Indiana University's Field Lab to infuse new life into research and teaching
Indiana University scientists, students and administrators gathered recently to celebrate the construction of the 6,000-square-foot Research and Teaching Preserve Field Laboratory, the university's newest science building.
"We already have a number of projects going on that would make good use of the Field Lab," said Research and Teaching Preserve Director Keith Clay. "We have projects on forest dynamics, invasive species and the impacts of flood damage. Currently, we collect data and bring them back to our labs and offices at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, or Biology, or Geology. It can be cumbersome."
With a nod to the Field Lab's main function -- to advance the research and teaching of environmental and biological sciences, and geology -- designers decided the building must be "green," or environmentally friendly. The lab will have composting toilets, natural lighting, and a frame made out of recycled steel. When the Field Lab is completed, likely in spring 2009, university architects will ask that the Field Lab be awarded LEED certification, an acknowledgement of the structure's tiny environmental footprint.
IU owns or co-operates other field laboratories, including Geological Sciences' Judson Mead Geological Station near Bozeman, Mont., and SPEA's Crooked Lake Biological Station in northern Indiana. The field stations provide IU faculty, staff and students with a base of operations that make good research and teaching a lot easier.
But this Field Laboratory is different. Equipped with research tools for monitoring atmospheric, aquatic, soil and biological processes, as well as wet and dry laboratory bench space, offices and classrooms, and an array of computing resources, the Field Laboratory will be the first fully decked out research station in the university's possession. A plaque outside the Lieber Room in Jordan Hall states that former IU zoologist Carl Eigenmann helped found "the first inland biological station in America at Turkey Lake, Indiana." The new Field Lab building continues a long tradition of research and teaching in the natural environment.
"The Research and Teaching Preserve isn't a token preserve," Clay said. "And the Field Lab is extremely sophisticated. We're extremely happy with the commitment IU has made here. The university research community is richer because of it."
The Field Lab is funded primarily by IU's Commitment to Excellence program, with additional support from a NSF grant to the Research and Teaching Preserve.
The Field Laboratory is as much a resource for research and teaching as the preserve on which it is being built. Established in 2001 by the IU Trustees, the Research and Teaching Preserve initially encompassed the 440 acres of Griffy Woods, directly southeast of Griffy Lake, and Moores Creek, an undeveloped tract of land along Lake Monroe.
The Research and Teaching Preserve has since added three other university holdings to its oversight responsibilities: the Lilly-Dickey Woods, Kent Farm and Bayles Road. The five properties in south-central Indiana now constitute about 1,150 acres of natural space for scientific investigations, teaching in the field and other scholarly activities.
"Many universities have natural land holdings for ecological and geological research, and environmental sciences," Clay said. "Having these sorts of resources available to faculty and students is just as important as having indoor laboratory spaces."
Clay also says the Field Lab and Research and Teaching Preserve will help IU faculty land grants. Agencies like the National Science Foundation look favorably on universities and other academic institutions that possess all of the resources a researcher needs to complete a project, making it more likely a grant proposal will get funded.
For more information about the Research and Teaching Preserve, please visit http://www.indiana.edu/~preserve/.