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University of Iowa News Release


April 18, 2008

Ecologist Mutel reads April 29 from UI Press book 'The Emerald Horizon'

Ecologist Cornelia F. Mutel will read from "The Emerald Horizon: The History of Nature in Iowa," just out from the University of Iowa Press, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 29, in Room W151 of the UI Pappajohn Business Building. Listen live via the University of Iowa Writing University Web site

The event will be recorded for broadcast on the "Live from Prairie Lights" series, originating on UI radio station WSUI-AM 910. Hour-long Iowa Public Radio "Live from Prairie Lights" productions, hosted by Julie Englander, air at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturdays, and 7 p.m. Sundays on WSUI-AM 910 in Iowa City and WOI-AM 640 in Ames.

Mutel combines lyrical writing with meticulous scientific research to portray the environmental past, present and future of Iowa.

Since so much of the tallgrass state has been transformed into an agricultural landscape, Mutel focuses on understanding today's natural environment by understanding yesterday's changes. After summarizing the geological, archaeological and ecological features that shaped Iowa's modern landscape, she recreates the once-wild native communities that existed prior to Euroamerican settlement.

Next she examines the dramatic changes that overtook native plant and animal communities as Iowa's prairies, woodlands and wetlands were transformed.

Finally she presents realistic techniques for restoring native species and ecological processes as well as a broad variety of ways in which Iowans can reconnect with the natural world.

Throughout, in addition to the many illustrations commissioned for this book, she offers careful scientific exposition, a strong sense of respect for the land, and encouragement to protect the future by learning from the past.

The "emerald prairie" that "gleamed and shone to the horizon's edge," as botanist Thomas Macbride described it in 1895, has vanished. Mutel's passionate dedication to restoring this damaged landscape -- and by extension the transformed landscape of the entire Corn Belt -- invigorates her blend of natural history and human history. Believing that citizens who are knowledgeable about native species, communities and ecological processes will better care for them, she provides sound suggestions for the future.

Joe Wilkinson, president of the Iowa Wildlife Federation, commented, "Nature for many today is the drainage creek down the block or the wooded ravine leading away from the highway. 'The Emerald Horizon' rolls back the clock to a time when Iowa was a checkerboard of wetlands that turned seamlessly to oceans of native grasses; when fire, wind, and rivers determined whether prairies or woodlands rose from the rich soil. Mutel shows Iowa as a dynamic, almost breathing life form, altered nearly beyond recognition in just a few decades. This book offers hope for restoring the land, but the key will come from those who read this book and take it to heart."

Mutel is the historian and the archivist for IIHR-Hydroscience and Engineering at the UI College of Engineering. She is the author of "Fragile Giants: A Natural History of the Loess Hills," coauthor of From "Grassland to Glacier: The Natural History of Colorado and the Surrounding Region," and coeditor of "Land of the Fragile Giants: Landscapes, Environments, and Peoples of the Loess Hills" and "The Tallgrass Restoration Handbook for Prairies, Savannas, and Woodlands."

"The Emerald Horizon" is available for sale at Prairie Lights and other bookstores or directly from the University of Iowa Press by phone at 800-621-2736 or online at Customers in the United Kingdom, Europe, the Middle East, or Africa may order from the Eurospan Group online at

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to, click the link "Join or leave the list (or change settings)" and follow the instructions.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACTS: Jan Weissmuller, Prairie Lights,; Allison Thomas, UI Press,; Winston Barclay, Arts Center Relations,