Once on chopping block, Griffy preserve a 'crown jewel' of IU Integrated Program in the Environment
Griffy is one of seven research and teaching sites nurtured by passion of IU biologist Clay and others
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Fifteen years ago, Indiana University’s Griffy Woods Research and Teaching Preserve -- located but 10 minutes from the core of the Bloomington campus -- was on the chopping block, pegged to become a private golf club. But today, thanks to the foresight of some IU scientists, it is home to the first of IU’s Big Ten-leading inventory of LEED Certified buildings -- the IU Research and Teaching Preserve field lab -- and has evolved into a key component of an IU initiative to integrate environmental sciences and studies across campus.
IU’s Integrated Program in the Environment, created last year, “has revolutionized the way we as a campus approach academics, research, creative activities and organizations focused on the environment,” IU Provost and Executive Vice President Lauren Robel noted at a recent event recognizing longtime IU biologist Keith Clay for his work in creating the preserve in 2001 and directing its course for 13 years.
“If you were asked what a truly interdisciplinary, interdepartmental program looks like, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better example than the Integrated Program in the Environment,” Robel said. “Indeed, we believe IPE can serve as a model for other interdisciplinary programs currently under development as part of our campus strategic plan.”
Bringing together more than 90 affiliated faculty members across 25 departments in five schools, the Integrated Program in the Environment offers breadth, as evidenced by the launch this fall of a new Bachelor of Arts in environmental and sustainability studies at IU Bloomington. Awarded jointly through the School of Public and Environmental Affairs and the College of Arts and Sciences, the degree offers concentrations in sustainable food systems, sustainable energy and resources, environmental ethics and justice, or biodiversity and sustainability.
The Office of Sustainability is supporting the program through curricular development and co-curricular efforts, and the IU Research and Teaching Preserve is already in a position to provide hands-on learning experiences in the same environment where various research ventures are being conducted. Last year, 387 students -- either research assistants to faculty or students enrolled in field-based courses in the natural sciences -- participated in research at the preserve and field lab, which is one of IU’s 10 LEED certified buildings. Over the same period, the resource was used by instructors from the College of Arts and Sciences’ biology, geography and geological sciences departments, the School of Public Health-Bloomington and SPEA.
“The new B.A. in environmental and sustainability studies is a concrete example of the way that the Integrated Program in the Environment, the Research and Teaching Preserve, and the Office of Sustainability can collaborate for education in the environment and sustainability ... and it is in sync with the university’s new academic directives,” said Jeff White, an environmental scientist and director of the Integrated Program in the Environment.
Founded in 2001, the Research and Teaching Preserve ushered in a new era of environmental research at IU Bloomington, much of that due to Clay’s leadership, White said. Now expanded to include seven sites totaling nearly 1,600 acres in the vicinity of the Bloomington campus, the preserve has become a vital tool in IU Bloomington’s contributions to addressing the challenge of climate change. The most recent expansion was the Morgan-Monroe State Forest AmeriFlux Tower in 2009, where researchers collect and analyze data regarding biosphere-atmosphere exchange of carbon.
White said the preserve's creation was largely a result of the thoughtfulness of Clay, the late IU professor Dan Willard, IU geology professor Michael Hamburger and others that allowed a debate to shift from a campaign to stop something (a golf course) to a community effort to build something enduring.
“Now the (Griffy) preserve is a crown jewel of the campus and the envy of many other universities,” White said. “And its growth will continue upon a solid foundation that Keith Clay so carefully and passionately established and nourished. This is service to the community that is surely born out of personal passion and deep conviction.”
With the new Integrated Program in the Environment degree in environmental and sustainability studies in place and on Clay’s retirement as preserve director in August, White announced a ramp up in staffing. Changes included naming IU associate professor of biology Rich Phillips as the preserve’s new science director and Sarah Mincey, a research associate at IU’s Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, as associate director of Integrated Program in the Environment and administrative director of the Research and Teaching Preserve.
“I am very happy that the preserve will continue in very good hands with Jeff White as director of the IPE, Sarah Mincey as the associate director, Rich Phillips as the new scientific director and Michael Chitwood continuing as the preserve manager,” Clay said. “Research activities based here have grown dramatically, results are being published in top journals, and the work is contributing to international research networks such as the Smithsonian Global Earth Observatory Network. But the most satisfying thing has been the opportunity to ensure the conservation of some of the best and most significant natural areas in the Midwest. In 100 years, when we are all gone and when our research papers have fallen into obscurity, the forest will still be here, and it will be even more significant and magnificent than it is today.”
Manager of Research Communications
- Indiana University
- Office 812-856-1896
- @ IndianaResearch