As in most state birding groups, IOU members have diverse backgrounds and come from a broad range of careers. Although some of its members were educated in the biological sciences and have a career in that area, most of its members have little or no training in biology and have joined the IOU because of their interest in and a desire to learn more about birds. These include homemakers, medical doctors, business owners, bankers, attorneys, farmers, and many others who have played important roles in the organization. No matter who these people are, they have provided the leadership to the IOU in the past and they continue to do so, ensuring that Iowa will remain a leader among state birding groups.
Among the people who have been prominent in the organization, T. C. Stephens chaired the meeting that led to the founding of the organization and two others, Walter Rosene and A.J. Palas served as the first two presidents of the organization. Fred J. Pierce was a leader in the organization for more than 30 years, being the founding editor of Iowa Bird Life and editor for the first 30 years of its publication. Philip A. DuMont who published an important book on Iowa’s birds in 1933 wrote many articles for the journal during its early years, helping to better define the distribution of many of Iowa’s birds.
In the post-war era, a new generation of birders became prominent including Myrle Jones who banded thousands of birds in Iowa, Fred Kent who was noted for his excellent photos that were in many issues of Iowa Bird Life and Woodward Brown who established the popular Field Reports section of the journal. Peter C. Petersen was another prolific writer for the journal and succeeded Fred Pierce as editor, serving for 25 years.
Women have been part of the organization since its inception. Myrle Burk served as Secretary-Treasurer for the IOU for many years and Ann Barker was the first woman to serve as President. Gladys Black stirred the birding interests of many Iowans with her weekly columns in the Des Moines Register. Beth Proescholdt, who started birding while raising a large family, became one of Iowa’s best known birders and others have served as officers, committee members, or in other ways.