County:     Jefferson
Location:  Fairfield, Iowa
Salary:       $42,000.00-$55,000.00/ annually Depending on Qualifications
Deadline:  Open until filled.

The Naturalist job is a full-time, permanent position with the Jefferson County Conservation Board. The person in this position, under the general supervision of the Director, will plan, develop, coordinate, and present environmental education and interpretive programs for schools, youth and adult groups and the general public; develops related written, audiovisual, and display materials; and performs related duties as required in order to educate the public and encourage their participation in program goals and objectives.

Job duties include but are not limited to presenting educational programs; design and construct nature center displays; assist with resource management; design kiosk information and brochures; promotes programs and activities through website, newsletter, etc.

This position includes standard county benefits. Starting salary range of $42,000-55,000/yr. depending on qualifications.

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities:
• Knowledge of Iowa’s flora, fauna and ecosystems and natural lands management practices
• Ability to develop, plan and conduct environmental education programs
• Maintain environmental education materials, all living and non-living displays and equipment
• Ability to communicate effectively
• Knowledge of general office procedures including the ability to operate a computer, printer, phones, etc.
• Creativity, enthusiasm, initiative, flexibility, poise, sense of humor, and a willingness to grow and stay current in the field
• Ability to comprehend, analyze, interpret and explain conservation laws
• Knowledge in such program areas as canoeing, kayaking, camping, fishing, biking, hiking, archery, firearms safety, hunting and trapping
• Ability to speak confidently before audiences using correct English and a well-modulated voice
• Able to assist with daily office and Nature Center functions such as answering phones, photocopying, computer work, filing, cleaning and other tasks as directed.
• Ability to represent the Conservation Board in a professional, responsible, and trustworthy manner

Physical and Mental Abilities:
Proficient in the use of audio-visual equipment and computer literacy; able to operate motor vehicle. Heavy mobility duties are usually performed by frequent walking and/or standing, kneeling, or squatting relieved by lesser periods of sitting or operating a vehicle.
Good vision is required, either uncorrected or corrected through the use of lens.
Physical ability to lift light articles, sometimes weighing up to 50 pounds maximum and carrying of objects weighing up to 50 pounds, pushing and/or pulling objects weighing up to 50 pounds maximum.
Ability to work without direct supervision.

Working Conditions:
Normally not exposed to significant occupational hazards which would cause bodily injury. The person must be able to work outdoors in all seasons of the year. Non-standard work week. Must be able to work flexible hours and days, with some weekend and evening hours.

This class specification should not be interpreted as all inclusive. It is intended to identify the major responsibilities and requirement of this job. The incumbents may be requested to perform job related responsibilities and tasks other than those state in this specification.

Preferred Qualifications: 
Applicants must be at least 18 years old, have no major criminal convictions, be insurable under the county’s insurance policy and must be able to get to and from work. A current valid driver’s license is required.

Bachelor’s degree with major coursework in environmental education, natural resources, biology or a related field. Prefer experience as an interpretive naturalist or school teacher.

Equivalent combination of education and experience which provide the required knowledge and abilities may be considered.

Jefferson County, Iowa is an Equal Opportunity Employer

To Apply – Email resume, cover letter and references to:

Portions of the southwestern part of the Loop Trail are currently closed and will be closed until construction is completed in the effected areas. There are currently closures where the loop trail intersects Highway 1 (Between trail mile marks 15 1/2 and 15 3/4) and where the trail intersects Kale Boulevard (Between mile marks 1 and 1 1/4).

South Junction Road and Lincoln Avenue are not accessible from the intersection of Libertyville Road and Highway 1. South Junction, Lincoln Avenue, and the 1900 block of South Court is currently accessible from a temporary driveway which is 500 feet south of Libertyville Road.

In early March, Governor Reynold’s announced the final round award recipients of the Destination Iowa funds. Jefferson County was awarded $450,000 for the Prairie Ridge Campground planned for Jefferson County Park. The money represents 39% of the total project investment of $1,166,430. The Jefferson County Supervisors are matching $440,000 from their American Rescue Plan Act funds.  Jefferson County Conservation will be coming up with the balance. The Prairie Ridge Campground rendering shows what the campground may look like. The campground will be located off Key Blvd and will be in what is currently a row crop field.

Jefferson County Conservation is working on a prairie restoration project at Round Prairie Park. For an update and drone footage of the project, check out this video!

The Jefferson County Conservation Board is seeking applicants to fill a seasonal conservation intern position. The position will begin in May 2023 and end in August 2023.
Duties include mowing, weed eating, cleaning of toilets and shelters, park and trail maintenance, interaction with park visitors and other jobs as assigned.
Applicants must be at least 18 years old and have a valid Iowa driver’s license.
This is a seasonal full-time position (35-40 hours a week)
Temporary housing is available in Jefferson County Park.
Will require some night and weekend hours.
Call (641)472-4421 with questions
To Apply – Email resume and cover letter to:

You may notice a different view from at the Jefferson County Park Picnic Area. The brush around the ballfield has been removed in order to plant prairie. The brush consisted of non-native plants and several dead ash trees. Check out this update from Brittney on the project.

