Indiana University announced a $55 million research partnership Wednesday.
The Prepared for Environmental Change initiative aims to find actionable solutions to environmental threats facing Indiana businesses and communities.
Indiana University President Michael McRobbie says Hoosiers must prepare for these already ongoing threats.
“The failure to understand, predict, and adapt to environmental change could threaten the vitality of Hoosier business, agriculture, jobs, and physical well-being,” McRobbie says.
For example, extreme weather events, which scientists predict will occur more frequently in the near future, cost Indiana more than $6 billion over the last five years.
The initiative brings together researchers, community partners, and businesses -- including Cummins, the Columbus-based engine manufacturer. Brian Mormino, the company’s executive director for environmental strategy and compliance, says environmental changes are a real risk to Cummins.
“This data that comes from this and the tools that they’re going to provide and the collaboration really give us that information that we need to be sustainable for the long term,” Mormino says.
IU biology professor Ellen Ketterson is the lead scientist on the project. She says, initially, the partnership will focus on data collection, to better understand how the climate is changing and where different species of plants and animals are migrating.
But “it’s not enough just to collect data,” says Ketterson. That’s why the team includes social scientists and policy experts.
“We’ll be able to make the most of the natural history data that we get to facilitate responses on the parts of communities,” says Ketterson.
So by better understanding, for example, the frequency of natural disasters like floods, says Ketterson, communities can engineer solutions to handle excessive runoff and improve water quality.
IU says the project will get under way as early as this summer, when researchers begin the data collection process.
The partnership is IU’s second Grand Challenge initiative, a $300 million program launched last year.