IAA would like to help you get to know some of the important people involved in Iowa forestry.  The "People You Should Know" feature highlights a person we think you should know if you are interested in the trees of Iowa.

Mark Rouw is the Animal Specialist at the Science Center of Iowa

Mark Rouw

Mark Rouw’s Biography

       I attended Grand View University for three years and earned my BA at Drake University with a major in painting and drawing. I worked on rental properties for a few years and also did some commissioned paintings. In 1985, I started working at the Science Center of Iowa where I presented programs and helped maintain the Animal Collection. I am currently the Animal Specialist at the Science Center. A few years ago I did the illustrations for a “Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Iowa”.

       I started measuring big trees in 1972 or 1973. My first really big tree was a cottonwood in Hardin County that had a trunk circumference over 20’. After that find, I was hooked on hunting for big trees. In 1978 the Forestry Bureau of the Iowa DNR started our Iowa Big Tree Program. Since that time, I have recorded notes on well over a thousand Iowa big trees. I have measured hundreds of them, and a number have been designated as state champion trees. Over the years I have been lucky enough to find a few national champion trees in Iowa, including a scotch pine in Nevada, a white poplar in Onawa and two European alders in Davenport. A roundleaf serviceberry in Dubuque County may soon become a national champion. 

       When traveling, I always keep on the lookout for big trees. I have located the following national champions in other states: ebony blackbead co-champions in Texas, Rocky Mountain ponderosa pine in Colorado and a Black Hills spruce in South Dakota. My largest national champion was a Fremont cottonwood in Arizona which reached a circumference of 42’ before it came down a few years ago. 

       Recently, I was part of a Native Tree Society expedition in the San Juan National Forest that discovered a new national co-champion Colorado blue spruce with a height of 165’. Last year, I found a very tall Rocky Mountain ponderosa pine. This year it was documented with a height of 162.3’. This is the tallest known ponderosa pine in Colorado and I was honored by having the tree named after me. Most of my big tree work continues to be done in Iowa. A number of years ago I started updating the Iowa Big Tree Spreadsheet. I did measure the state champion black ash and I’m still looking for new state champions, but now I’m also updating the dimensions of hundreds of previously measured trees. I have also spent countless hours updating changes in the tree owner’s information. For several years now, I have been working on a project to measure tall trees in White Pine Hollow in Dubuque County. So far I have found at least ten species that surpass a height of 100’. The tallest tree I have found in the preserve is a white pine that reaches a height of about 145’!