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Last modified: Thursday, April 23, 2009

Indiana University celebrates Earth Day with the opening of the Field Laboratory

April 23, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- More than 75 scientists, students and university administrators celebrated the opening of the Indiana University Research and Teaching Preserve's new Field Laboratory, an ecology and environmental sciences research station and classroom facility on the Bloomington campus. The field lab dedication was timed to coincide with Earth Day, April 22.

Field Laboratory

Photo by: Indiana University

The Field Laboratory on the IU Research & Teaching Preserve will be IU Bloomington's first "silver" LEED-certified structure

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Songwriter Carrie Newcomer studded the day's festivities, which included a tour of the new facility and grounds, and educational hikes on the preserve. The Field Laboratory will likely be designated IU Bloomington's first "silver" LEED-certified structure when the approval process is complete. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a certification program that uses nationally accepted benchmarks to assess the environmental friendliness of buildings and landscape projects.

"The field lab is the first of its kind in the university's history in many ways," said ecologist and Research and Teaching Preserve Director Keith Clay. "It will greatly improve faculty and student use of the preserve and support research and teaching in the environmental sciences in the preserve. And it is also an environmentally responsible building."

Of the materials used in the field lab's construction, 50 percent was procured locally and 17 percent was recycled.

Also attending the field lab opening were IU Bloomington Provost and Executive Vice President Karen Hanson, Vice Provost for Research Sarita Soni, Vice President Terry Clapacs, and Assistant Vice President and University Architect Bob Meadows, among others.

Research & Teaching Preserve grounds

Photo by: Indiana University

IU Bloomington biologist Dan Johnson (right) leads a nature walk as IU Assistant Vice President for Real Estate and Economic Development Lynn Coyne (left) and others listen

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The first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, was an American event intended to bring attention to national and global environmental issues, with particular emphasis on sustainability. The field lab and the IU Research and Teaching Preserve are examples of modern sustainability -- to protect the natural habitats comprising the preserve, university leaders identified uses for the land that ensure its conservation.

"Earth Day gives us a chance to reflect on the progress we've made in protecting natural resources, and also looking at what we haven't done yet," said Jenna Morrison, a master's student in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs and the preserve's graduate research assistant. "What we need to do in the future is be responsible stewards of the resources we have. That's exactly what IU is doing now, with the preserve, the field lab, the new sustainability task force, and other initiatives."

Bill Brown, an Indianapolis-based architect who is known for his work on "green" buildings, was named IU Bloomington's first director of sustainability in February. Brown spoke at yesterday's ceremony about IU's green approach to building and landscape design. Lead architect Bob Richardson described the specific green features of the field lab building.

The Field Laboratory, whose construction only began seven months ago, will be 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. It will be the first full-fledged research station in the university's possession.

"When fully up and running, the field lab will be extremely sophisticated," Clay said. "We're happy with the commitment IU has made here. The university research community is richer because of it."

One of the field lab's primary purposes is to help faculty and students procure grants. Funding agencies look favorably on projects that can be started and finished locally, because this reduces overall costs and may even make basic research in ecological or environmental sciences more reliable. The Research and Teaching Preserve has already helped attract more than $1.6 million in federal support.

"We have several grants now under review that will utilize the preserve and lab as significant resources," Clay said. "For example, one grant looks at how biofuel production affects the large-scale conversion of forest to ag-land. Another IU researcher is working with Yale University colleagues to study soil-root interactions."

In addition to laboratories, the field lab building has a multi-use classroom and associated teaching lab. It also has meeting rooms, offices and storage space. The field lab provides access to diverse habitats and ecosystems within the preserve, including University Lake, Griffy Creek and Griffy Lake. Already the preserve has hosted 48 IU classes on subjects ranging from evolutionary biology to search and rescue.

Clay said the Field Laboratory and the Research and Teaching Preserve will be available for scholarly uses ranging from science to art, but that interested IU faculty, staff, and students should first contact him or Jenna Morrison for scheduling information ( or 812-855-8742).

The Research and Teaching Preserve is a space dedicated to augmenting university research and teaching goals. The northwestern part of Griffy Woods is open and available for recreational hiking, but the southeastern portion of Griffy Woods around the Field Laboratory and University Lake is off limits to the general public. A map showing the off-limits area (purple) is viewable at

"It's a great space, and for that reason, we are victims of our own success," Clay said. "We have some concerns that hikers and others may interfere with scientific projects. The good news is, there are lots of great trails on the northwest part of the preserve or on the north side of Griffy Lake (City of Bloomington property) that people are most welcome to use."

The IU University Architect's Office assisted Turner Construction and WDI Architects in designing the Field Laboratory.

To speak with Keith Clay or Jenna Morrison, please contact David Bricker, University Communications, at 812-856-9035 or