As an artist whose work is primarily inspired by the natural world, but whose understanding of ecology is more experiential than academic or scientific, the opportunity to sit in on classes at Lakeside Laboratory has been an invaluable experience. I’ve lived in the Midwest for less than a year, so I came into this residency with a lot to learn about Iowa’s flora and fauna and about the history of the landscape here. At Lakeside, everyday conversations are peppered with impromptu lessons. I’ve learned the names of plants and animals, which organisms are invasive, which native organisms are doing well, and which ones are endangered. I’ve learned how kettle holes are formed and how a decrease in prairie fires has changed Iowa’s landscape. I’ve also learned about some of the difficulties ecologists and conservationists face when it comes to discussing environmental issues with the general public. These conversations stress that both conservation and environmental policy are not just about the natural sciences, they’re also about sociology, psychology, and communication. This reinforces my belief in the importance of collaboration across academic disciplines, and my excitement for the opportunity to draw inspiration from the work that’s being done here at Lakeside.