Cedar Rapids native Jeff Berckes loves visiting state and national parks (including Effigy Mounds in northeast Iowa, pictured below), running half marathons, reading a good book and helping his wife renovate their brick home. That’s not all he is passionate about though.
Jeff always knew that he would one day choose a career related to natural sciences, crediting his interest in science and math as the main contributors. “When I was an undergraduate, I was drawn to environmental studies because it seemed to be an emerging field that would benefit from someone like me who enjoyed learning about new and diverse perspectives to find solutions for complex problems.”
Jeff earned a B.A. in biology with an environmental emphasis from the University of Northern Iowa. He went on to receive a master’s of environmental science from Oregon State University and a master’s of business administration from the University of Iowa.
For the past four years, Jeff has been working for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. One of his main duties is to oversee a federal Clean Water Act project called the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program. This program works with rivers and streams that have water quality issues. This job, Jeff explains, can be both challenging and rewarding. “I get to work with a lot of intelligent, passionate people and get to sleep at night knowing that I work for an organization that promotes an important and worthy mission.”
He is working with the Environmental Protection Agency and professionals from other states to develop national policy for how the program should be evaluated for success.
Jeff believes the quality of our water reflects the way that people treat the land. “I think it is similar to when we go to the doctor and she performs an exam and takes a blood sample. That sample provides the doctor with information about how you’re treating your body. Water monitoring tells us the same kind of things about the health of the land and how we are treating it.”
“The younger generation has great power in being able to make the best decisions in their lives for the land and they can help change their parents’ minds on things they can do to improve as well.”
Outside of his work at the DNR, Jeff volunteers as a TreeKeeper, planting and taking care of trees in Des Moines.