Indiana State University Newsroom

Students design trail aimed at environmental sustainability

February 3, 2014

Two Indiana State University students have worked with one of their professors to help the Lost Creek Conservation Club better serve its members while also addressing concerns about wildlife habitat.

Established in 1934 to promote proper conservation practices, the club, located near Seelyville, faced a situation last year when the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) spotted serious concerns in habitat management.

Kuntal Bhattacharyya, assistant professor of operations and supply chain management in Indiana State University's Scott College of Business, and Wayne Langman, vice president of the club, met to arrange a partnership to satisfy the state's requirements.

"Upon looking at DNR's concerns, I thought about what could be done to enhance more species in the area, and build a kind of habitat that people could enjoy," Bhattacharyya said. "The idea of a walking trail within the club seemed to provide an interactive way of bringing people close to nature and offered a ‘win-win' solution to all. It will take care of DNR's needs and make a more enjoyable club for members."

To assist with the design, Bhattacharyya recruited two operations and supply chain management majors from the department's honors program: Ashley Borhart, a sophomore from Marengo, Ill. and Kathryn Balch, a senior from Covington.

"Being involved with the project is building very good experience while I am still enrolled in school, and after I graduate," Borhart said. "I am developing experience that will help with jobs and sharpening my skills."

The students traveled to the club throughout the fall semester to scope out the landscape and to learn about members' wants via a survey prioritizing the importance of each aspect - including accessibility, vigilance, natural beauty and cost.

Each student used information from the surveys to create two unique trail designs, including sign placement, benches, a bridge, garbage and recycling bins, viewing areas and cost estimate. The club selected Borhart's design and she presented it to members in December.

"ISU's stepping into the project has been a godsend for us at the club," Langman said. "It saved us money, they have given us plenty of information about their plans, and I really hope it gets done. Some of the members were skeptical at first, but after the presentation, they were pleasantly surprised."

The trail will serve as a maintenance path that will create more open spaces and food plots for wildlife. It will also make spotting evidence from poachers easier, the students said.

Though Bhattacharyya said "the meat of the work is done," he believes the project would be a valuable asset to present at upcoming conferences.

"We are presenting our work at the Midwest Decision Sciences Institute in Chicago, and writing a research paper to be presented at the end of May at the International Conference of Arts and Sciences," Bhattacharyya said.

Club members will give a presentation to DNR in hopes the state agency will help with grants to fund the project. If all goes well, club members plan on completing the project this summer.

"ISU prides itself in experiential learning and community engagement," Bhattacharyya said. "This project brings both pieces of the puzzle together."

Both students think experiential learning and community engagement should be in every college's curriculum.

"This whole project is very exciting since it is tangible," Balch said. "If employers ask me if I have any experience with probabilistic models, I'll tell them that if I can apply it to designing a walking trail, I can do it with anything."

Photo: - Indiana State University students Ashley Borhart (left) and Kathryn Balch discuss plans for a new trail at Lost Creek Conservation Club with Wayne Langman, the club's vice president.

Contact: Kuntal Bhattacharyya, assistant professor of operations and supply chain management, Scott College of Business, Indiana State University, 812-237-2118 or

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