Winter is a trying time for some animals, looking for food and water sources and trying to stay warm, but there is an animal that is tucked in for a long winter’s nap, not worried at all. Now to some this animal might seem like a pest or the destroyer of gardens; but they are helpful to soils for aeration and nutrient recycling. Their burrowing action provides oxygen into the soil and brings nutrients like iron, calcium, and phosphorus to the surface helping plants. Also, the complex burrow systems they create provide safe havens for other animals in winter such as rabbits, foxes, opossums, raccoons, and skunks. Some of these may also be viewed as nuisances but that’s a story for another day. These borrows have interconnected tunnels and rooms with multiple entrances that can extend up to 40 feet!
Have you guessed we are talking about groundhogs? Or called, in your neck of the woods, woodchucks, or mouse bears (because of their appearance when sitting up), or in some parts, “whistle-pigs”? (This last refers to the high-pitched warning of danger sounds they make and “pig” in reference to their rodent-cousin the guinea pig). In actual fact groundhogs are very large squirrels (who knew?), and are also related to chipmunks and prairie dogs. They are primarily herbivores, (the aforementioned destroyer of gardens), but they won’t pass up a chance to eat other things we consider pests, such as grubs, insects, and snails. They can weigh as much as 15 pounds but an average weight is around 8.5 pounds.
Groundhogs are true hibernators. Beginning in late October or early November when outside temperatures begin to drop, they will go into the burrow and settle down. Their heart and breathing rates slow and their body temperatures drop to approximately 39-40 degrees. Between the start of hibernation until emerging from the burrow, they will lose about 25 percent of their body weight. (Explains the ravenous attack on the garden, huh?) February is the month that male groundhogs stumble from their burrows but not to predict the arrival of spring, rather they are scouting out burrows belonging to females. The fellas will ramble around getting acquainted with the girl’s locations and then will go back to the burrow until March when the mating season begins. The babies arrive in early April in a litter of two to six blind babies, once a year. The babies are called kits, pups, or most adorably chucklings. “Chucklings” stay with their mama for about three months and then go on their own way.
The most famous groundhog is of course Punxsutawney Phil. Poor Phil, he gets dragged out against his will and paraded in front of the nation before he would naturally be rousing from sleep. Really isn’t it just six of one, half a dozen of another? This tradition dates back to 1886 when the editor of the Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper, Clymer Freas, published a report that local groundhogs had not seen their shadows that day, signaling an early spring. It is likely that the story of Phil is based on European beliefs that badgers and hedgehogs an provide signals about the future, and lacking those in his area Clymer substituted the local animal that most resembles a badger or hedgehog. (Seriously, can you trust any of those to be a prognosticator of weather?)
But for now, the groundhog is snoozing away dreaming of warm spring breezes, grubs, and snails, and your luscious garden. Please plant extra.

Did you know Iowa has 9 different species of Owls? One of the most elusive of the group is the tiny Eastern Screech Owl.
Eastern Screech Owls are one of the smallest owls in Iowa at 8.5 inches tall with broad wings, and “ear tufts”. They are sometimes called little horned owl because of this feature. Their plumage can be gray, brown, or red in color with yellow eyes. These owls are highly nocturnal, they roost during the day, becoming active at dusk; so, they are rarely seen hunting and feeding during daylight hours. They will eat anything from small mammals such as deer mice, shrews, squirrels, moles, and bats, to small birds such as finches and flycatchers, as well as doves and quail. Other prey includes large insects, crayfish, earthworms, toads, lizards, snakes, spiders, and centipedes. When hunting the owls swoop down from their perch to capture their prey; they rarely hover while hunting. Screech Owls have been known to cache uneaten prey items in tree cavities! Owls are the symbol of wisdom after all!

Eastern Screech Owls don’t migrate and will maintain home ranges throughout the winter. However, during severe weather, owls may move off their home range in search of food. Surprisingly, despite the name, screech-owls do not just screech. The screech is only one vocalization that they can make, and is generally used when defending the nest and their young. Their “everyday” vocalization is a descending trill or a whinny (like a tiny my little pony).

These owls are primarily solitary except during mating season late winter and early spring. They will nest in hollow trees and in abandoned woodpecker holes. On occasion they might accept wood duck boxes or specially designed owl boxes, especially when the bottom is covered with sawdust. The females incubate the eggs and brood the young. Males feed females and guard nest cavities during incubation and brooding. The young leave the nest at about 28 days old and remain with the parents until they are 8 to 10 weeks old. Both parents will feed the young during this period. Screech owls have the potential to live 8-10 years in the wild. However, because of high mortality rates for both juveniles and adults, very few of them make it to that age. In human care, their lifespan can be as high as 13 years, but please leave them in the wild. They are happier there, and no small point, the United States does not allow private individuals to keep native owls as pets.

Burning can look destructive. It leaves a path of charred remains but from those remains come new life. Yesterday you may have noticed smoke coming from Jefferson County Park. A small section of Oak/ Hickory Forest underwent a prescribed burn to set back invasive species and encourage the growth of native plants.

Some forests may look healthy at first but if they are full of invasive species, they are being deceptive. Invasive species provide minimal food supply for the animals, especially birds who need high protein food sources. They also shade out our variety of native plants and in turn offer only a few food sources. Jefferson County Park has seen the most damage from Bush Honeysuckle, Autumn Olive, and Garlic Mustard. A prescribed fire helps to keep these invasives at bay while encouraging the growth of our native plant community.

Ever wondered what our Environmental Education program is all about? Werner Elmker took on the project of capturing what it is that we do. We hope you enjoy his short video.