(information last updated January 2019)

Ongoing Projects:

Federal Project(s) Operating in the State:

CrowdHydrology, which is sponsored by the U.S. Geological Survey (“USGS”), gathers “information on stream stage or water levels from anyone willing to send [] a text message of the water levels at their local stream to collect spatially distributed hydrologic data.” CrowdHydrology,, (last visited Feb. 7, 2019); see also How it Works, CrowdHydrology, (last visited Feb. 7, 2019). This project is ongoing in Iowa. See LocationsIowa, CrowdHydrology, (last visited Feb. 7, 2019).


Citizen Science: Water Monitoring, which is run by University of Iowa – IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering and was awarded a grant by the National Science Foundation, is recruiting public volunteers to participate in a new study that will use a smartphone application to measure nitrate levels in the Clear Creek and Middle Cedar watersheds. See Citizen Scientist Water Monitoring, U. of Iowa, (last updated May 4, 2018); see also Mikael Mulugeta, Citizen Science: Water Monitoring, U. of Iowa (Jan. 8, 2018),

State Project(s):

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (“IDNR”) discontinued its state-level volunteer water quality monitoring program: IOWATER.  See Volunteer Water Monitoring, Iowa Dep’t of Nat. Resources, (last visited Feb. 7, 2019). In its place, IDNR launched a locally-led volunteer water monitoring program, which provides training, technical assistances, and equipment for locally-run programs around the State. See id. 


IDNR operates the Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program (“VWMP”), in which volunteers monitor bird nests, frog and toad calls, and do acoustic monitoring of bats. See Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program (VWMP), Iowa Dep’t of Nat. Resources, (last visited Feb. 7, 2019).

Collection of Information:

Ag-Gag Law— Animal Facility:

“A person shall not, without the consent of the owner . . . [e]nter onto or into an animal facility, or remain on or in an animal facility, if the person has notice that the facility is not open to the public, if the person has an intent to . . . [d]isrupt operations conducted at the animal facility, if the operations directly relate to agricultural production, animal maintenance, educational or scientific purposes, or veterinary care.” Iowa Code § 717A.2(1)(c)(1)(a).


“A person who violates subsection 1, paragraph ‘c’, is guilty of an aggravated misdemeanor.” Id. § 717A.2(3)(c). Private parties can also recover treble damages in a civil suit.  Id. § 717A.2(2).

Ag-Gag Law— Crop Operation Property:

“A person shall not, without the consent of the owner… (a) willfully…damage a crop maintained on crop operation property… (b) exercise control over a crop…with an intent to deprive the owner of the crop…[or] (c)(1) enter onto or remain on crop operation property if the person has notice that [it] is not open to the public and [intends to disrupt the operation or destroy or damage any portion of a crop maintained on the property]. Iowa Code § 717A.3(1).


A violation of paragraph (a) is an offense of criminal mischief, a violation of paragraph (b) constitutes a class “D” felony, and a violation of paragraph (c) is an aggravated misdemeanor. Id. § 717A.3(3).

Ag-Gag Law —     Agricultural Production Facility Fraud:

“A person is guilty of agricultural production facility fraud if the person willfully… [o]btains access to an agricultural production facility by false pretenses.”  Iowa Code § 717A.3A(1)(a).


A violation of this section is a serious misdemeanor. Id. § 717A.3A(2)(a).


This law was ruled unconstitutional under the First Amendment in 2019. Animal Legal Defense Fund et al. v. Reynolds, Case No. 4:17-cv-00362, 2019 WL 140069 (S.D. Iowa Jan. 9, 2019).

Permit to Collect Wildlife for Scientific or Academic Purposes:

Permits are required before a scientist or other person can collect wildlife samples, either alive or dead. See Iowa Code § 481A.65; Iowa Admin. Code 571-111.1(481A); Scientific Collectors and Permits, Iowa Dep’t of Nat. Resources, (last visited Feb. 7, 2019).


