Iowa Lakeside Laboratory

Associate provost and dean

  • Chet Rzonca

Director, academics and research

  • Stephen Hendrix (Biology)

Associate director, academics and research

  • Michael J. Lannoo (Anatomy and Cell Biology, Indiana University School of Medicine)

Iowa State University participating faculty

  • James Colbert (Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology), Amy Toth (Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology)

University of Iowa participating faculty

  • John F. Doershuk (Anthropology)

University of Northern Iowa participating faculty

  • Kavita Dhanwada (Biology), Laura Jackson (Biology), Daryl D. Smith (Biology)
Web site:

Iowa Lakeside Laboratory is a field station run cooperatively by The University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and the University of Northern Iowa. Students at all three institutions may take Iowa Lakeside Laboratory courses for credit. They should check with their advisors to determine whether specific courses count toward requirements of their academic majors or minors or toward other requirements.

Iowa Lakeside Laboratory was established in 1909 for the conservation and study of the rich flora and fauna of northwest Iowa, especially the numerous lakes, wetlands, and prairies of the Iowa Great Lakes region. The campus is located on approximately 140 acres of restored prairie, wetland, and gallery forest along the west shore of West Okoboji Lake. Lakeside's mission is to provide undergraduate and graduate students an opportunity for hands-on experience in a variety of natural and human environments through its field-oriented summer courses, and to provide research facilities and support for graduate students and faculty members working on research projects in northwestern Iowa.

Each summer Iowa Lakeside Laboratory offers students a unique educational experience—small, full-immersion, field-oriented courses in the natural sciences (archaeology, botany, ecology, hydrology, soils, zoology). Courses are taught at the sophomore/junior level and the senior/graduate level. Enrollment usually is limited to 10 or fewer students per course. Most courses meet all day Monday through Friday, last four weeks, and offer 1 s.h. of credit for each week (40 clock hours) in class. One- and two-week courses also are available, including courses designed especially for teachers.

Weather permitting, students normally spend at least part of each day doing fieldwork, either as part of their class work or for individual or group projects.

Not all courses are offered every year; visit Courses on the Iowa Lakeside Laboratory web site or consult the University of Iowa summer course offerings on ISIS (Iowa Student Information Services) to learn which courses will be offered during a particular summer session.

Research projects by undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty members can be completed either on the Iowa Lakeside Laboratory campus or at many nearby natural areas. Undergraduate and graduate students are strongly encouraged to do independent projects at the laboratory, and graduate students are welcome to use Lakeside as a base for their thesis and dissertation research. Laboratory space and other facilities are available for long-term or short-term research projects.

Teaching and research facilities include eight laboratory buildings, a library, and a lecture hall. Living accommodations include cottages, motel-style units, and a large mess hall. All students are encouraged to stay at Lakeside while they are taking courses to derive full advantage of its educational, professional, and social life.


Students may enroll in Iowa Lakeside Laboratory courses only by submitting an Iowa Lakeside Laboratory Registration and Housing Form to the Iowa Lakeside Laboratory Administrative Office. Information about current courses and housing is available on the Iowa Lakeside Laboratory web site.

Registration usually opens in early January. Enrollment is limited, so students should register early. When they register, they must apply for housing or indicate that they plan to live off campus.

Financial Support

Financial support is available for undergraduate and graduate students. The Friends of Lakeside Lab organization provides a merit scholarship that is equivalent to the cost of room and board. Additional financial support may be available from Iowa Lakeside Laboratory and from other sources. Consult the Office of Student Financial Aid for information about support, including work-study and loan programs.


