master's degree in engineering and a Ph.D. in zoology from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
He also serves as associate dean for the College of Arts and Sciences at Drake. Since joining the faculty in 2002, he has tackled a number of research projects on Iowa ecosystems. He's studied the prairie moths that pollinate environmentally-threatened western fringed prairie orchid in central Iowa, and reptiles in Polk County's Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt and the Sandhill Prairie. He also received a USDA Managed Ecosystems Program grant to research restoration of prairie insect biodiversity in agricultural landscapes.
In 2005, Summerville joined the Iowa Audubon Society board of directors and has developed plans for its Iowa Important Bird Areas. He advises the Chichaqua Greenbelt advisory committee as they critique and revise a 10-year master plan for prairie and wetland restorations. He is a member of the Des Moines Urban Conservation Advisory Board and Polk County Conservation Advisory Board. He was appointed to the advisory board in 2008. Read a profile on him in the Leopold Letter [Fall 2008].