Trespass Laws:

Criminal Liability for Trespass Despite Lack of Notice:

No.  An intruder must have been “notified or requested to abstain from entering” the property of another for such entry to constitute trespass. Iowa Code § 716.7(2)(a)(2). Criminal trespass includes entering property “with the intent to . . . place . . . anything . . . inanimate” thereon.  Id. § 716.7(2)(a)(1).

Public Utility Trespass:


Trespass includes “[e]ntering or remaining upon or in public utility property without lawful authority or without the consent of the public utility that owns, leases, or operates the public utility property.” Iowa Code § 716.7(2)(a)(6).


A violation of this section is a class “D” felony. Id. § 716.8(6).

Other Provisions:

See supra “Ag-Gag Law.”

Critical Infrastructure Laws:

Sabotage Law:

“‘Critical Infrastructure Sabotage’ is an unauthorized and overt act intended to cause and having the means to cause, and in substantial furtherance of causing, a substantial and widespread interruption or impairment of a fundamental service rendered by the critical infrastructure.” Iowa Code § 716.11-12(2). This does not include accidental interruption caused by a citizen engaging in lawful acts, nor does it include agricultural operations. Id.


“A person who commits critical infrastructure sabotage is guilty of a class ‘B’ felony, and … shall be punished by a fine [between $85,000 and $100,000].” Id. § 716.12.

Stalking Laws:

Criminal Stalking

A person commits stalking when all of the following occur:

“a. The person purposefully engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, or threatened or to fear that the person intends to cause bodily injury to, or the death of, that specific person or a member of the specific person’s immediate family.

b. The person has knowledge or should have knowledge that a reasonable person would feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, or threatened or fear that the person intends to cause bodily injury to, or the death of, that specific person or a member of the specific person’s immediate family by the course of conduct.” Iowa Code § 708.11(2).

Use of Information:

Although our research is incomplete, these provisions could be construed to prohibit the use of information collected by citizens.

Prohibitive by Effect:

In order to submit water quality data, volunteer monitoring groups must first submit a “volunteer water quality monitoring plan” for department approval at least 90 days before monitoring activities.  Iowa Admin. Code 567-61.11(455B).  The plan must include a “statement of intent[,]” the names of all participants, the duration of the monitoring effort, the “[l]ocation and frequency of sample collection[,]” the “[m]ethods of data collection and analysis[,]” and “[r]ecord keeping and data reporting procedures.”  Id.  


In addition to this, citizen-submitted data must be approved before it considered credible.  Iowa Admin. Code 567-61.12(455B).  To be approved, data must be submitted by a “qualified volunteer” who must request that it be deemed credible at the time of submission.  Id.  “[Q]ualified volunteers must have the training and experience to ensure quality assurance and quality control for the data being produced, or be under direct supervision of a person having such qualifications.”  Id. 567-60.2(455B).


While these regulations are in effect, it is unclear how they function under the new locally-led volunteer water monitoring program.

Explicitly Prohibits:

“Information obtained as a result of the use of an unmanned aerial vehicle is not admissible as evidence in a criminal or civil proceeding, unless the information is obtained pursuant to the authority of a search warrant, or unless the information is otherwise obtained in a manner that is consistent with state and federal law.” Iowa Code § 808.15.

Evidentiary Standards:

Pleading a Claim:

Requires certification that the claim “is well grounded in fact.”  Iowa R. Civ. P. 1.413(1).

Authentication or Chain of Custody:

“The requirement of authentication or identification as a condition precedent to admissibility is satisfied by evidence sufficient to support a finding that the matter in question is what its proponent claims.”  Iowa R. Evid. 5.901(a).

Expert Testimony:

Ad Hoc Hall test; Daubert is instructive “[w]hen the scientific evidence is particularly novel or complex.”  See Ranes v. Adams Labs., Inc., 778 N.W.2d 677, 685-86 (Iowa 2010); see also State v. Hall, 297 N.W.2d 80, 85 (Iowa 1980) (rejecting Frye test of general scientific acceptance).


Please note that this discussion is not moderated by the Emmett Environmental Law & Policy Clinic.