Calling All Nature Photographers!

June 13th, 2014 by

Dragonfly Kevin Railsback

Photo by Kevin Railsback


We know you are out on the trails at all hours photographing the beauty and wonder of nature. Now we want you to share your photos for a special exhibit! Submit an 8 X 10” print of a favorite photo taken at the Nature Center by July 15. The staff will then create a special exhibit of all photos that will be on display from August 1-31. Join us for a reception to meet the photographers and enjoy a cool beverage from 7 – 8 PM on Friday evening, August 1.

Please mail your 8×10 prints to:

Indian Creek Nature Center
c/o Photo exhibit
6665 Otis Rd SE
Cedar Rapids, IA 52403

Please include the following with your submission:

  • Full Name
  • Title of print, if desired
  • Address
  • Email

Please note: only your name will be displayed with the photo. All mailed prints become property of ICNC. If you would also like your photo featured on our Facebook page, please email an electronic copy of your photo to Lindsey Flannery.

We look forward to seeing your photos!


Watch as the barn goes down!

May 29th, 2014 by

In our last post and on the cover of the latest issue of Indian Creek Currents, we told you all about a barn outside Marion that Indian Creek Nature Center deconstructed, with the goal of repurposing the materials in the new Nature Center. It took an army of volunteers and some very dedicated staff (here’s looking at you, Jean!) to make it happen, but we did it. Now, we have a stockpile of beautiful barn boards that will provide beautiful, rustic character to the inside of the new Nature Center. (Learn about our new green, sustainable building and the Amazing Space project here).

Watch the videos below to see the exciting moments when the barn frames comes down. (The barn was actually two separate barns, with two separate frames, built several years apart – so it had to come down in two pieces.)

Frame one goes down in a cloud of dust:


Frame two… almost goes down. Whoops!

And… frame 2 goes down!

Volunteers deconstruct 1920s era barn in Marion for use in Amazing Space project

May 14th, 2014 by



May 5, 2014  This week, over 100 volunteers are assisting Indian Creek Nature Center in deconstructing a 1920s era barn, located at 4002 Winslow Road in Marion. The barn’s salvaged boards, sliding door hardware and more will be repurposed in the Nature Center’s new building, slated for construction in 2015 as part of the Amazing Space project.

The barn sits on land slated for commercial development as part of the Tower Terrace Road expansion project. Current landowners Dan Engle and Tim Mooney of Mooney-Engle Land Company LLC did not want to see the barn end up in the landfill, so they went to social media looking for anyone interested in tearing down and repurposing the barn. There, Engle connected with Indian Creek Nature Center Executive Director John Myers, who saw the barn’s potential.

“We made a conscientious choice to salvage the barn boards, save them from the landfill, and offset the number of trees being cut down for our new building. We will use them in public spaces to showcase the natural beauty of the wood and bring elements of the barn indoors,” Myers said. The Nature Center’s new campus will be Iowa’s largest sustainable, net-zero energy project, and the only Nature Center worldwide to pursue the Living Building Challenge certification.

Engle and Mooney are donating other structures on the farm to be repurposed as well, including the chicken coop and grain bin. “We’re pretty community-oriented, and we always try to do the right thing,” said Dan Engle. “Just because the barn has to come down, doesn’t mean it has to die.”

Project volunteers represent several organizations throughout the Corridor, including GE Capital, Transamerica, Alliant Energy, Marion High School, Eagle Scouts, and US Green Building Council.

Stars In Your Eyes

December 9th, 2013 by

Astronomer and naturalist, Jennifer Rupp, has long had a love affair with the stars. Now she gets to share it with you!

winter star mapIt may be so cold your ears, toes and nose protest, but you just can’t beat the clarity of a winter sky for astronomy.  The moisture is out of the air, the dust is frozen down, and the nights are long and start plenty early for everyone!  

Ever heard of Orion’s belt?  That’s what is referred to as an asterism.  Asterisms are shapes in the sky that are really easy to find and remember.  Another asterism you may be familiar with is the Big Dipper.  Do you know in which constellation the stars of the Big Dipper lie?

