ISU plans events for 38th annual Earth Day

April 17 2008

TERRE HAUTE - Indiana State University has planned a series of events from assessing trees to hearing an expert speak on climate change, to celebrate the 38th annual Earth Day on April 22.

“Celebrating Earth Day helps remind us that we are stewards of the planet and we should do as much as possible to minimize our footprint,” said Rusty Gonser, assistant professor.

To that end, Indiana State students will perform a tree assessment for the Farrington Grove Historic District in Terre Haute on Saturday (April 19). Students will be meeting at 1200 S. Sixth Street at 9 a.m. for the activity, which is coordinated with the city of Terre Haute, and is funded by the Lilly Endowment. This will be the first area of the city to be updated. The last tree inventory occurred in 2003, when the entire city was surveyed.

“In January of 2008, the historic district completed a new strategic plan for the area that will serve as a guide to the district’s restoration and one of the things that the neighbors want to retain is a neighborhood of mature trees,” said Steven Pontius, professor of geography, geology and anthropology. “This makes the district more attractive and trees also help to keep the homes cooler in the summer.”

ISU students and members and Farrington Grove residents will conduct an inventory of the neighborhood tree rows. Another group, in the fall, will collect information about the width of the row, the presence of overhead wires and underground utilities, as well as identifying tree species, measurements and general health assessment of the trees. That information will be used to organize a future adopt-a-tree program.

“When the assessment is completed it will provide us with a good inventory of where additional trees need to be planted,” Pontius said.

Three trees will planted, in low-income housing, this fall as part of this project.

On Monday (April 21), the film “An Inconvenient Truth,” will be shown at the Cunningham Memorial Library in the events area. There will be a climate change panel discussion with Greg Bierly, director of the ISU Climate Laboratory and Honors Program; Brent Yarnal, professor of geography and director of the Center for Integrated Regional Assessment at Pennsylvania State University.; and John Oliver, ISU emeritus professor of geography.

Then at 4 p.m. on Tuesday (April 22), Yarnal will speak in Science 12 on “The Role of Universities in Climate Change Mitigation.” His research integrates climate change, natural hazards and land-use change and the use of environmental information in decision making. His current research focuses upon present and future hurricane storm surges in the coastal zone of Florida and greenhouse gas emissions inventories and planning their mitigation.

By watching the film and interacting with climate experts, Gonser said there is much that students and the public could learn.

“Students can see how they can make a difference in the world,” he said. “Keeping the planet clean is everybody’s responsibility. If everybody recycled, we would reduce the amount of waste tremendously.”

People could learn about recycling by looking to their past, he said.

“We should examine how the United States recycled during World War II,” he said. “I remember my grandparents telling stories how they made money by collecting junk and taking materials to recycling centers. As a country, we were organized for the war effort. Therefore, as a society we could adopt the same mindset in order to clean up the environment.”

Gonser pointed out that ISU backs recycling efforts.

“I don’t think many students or members of the community realize how progressive ISU is with their recycling program and the rest of the sustainability initiatives,” he said.

Those who want to attend the film and the lecture, which is free and open to the public, Gonser said it could be an opportunity for them to find out what steps they can take.

“They can learn more about global climate change and what they might be able to do to help mitigate the problem,” he said.


Contact: Rusty Gonser, Indiana State University, assistant professor of life sciences, at 812- 237-2395 or

Writer: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, assistant director of media relations, at 812-237-7972 or

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Indiana State University has planned a series of events from assessing trees to hearing an expert speak on climate change, to celebrate the 38th annual Earth Day on April 22.

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