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Keith Clay
IU Teaching and Research Preserve

Lauren J. Bryant
Office of Vice Provost for Research

Last modified: Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Next-generation environmental science center launches at IU

April 16, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- There's not much good news associated with global warming, but Indiana University's new Center for Research in Environmental Sciences (CRES) is an exception.

Located at Indiana University Bloomington, CRES is bringing together scientists from anthropology, biology, chemistry, geography, geology, physics, informatics and public and environmental affairs to tackle environmental science issues such as rapid climate change, renewable energy resources, adequate water supply, ecosystem dynamics and the prediction and/or mitigation of natural disasters.

Keith Clay

Keith Clay, professor of biology and director of the IU Teaching and Research Preserve, will lead IU's Center for Research in Environmental Sciences.

Print-Quality Photo

As our nation's problems of sustainability loom large, centers like CRES are emerging around the country. In a December 2007 article "A Threat So Big, Academics Try Collaboration," the New York Times pointed out that the threat of global warming is spurring numerous institutions to establish centers in which professors from different disciplines can collaborate on analyzing environmental problems and developing effective environmental policy. Centers similar to CRES have been established at Rochester Institute of Technology, Yale, University of Tennessee and University of California at Berkeley, among others.

At IU, CRES will foster collaboration among researchers from the full spectrum of scientific disciplines, providing a supportive environment for multidisciplinary research. Drawing on well-established IU resources such as the second-ranked School of Public and Environmental Affairs, the 1,200-acre IU Research and Teaching Preserve, and seven highly ranked academic units on the IU Bloomington campus, and as well as interactions with other IU centers and institutes, CRES will enable investigators to focus on a broad range of complicated environmental problems and their consequences for natural and human systems.

"The establishment of the Center for Research in Environmental Sciences is an important milestone," says Sarita Soni, IU Vice Provost for Research. "The university has many strong and growing programs related to environmental science, and this major investment in infrastructure will bring together complementary intellectual areas to enhance IU investigators' capability and competitiveness to address important societal questions. I am excited about the possibilities that CRES presents to our faculty."

CRES research

IU students are performing research at the IU Teaching and Research Preserve.

Indiana University has a national reputation for field-based research, especially in the environmental sciences, says Keith Clay, professor of biology and director of the IU Teaching and Research Preserve, who will lead CRES.

"Investing in the formation of a campus-wide center will help IU Bloomington attract and retain more leading faculty and graduate students in our core areas of strength."

Karen Hanson, IU Bloomington provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, said the center will make IU Bloomington more competitive at the national level by utilizing and building upon the expertise of more than 40 scientists in seven campus academic units.

"It will provide some much-needed infrastructure to help our faculty as they compete for major research funding," she said. "Moreover, this campus is deeply concerned with problems of sustainability. The establishment of CRES shows one of the ways in which we channel that concern into fundamental research. The mission of CRES is central to progress in scientific understanding that will be important to the well-being of us all. CRES will help us address some of the most pressing challenges in environmental sciences."

Initially, the CRES investigators have six key goals:

  • Serve as a coordinator for environmental programs and training and a clearinghouse for existing resources in environmental sciences across campus
  • Develop workshops in areas of environmental sciences that will stimulate further research activity
  • Support visiting scholars and speakers
  • Coordinate and collaborate with programs in environmental science at IUPUI, Notre Dame, Purdue, and other regional institutions
  • Provide selective support for innovative projects involving teams of investigators representing diverse schools and departments
  • Provide funding to support critical infrastructure such as equipment and instruments

The unintended consequences of human-caused environmental changes may represent one of society's biggest challenges in the 21st century, and the major goal for CRES is to generate solutions to these challenges.

CRES is a campus center and will report to the Vice Provost for Research. The director of CRES, Keith Clay, has been supported over the years by a range of federal agencies including NIH, NSF, USDA and USFS. Clay has worked on a variety of recent projects including microbial interactions in ticks and grasses, soil-borne pathogens in forest ecosystems, dynamics of invasive plants, and the emergence of Brood X periodical cicadas in 2004.