Lower-Level Undergraduate

IALL:1010 (00L:010) Earth, Air, and Sky3 s.h.
Essentials of earth science, including astronomy, meteorology, geology, and paleontology; includes laboratory and fieldwork.
IALL:1019 (00L:019) Soils and Environmental Quality3-4 s.h.
The role of soils in environmental quality and natural resources management; soil erosion and conservation, water quality, environmental planning; weekend field trip.
IALL:1030 (00L:030) Natural History Workshop1-2 s.h.
A specific aspect of the upper Midwest's natural history, or techniques for studying natural history; amphibians and reptiles, birds and birding, nature photography, mushrooms and other fungi, Iowa's trees and forests, fish biology, prairies, common algae, common insects, aquatic plants, life in rivers, life in lakes, mosses and liverworts, natural history of Iowa Great Lakes region, field archaeology, scuba diving, astronomy, nature sketching; five‑day, nontechnical introductions.
IALL:1034 (00L:034) Topics in Ecology and Sustainability1-4 s.h.
Scientific introduction to ecology and evolution of important groups of organisms: algae to vertebrates, different ecological phenomena (e.g., fire and climate change), varying landforms, different ecosystems (e.g., prairies and aquatic systems); emphasis on sustainability with introduction to concepts, issues, and practices; ability to communicate environmental information through a variety of means. Requirements: one general biology course.
IALL:1040 (00L:040) Field Archaeology4 s.h.
Nature of cultural and environmental evidence in archaeology, how such evidence is used to model past human behavior and land use; emphasis on Iowa prehistory; basic reconnaissance surveying, excavation techniques.
IALL:1050 (00L:050) Undergraduate Internship1-4 s.h.
Placement with county conservation boards, camps, parks, and other agencies for experience as interpreters, rangers, technicians. Requirements: sophomore standing.

Upper-Level Undergraduate and Graduate

IALL:3100 (00L:100) Techniques for Biology Teaching1-2 s.h.
Development and implementation of laboratory exercises suitable for inclusion in elementary, middle, high school, and community college biology and environmental courses; exercises built around common organisms and ecosystems in Iowa; animal biology, plant biology, fungi and lichens, aquatic ecology, prairie ecology, wetland ecology, limnology, animal behavior, insect ecology, biology of invertebrates, noninvasive use of living organisms, Project WET; field trips.
IALL:3102 (00L:102) Plant-Animal Interactions4 s.h.
Introduction to ecology and co‑evolution of plants and animals; emphasis on dispersal, pollination, plant‑herbivore interactions; field and laboratory work, reading, discussion. Requirements: one biological science course.
IALL:3103 (00L:103) Aquatic Ecology4 s.h.
Analysis of aquatic ecosystems; emphasis on basic ecological principles; ecological theories tested in the field; identification of common plants and animals. Requirements: ecology, chemistry, and physics courses.
IALL:3105 (00L:105) Plant Taxonomy4 s.h.
Principles of classification and evolution of vascular plants; taxonomic tools and collection techniques; use of keys; field and laboratory studies emphasizing identification of local flowering plants, recognition of major plant families.
IALL:3109 (00L:109) Ecology and Systematics of Algae4 s.h.
Ecology, morphological structure, phylogeny, and taxonomy of freshwater algae based on field material collected; emphasis on genus‑level identifications, biodiversity, ecology; habitat visits to lakes, fens, streams, rivers; algal ecology.
IALL:3111 (00L:111) Summer Writing Festival at Iowa Lakeside Laboratory1 s.h.
Application of imagination to life experiences to become more effective writers; writing exercises invite imaginative leaps, thoughtful reflections, humor, and seriousness; participants work in various forms of expression, including personal essay, poetry, and short fiction; designed for young adult to adult writers of all levels.  One week.
IALL:3113 (00L:113) Undergraduate Independent Study1-4 s.h.
Requirements: junior or senior standing.
IALL:3115 (00L:115) Field Mycology4 s.h.
Identification and classification of the common fungi; techniques for identification, preservation, and culture practiced with members of the various fungi groups.
IALL:3117 (00L:117) Ecology and Systematics of Diatoms4 s.h.
Field and laboratory study of freshwater diatoms; techniques in collection, preparation, and identification of diatom samples; study of environmental factors affecting growth, distribution, taxonomic characters; project design and execution, including construction of reference and voucher collections; data organization and analysis.
IALL:3121 (00L:121) Plant Ecology4 s.h.
Principles of plant population, community, and ecosystem ecology illustrated through studies of native vegetation in local prairies, wetlands, forests; group or individual projects.
IALL:3122 (00L:122) Prairie Ecology4 s.h.
Basic patterns, underlying physical and biotic causes of regional and local distributions of North American prairie plants and animals; field and laboratory analysis and projects. Requirements: familiarity with basic principles of biology and ecology.
IALL:3126 (00L:126) Ornithology4 s.h.
Biology, ecology, and behavior of birds; emphasis on field studies of local avifauna; group projects with focus on techniques of population analysis and methodology for population studies.
IALL:3131 (00L:131) Ecology4 s.h.
Introduction to the principles of ecology at the population, community, ecosystem levels; field studies of local lakes, wetlands, and prairies used to examine factors that control distributions, interactions, and roles of plants and animals in native ecosystems. Requirements: two semesters of introductory biology.
IALL:3133 (00L:133) Animals and Their Ecosystems4 s.h.
Vertebrate and invertebrate animals of the Midwest; observation of animals in nature, either through passive observational techniques or active trapping exercises; once identified, placement of animals in proper taxonomic position (i.e., "Tree of Life"); ecological perspective, including habitat preferences (i.e., wetland, lake, prairie, forest, river, edge), trophic position, and activity patterns; discussion and emphasis on conservation status. Requirements: introductory biology course.
IALL:3140 (00L:140) Water Policy and Politics1 s.h.
Historical, legal, economic, cultural, and political dimensions of water resources; public perception and enjoyment of this abundant and important natural resource; how public policy developed; private rights; differences between the previous appropriation system in the western U.S. and eastern riparian rights law; public rights regarding water for navigation, recreation, and environmental protection; water‑related institutions such as suppliers of municipal water and irrigation water; interbasin transport of water.
IALL:3142 (00L:142) Watershed Hydrology and Surficial Processes4 s.h.
Effects of geomorphology, soils, and land use on transport of water and materials (nutrients, contaminants) in watersheds; fieldwork emphasizing investigations of the Iowa Great Lakes watershed. Requirements: four courses in physical or biological sciences or engineering.
IALL:3151 (00L:151) Analysis of Environmental Data2 s.h.
Theory and application of statistical techniques for analysis of ecological and paleoecological data.
IALL:3160 (00L:160) Restoration Ecology4 s.h.
Ecological principles for restoration of native ecosystems; establishment (site preparation, selection of seed mixes, planting techniques) and management (fire, mowing, weed control) of native vegetation; evaluation of restorations; emphasis on prairie restoration, wetland vegetation. Requirements: an ecology course.
IALL:3163 (00L:163) Conservation Biology4 s.h.
Population‑ and community‑level examination of factors influencing viability of plant and animal populations from demographic and genetic perspectives; assessment of biodiversity; design, management of preserves. Offered summer sessions of odd years. Prerequisites: IALL:3131 (00L:131).
IALL:3165 (00L:165) Behavioral Ecology4 s.h.
Ecological and evolutionary theories of animal behavior examined through field studies of animal coloniality, courtship, territoriality, predator defense, habitat selection, foraging, mating systems, parental care. Requirements: two biology courses.
IALL:3175 (00L:175) Soil Formation and Landscape Relationships4 s.h.
Relationships between soil formation, geomorphology, environment; soil description, classification, geography, mapping, interpretation for land use. Prerequisites: IALL:3142 (00L:142).
IALL:3199 (00L:199) Undergraduate Research1-4 s.h.
Requirements: junior or senior standing.


