To register for or get more information about any of these programs and events, contact Story County Conservation at 515-232-2516, email conservation@storycountyiowa.gov or visit www.storycountyconservation.org.


Board meeting


The Story County Conservation Board invites the public to attend its monthly board meeting on Monday, March 9, at 5:30 p.m. at the Conservation Center, 56461 180th St., Ames.


Meeting agendas will be available on www.storycountyconservation.org the Friday prior to board meetings.


OWLS program


Story County Conservation invites the public to the monthly OWLS (Older, Wiser, Livelier Souls) program, “The Cats of America – Ancient History and Modern Conservation,” on Tuesday, March 3, at 11 a.m. at the Story County Conservation Center, 56461 180th St., Ames.


Dr. Bill Clark, Emeritus Professor with Iowa State University, will give a brief overview of the evolution of cats including paleological history of the sabretooth cats and cheetahs that once roamed North America. We’ll cover modern cats including endangered species like ocelots, common species like bobcats, and the occasional cougar that show up in Iowa. We’ll conclude with conservation challenges including habitat loss, climate change, conflicts, and hunting.


An optional luncheon follows the program for $7.50. Registration for lunch with payment is required by 4 p.m., Friday, Feb. 28. The planned lunch menu is soup (broccoli beer cheese, tomato bisque or chili) and salad bar with homemade bread and mint Oreo fluff.


24-hour respite from technology


National Day of Unplugging is Friday, March 6, and Story County Conservation is here to help you keep your commitment to spending the day device-free!


According to www.nationdayofunplugging.com, March 6 is a time to commit to “a 24-hour global respite from technology. It highlights the value of disconnecting from digital devices to connect with ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities in real time.” It is no secret that there has been a drastic increase in personal electronic use. U.S. consumers average five hours a day on a mobile device. And new data shows the average smartphone user checks their device 63 times a day.


To show our support for this need to reconnect through disconnecting, Story County Conservation is offering a series of free programs at McFarland Park, 56461 180th St., Ames, to help fill your time and mind during some of the most common times of day that we “plug in.” Without needing to check your phone or computer, there is sure to be some extra time in your routine!


Community Coffee, 7 to 8:30 a.m. — Come enjoy some coffee and conversation with one of your county naturalists! Recreate a time when phones were not the centerpiece on the table. Relax and reconnect while watching our bird feeders. Coffee, hot tea, and cocoa will be provided.


Lunch and Learn, noon to 1 p.m. — A lunch hour is the perfect time to enjoy the outdoors and learn something new. Come enjoy a discussion about nature unplugged. Please bring a sack lunch to enjoy at the park. We’ll be outdoors if weather permits.


Community Campfire, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. — Campfires have been bringing people together for centuries and have a very calming power. We will tell stories, sing songs, and celebrate the end of the day. You are welcome to stay after the event and enjoy the night! This program will be canceled if there’s inclement weather.


These events are free and there’s no need to register.


Evening luminary hike


Let luminaries light your way around the lake on Friday, March 20, from 7:30 to 9 p.m. at McFarland Park, 56461 180th St., northeast of Ames. Welcome spring with this special walk and end the experience with cocoa by a campfire.


Walk is self-guided; complete luminary loop is about one mile. Dress in layered clothing appropriate for the weather. Participants must arrive by 8:30 p.m.; event ends at 9 p.m.


Fee of $5 with registration is required by 4 p.m. on Friday, March 13.


Annual Photo Contest


Amateur photographers are reminded and encouraged to take photos of nature and recreational activities for Story County Conservation’s Annual Photo Contest. Photo submissions are now easier than ever as we’ve switched to a completely digital format.


The following categories are judged:


A: Landscape (within Story County Conservation parks and areas — may include structures)


B: Flora and Fungi (photographs of specific plants or fungi — micro or macro)


C: Fauna (photographs of specific animals — micro or macro)


D: Connecting People and Recreation (people enjoying Story County Conservation areas)


Photographs in categories “A” and “D” must be taken in Story County Conservation areas.


Prizes will be awarded for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in each category for Adult (18 and older) and Youth (under 18) entries. Special awards will also be awarded for the Bill Horine Best in Show and fan favorite, which will be voted on by Facebook users.


A photo may also be chosen for the Story County Conservation refrigerator magnet. Magnet photos are chosen based on the amount of void space available to allow the SCC logo to be present.


Photographers may submit up to three entries (photos may be all in one category or a combination) between March 2 – 20. Find a complete list of rules and submit your photos through the online form at bit.ly/SCCphotocontest. You may also submit via CD or thumb drive delivered to the Story County Conservation Center, 56461 180th St., Ames. For a complete list of rules and map of SCC areas, visit bit.ly/SCCphotocontest or contact Outreach Coordinator Erica Place at 515-232-2516 or at eplace@storycountyiowa.gov.


Photographers retain all rights to their images except for use by Story County Conservation.


Images from the contest are used to enhance SCC’s photo library and to encourage people to visit SCC areas year-round. For inspiration, visit our Facebook page to see photos submitted to last year’s contest.


Share your nature story


Do you have a nature story you’d like to share with others? Common Ground is a statewide project that brings together people of all generations, ages, backgrounds, knowledge bases, places of residence and political persuasions to give voice in their own words to the important role that the natural world plays in their lives. The Common Ground project aims to help people not only acknowledge their own connections to the natural world, but also build relationships with others who feel the same.


Tell the story of your connection to the natural world — building a fort in the woods, catching that monster fish, growing up on the family farm, walking in a prairie, catching sight of a special bird, taking your child hunting for the first time, paddling on the river. Whatever sparks your love for the land, we are excited to help you record and share those experiences and memories. We hope to show that — despite perceived differences — our common, though unique, experiences in nature are fertile ground for building relationships and coming together to work toward a collective goal: the protection of our natural resources.


Two options are available:


1. Record on your own. Have a conversation with a family member or friend and record it on a phone or computer. Upload at bit.ly/CommonGroundProject using the provided instructions.


2. Attend a recording event and work with a project facilitator to tell your story. Daytime, evening, and weekend opportunities are available through the support of the Ames Public Library. Find recording event dates on the project website listed above. New dates will be added throughout the winter.


Collected stories and photos from across the state will be turned into a public archive and exhibit. You have full control over your submissions to Common Ground and can elect how you wish to have your story and image shared publicly. Common Ground is a project of the Iowa Association of Naturalists and supported in our county by Story County Conservation and the Ames Public Library.