Category Archives: Our History

ERC Partnership Facilitates Experiential Study of Environmental Sociology in Blackford County

Dr. Sherrie Steiner, Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology at IPFW
Dr. Sherrie Steiner, Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology at IPFW

The ERC is assisting professor Sherrie Steiner and her Environmental Sociology students to produce maps of industrial sites and environmental hazards in Blackford County, 50 miles south of Fort Wayne. According to the 2013 County Health Rankings, Blackford County ranks 89 out of 92 for Health Outcomes.  In particular, residents suffer from elevated rates of certain cancers and neurologic diseases.  Residents formed Blackford County Concerned Citizens in 1999 over concerns about the county’s rates of cancer and neurological illnesses with a desire to improve the quality of life through citizen action to investigate the diseases that are prevalent and by advocating to have these diseases investigated.  They recently partnered with Hoosier Environmental Council to assess the environmental health risks in the area.

There is a substantial industrial history in Blackford County beginning with the 1880s oil and gas boom.  This has raised questions of whether there might be links between health and environmental conditions.  With the assistance of the ERC, Steiner’s environmental sociology students will begin the process of mapping the industrial legacy of Blackford County.  Using ArcGIS software, students will create a series of maps that depict the location of various industries over time, their industrial legacy, and the current buildings on those industrial sites.

“The mapping expertise that the university brings to this project are a tremendous benefit for the community,” said Dr. Indra Frank, the Hoosier Environmental Council’s environmental health project director.  “This will help us have a clearer picture of possible environmental hazards.”

“This project has been collaboratively designed and implemented with our community partners,” said Sherrie Steiner, Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology at IPFW.  “I am hoping that this experience will strengthen a sense of civic responsibility and personal efficacy within students and among members of the community as pertains to environmental engagement.”

Steiner’s unique class is made possible through the collaborative community efforts of Blackford County Concerned Citizens, Blackford County Historical Society, and Hoosier Environmental Council.  This service learning course is made possible by the generous support from Indiana Campus Compact with matching funds from the IPFW Sociology Department.  Opinions or points of view expressed here do not necessarily reflect the official position of Indiana Campus Compact.

Blackford County Historical Society, where students are researching local industrial history. Source: Sherrie Steiner.

ERC starts email subscription list for e-Newsletter, etc.

Hello –

With an apology to those who are getting this message in multiple ways (sorry), I want to point out the new link below (left) to the sign up for our email subscription list.

We will use this list to provide updates about our activities, periodic e-newsletters, upcoming events, environmentally related activities of others that we think might be of interest you, and opportunities to contribute.

I anticipate that we might send several messages per month, so traffic will not be great. And our subscription list will not be shared outside of the ERC.

You can also go to to sign up if you prefer.

Please forward this information to anyone you think would be interested, and please let me know if you hit any glitches so I can fix them!!

Bruce Kingsbury, Director

Central Indiana Old Growth Forest to be Protected

One of the few remaining old-growth forest patches in Indiana is now being protected in partnership with the Central Indiana Land Trust. The property is home to a 400+ year old bur oak and the tallest black ash tree in Indiana at over 100 feet. The patch has been owned by the Meltzer family since 1857 and it has never been logged. The property is near Shelbyville, IN and will be named “Meltzer’s Woods”. It will be open to the public starting in 2016 and is a 30 minute drive southeast from Indianapolis. See the article for more information on the story of the property, the family that owned it for over 150 years, and photos of some its amazing resident trees.


Photo: Mike Fender, IndyStar news