Another adventure begins

Monday, August 5, 2019 - 12:29pm


Caryn Dawson

My name is Caryn Dawson and I am a rising senior at Iowa State University. I am studying Global resource systems and horticulture along with minors in animal science and Spanish. I chose this combination because as I have learned about agriculture in the US and abroad, I learned the important connections between these 4 areas of study. Global resource systems is the study of the way the world uses its limited resources to create sustainable systems. I paired this major with horticulture as a technical area so that I could gain knowledge about various plants and plant systems to be able to understand and grasp the variety of horticultural crops of importance in the developed and developing world. I also made the connection there are many direct relationships between plant and animal science, for example, crops being grown for animal feed and animal manure being used for fertilizer for crops.

My diverse interests have taken me many places that have contributed to my knowledge of how the world works as a system. Places like Argentina, where I spent a year as a youth exchange student. There, I learned Spanish and took liberty to learn about agricultural systems such as tea and cattle production. Brazil, where I was exposed to the unique culture and the impact that this country has on the global economy and trade markets as an up and coming BRIC country. Italy, where I worked closely with Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) mentors to research up and coming issues in agriculture such as cultured meat and the implications of a transition to a plant-based diet. Each experience abroad has helped shaped me into the global citizen that I strive to be to be able to help farmers and agricultural producers maintain efficiency and improve management methods.

Tea production in Argentina

Iowa State University team project with the FAO in Rome

Although I am studying some different areas, one thing I am interested in is how they connect, how they take part of a greater system. The Henry’s Fork Foundation has provided an opportunity for me to explore just that, an in a new part of the country that I had never been. By creating an internship as part of the farms and fish program, my internship description allows me to research irrigation technology and how it relates to water conservation.

The project that I am working on this summer is focused on exploring the hypothesis that Lower Elevation Sprinkler Application (LESA) irrigation system conserves more water through reduction of wind drift and evaporation due to a nozzle that is lower to the ground than a conventional pivot whose nozzles are about 3-4 feet above the crop foliage. This project is of important use to the snake river basin area as management and water use for irrigation is the single largest factor determining trout abundance and aquatic ecosystem function.

LESA irrigation pivot at my field site

Living in this area so far this summer I have learned many things about Ashton, the surrounding areas, Idaho and the west as a whole. Specifically, to the Ashton area, I have learned that fly fishing and agriculture are very important for Idaho’s economy, therefore there must be a balance between maintaining fish habitats and irrigation demand for agriculture.

How did I end up in Idaho you may ask? Well, as an undergraduate, summer vacation is valuable time to begin to apply and practice what I am learning in the classroom. I am a hands-on learner and so this time is even more valuable for me to really understand how to apply my knowledge and learn how real organizations and companies work. For me, it is important to do something different every chance I get to I continue to push myself out of my comfort zone because that is how I learn best. So, I said “this summer I must go west!” Through speaking with classmates and professors, I came across this internship with the Henrys Fork Foundation as an Ag and Irrigation intern and I was ecstatic. I had learned about the importance of water as one of our most valuable natural resources in many of my classes and thought what better way to learn about water management and its relationship with agriculture.

I am looking forward to exploring this beautiful part of the country, learning its culture and livelihoods that support its people. I hope to spend weekends hiking and camping in the mountains, learning how to fly fish and exploring all around me.