A new initiative, Prepared for Environmental Change, is the latest project funded through Indiana University’s Grand Challenges Program. IU plans to invest $55 million to develop actionable solutions for Indiana farmers, communities, businesses and individuals.
According to IU President Michael McRobbie, the Hoosier State has already witnessed patterns of heavier spring flooding and hotter, dryer summers. Less obvious environmental changes are also afoot, he says, such as changes to growing seasons and migratory patterns, risk of soil loss and an uptick in diseases such as Lyme disease, Zika and West Nile virus.
“Environmental change has been a constant through history,” McRobbie says. “Our state is not immune to changing environmental conditions, and these may cause major changes for some of th estate’s most valuable assets and industries."
The initiative will establish an Environmental Resilience Institute, which will work with IU faculty, Indiana businesses, nonprofits and others to collect data and begin to organize research activities that address environmental change.
McRobbie says the size and scope of these changes demand extensive private- and public-sector collaborations, which IU is uniquely equipped to facilitate.
Meantime, Karen Cecil, director of global environmental sustainability at Cummins Inc., says meeting environmental challenges deliberately and directly is key to preserving the long-term health of the state’s communities and its economy.
“The success of Indiana’s advanced manufacturing industry depends on natural resources and a complex global supply chain that’s put at risk by environmental change,” she says. “That’s why initiatives like this one that help us adapt to these pressures are so crucial to our state, our business and our way of life.”
And according to IU distinguished professor of biology Ellen Ketterson, the institute isn’t interested in debating partisan differences concerning climate change or speculate about potential future climate and environmental challenges.
“We’re here because we can already see the year-round effects of the changes in our environment,” she says.
Research will focus on protecting a resilient water supply, reducing flooding risk, enhancing carbon sequestration, improving the wildlife corridor and revitalizing local economies. A research team will also pilot a farming program that can better forecast soil and water conditions.
For more information about IU’s Grand Challenges Program, visit https://grandchallenges.iu.edu/.