Orion starsOrion’s belt is of course in the constellation of Orion.  He is the great hunter of the winter sky, and easily visible due to all the bright stars that create his shape.  If you really want to impress your friends, find the three stars hanging at almost a 45 degree angle from the middle star of the belt.  This is Orion’s sword!  If you look closely on a clear night, or have access to a pair of binoculars, you can see that the middle star of the three in his sword is actually not a star at all!  It’s a nebula, where stars are being created.  You can see all the gas surrounding the baby stars that are just beginning their long, long lives.  It is called the Orion Nebula—for obvious reasons.

The stars in Orion are bright enough that they have names.  The more yellow-orange colored star on his tallest shoulder is called Betelgeuse.  His other shoulder, the yellowish-white one, is called Bellatrix.  Do either of these names sound familiar? One more familiar name close by in the night sky is Sirius.  It is part of the head of Orion’s hunting dog, Canis Major, and the brightest star in the sky.  You can’t miss this white-blue star!

These names may be better known as movie or story characters-and satellite radio providers, but the stars have been around much longer and are worth getting to know as well!

Some Really Mammoth News

October 14th, 2013 by

Naturalist David Brenzel has been even busier than usual at the mammoth dig site!  They’ve formed an interesting and important theory about our mammoths and he shares it with us. I’ve included a couple of his photos here; all eight are available on our Facebook page.

Indian Hills Community College Science Club digging at the mammoth excavation site.

Stratton Bond (left) and Brandy Millikin (right), Indian Hills Community College (Ottumwa) Science Club, September 21.

I’m just back from the Oskaloosa mammoth site–my 5th trip in a month. With school back in session, teacher demand is high to visit the site with students and experience digging first hand. The Indian Hills Community College (Ottumwa) Science Club came September 21.  Grinnell College brought their introductory geology class October 5. It was the Cornell College Archaeology Club October 12 with various teachers and naturalists sprinkled throughout. In-between, there’s been a parade of geologists trekking to the site to study the bones and test a new theory about how the mammoths ended up here. 

Dr. Deborah Waggett, Castleton State College, Vermont (right); on sabbatical for a year to study with Dr. Art Bettis UI Department of Geoscience (left).    Setting up a GPS base station at the mammoth site, October 2.

Dr. Deborah Waggett, Castleton State College, Vermont (right); on sabbatical for a year to study with Dr. Art Bettis UI Department of Geoscience (left). Setting up a GPS base station at the mammoth site, October 2.

It has been said get three UI geology professors in a room and ask their opinions and you’ll get four, so it’s remarkable Dr’s. Art Bettis, Frank Weirich and Holmes Semken, Jr. have come to consensus about the origin of the bones. The fossil bed has always been noteworthy for its depth of 2+ feet. The bones weren’t buried flat on the ground, some are standing almost straight up! We’ve long assumed they eroded from their primary deposit and were transported to the site in a flood, where they were dumped into a deep pool. But looking at the layers of sediment we exposed in the course of digging over the summer, the professors developed a new theory: that we have discovered a deep ancient spring that drew these elderly woolly mammoths to it to die. Like some professors coincidentally, their teeth were worn, they couldn’t chew very well and were hungry all the time, but at least they weren’t thirsty. So we’re no longer searching for a primary deposit–we’re in it! The new game plan: trace the shoreline of the pool around this ice age spring to find the missing bones. The landowner has multiple springs emerging from the same geological stratum for about 300 feet along his creek. They are all worth checking for fossils.

Dr. Chris Widga, Illinois State Museum (left) with Dr. Holmes Semken, Jr. (right) examining gnaw-marks on a mammoth tibia (shin bone).

Dr. Chris Widga, Illinois State Museum (left) with Dr. Holmes Semken, Jr. (right) examining gnaw-marks on a mammoth tibia (shin bone).

Last week we hosted a visit by Dr. Chris Widga, assistant curator of geology, Illinois State Museum, and expert on ice age megafauna. He confirmed we’ve discovered three individuals–all woolly mammoths, likely two old bulls and an aging female. That makes the site unique in the Midwest.  It’s not unusual to find multiple mammoth remains in a gravel pit, but those bones have been transported a long distance and are far removed from their sites of origin. We know our mammoths lived right here and are buried with the evidence of a wider ice age community. There’s a treasure chest of ecological information here about mammoth times (e.g. seeds, wood, pollen) and years of digging and research fun ahead determining how these incredible beasts lived.