Indiana State University Newsroom

Wildlife sanctuary is outdoor classroom for Indiana State students

October 26, 2012

On a cool and breezy Saturday morning, students in Environment 110 classes at Indiana State University loaded onto two coach buses for a drive that ended on a gravel road a short distance from ISU's campus at Wabashiki State Fish and Wildlife Area.

As they got off the busses the wind created ripples in the water and caused trees to sway. On this day, the wildlife sanctuary provided students with a 43-thousand-acre classroom along the west bank of the Wabash River.

"The fact that we have such a large, contiguous, natural area just a few miles from campus is often ignored by Sycamores, and the class field trip helps students connect their local environment and the community in a different way," said Stephen Aldrich, assistant professor of earth and environmental systems.

Students split into groups and collected data from soil and trees, mapped invasive species and checked water quality.

"We are taking soil samples around the preservation and we are trying to prove our hypothesis, which is soil fertility decreases as depth increases," said Henry Kroll, a sophomore business major from Munster, Ind.

Blake Byers, a senior in operational supply chain management from Bloomfield, Ind., explained that the students were testing the soil's texture, acid level and the levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

"I get educated on things that I don't really know about," Byers said,

"The Environment 110 field trip can help students learn that collecting scientific data can be very involved, complicated, difficult and yet fun simultaneously," said Aldrich. "The field trip helps students realize that a big hurdle that a scientist faces in addressing big problems like climate change or overfishing is a lack of good data, and the difficulty in getting good data. The other thing the field trip helps students learn is that even a heavily used environment, like the Wabashiki, has plenty to offer in terms of habitat for animals, ecosystem services and even recreation opportunities."

The outdoor classroom experience plays a role in how students can tie in class concepts to experiences had at Wabashiki.

"Actually coming out here, I feel like you remember a lot more than just doing a procedure in class," said Lindsey Meyer a sophomore art education major from Brazil, Ind




Photo: - Jeffery Stone, assistant professor of environmental geosciences at Indiana State University, demonstrates a Van Dorn water collector for students during an Oct. 20, 2012 visit to Wabashiki State Fish and Wildlife Area. The device allows for collection of water from well below the surface. (ISU/Rachel Keyes)

Photo: - Jase Hixson of Paris, Ill., a senior earth and environmental systems major at Indiana State University, uses a field microscope in an effort to identify micro-organisms from water samples taken from a pond at Wabashiki State Fish and Wildlife Area Oct. 20, 2012 (ISU/Rachel Keyes)

Contact: Stephen Aldrich, assistant professor, earth and environmental systems, Indiana State University, 812-237-2258 or

Writer: Sarina Bayer, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3773 or