Projects: Research and Creative Activities
IPE affiliates come from many programs, foster collaboration, and respectfully challenge traditional intellectual boundaries. Their diverse expertise produces an extensive palette of research and creative activities.
These selected projects represent a small sampling from the vast array of environmental and sustainability activities at IU Bloomington.
The RAIN (Restorative Adaptations for Infrastructure) Initiative is an action- and research-based organization founded by graduate students at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University. They work to improve existing and install green infrastructure for the purposes of stormwater management at Indiana University and in the City of Bloomington, to encourage a paradigm shift of grey to green regarding stormwater at the local level, and to educate the public on the potential for manufactured ecological processes to provide crucial, cost-effective solutions. The RAIN Initiative (Restorative Adaptations for Infrastructure) assembled in the fall of 2012 to assist Indiana University in meeting its stormwater management goals through green infrastructure design at the border of Griffy Woods and the IU Championship Golf Course. The process for research and implementation was initiated with support from the Office of Sustainability and the IU Research and Teaching Preserve.
A team of scientists led by wetlands expert and IU professor Christopher Craft has revealed the value of restoring wetlands and riparian habitat on agricultural lands. The study is among the first to demonstrate the water quality benefits of converting farmland back to natural habitats. Not only can restoration improve the local water quality by removing excess nutrients from agricultural runoff, it has the potential benefit of reducing the impact of farm runoff on the Gulf of Mexico dead zone.
IU biologists Ellen Ketterson and Jonathan Atwell co-produced the documentary film Ordinary Extraordinary Junco: Remarkable Biology From a Backyard Bird, along with a package of complementary educational resources, available for distribution to inspire, educate, and entertain public and student audiences worldwide. They envision the package for use in screenings, online viewing, and classroom use–especially among high school and college classes, birdwatchers, and anyone else interested in science, nature, or wildlife. The film highlights over 100 years of research on one of the most common and abundant, yet diverse and remarkable, groups of songbirds on the continent, the juncos. Key themes include evolution, ecology, animal behavior, and the research process.
The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) commissioned PhD student Dan Johnson and fellow researchers in Spring 2012 to collect data for a global project aimed at understanding the long-term dynamics of forests. A 25-hectare study area has been established at the IU Research & Teaching Preserve Lilly-Dickey Woods where Johnson and his crew followed STRI's strict protocol when they identified, measured, and mapped every tree and shrub within the area. All woody plants will be re-measured every five years to track changes in forest biomass and mortality. IU Biology professors Rich Phillips and Keith Clay will oversee the project into the future. The site became the second Midwestern US forest in the STRI network of forest plots (Smithsonian Institute Global Earth Observatory [SIGEO]). Because every plot follows the same methodology, scientists can directly compare data collected from different forests around the world and detect patterns that would otherwise be impossible to recognize.
Spatial Resilience of Agriculturalists to Coupled Ecological and Hydrological Variability in Rural Zambia
IU Bloomington geographers Tom Evans and Scott Robeson, in collaboration with Princeton University environmental scientist Kelly Caylor, are studying farmers' interactions with their local environments and how they survive periods of drought through different types of coping strategies. Their work is being conducted in Zambia, where drought frequently causes food shortages and future climate variability may have dramatic impacts on human welfare.
IU faculty, students and community step up effort to protect Dunn’s Woods
Dunn's Woods, a 10-acre woodland within the IU Bloomington campus, was being overrun by purple wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei)–a woody, vining plant native to East Asia. The vine crowds out native plant species (such as the cardinal flower pictured left), disrupting the food web of insects, birds, mammals, and other species that evolved to depend on native plants. This in turn reduces biodiversity and weakens the capacity of the ecosystem to perform services such as carbon storage and water conservation. The Dunn's Woods Project initiative to remove the wintercreeper and restore native plants to the woods has garnered much support. Not only is it making progress in restoring the woods, it has created research and educational opportunities.