IALL:5210 (00L:210) Global Climate Change: Causes, Connections, and Cures2 s.h.
Underlying causes of global climate change, both natural and human; web of interrelated links affecting the physical and living world, including human society; cause‑and‑effect relationships and interventions that may reduce negative consequences; for teachers of grades 7‑12 and students enrolled in teacher education programs for those grades. Requirements: bachelor's degree.
IALL:5213 (00L:213) Graduate Independent Study1-4 s.h.
IALL:5217 (00L:217) Ecology and Systematics of Diatoms4 s.h.
IALL:5225 (00L:225) Physical Limnology2-4 s.h.
Mechanisms of physical transport of heat and contaminants in lakes; temperature cycle and stratification; disturbances to seasonal temperature structure, including the diurnal mixed layer, waves, upwelling, differential heating; turbulence, mixing, transport; field measurements of physical processes, computer models of transport.
IALL:5234 (00L:234) Topics in Ecology and Sustainability1-4 s.h.
Scientific introduction at graduate level to important groups of organisms: algae to vertebrates, different ecological phenomena (e.g., fire and climate change), varying landforms, and different ecosystems (e.g., prairies and aquatic systems); emphasis on sustainability with an introduction to concepts, issues, and practices; communication of environmental information through a variety of means.
IALL:5240 (00L:240) Natural History Workshop1-3 s.h.
An aspect of the upper Midwest's natural history, or techniques for studying natural history.
IALL:5250 (00L:250) Graduate Internship1-5 s.h.
Experience as interpreters, rangers, technicians, and teachers through placement with county conservation boards, camps, parks, schools, other agencies.
IALL:5299 (00L:299) Research1-4 s.h.