Understanding the impact of environmental change

Making Indiana more resilient in the face of environmental change

In 2018, revenue from corn and soybean yields totaled more than $6.5 billion in Indiana. But if climate conditions continue to worsen, some research estimates that corn and soybean production in the Midwest could decrease by as much as 25 percent or more by mid-century.

Rising temperatures and severe storms are increasing across Indiana, such as the persistent and intense rain and flooding during spring 2019 that substantially delayed planting, damaged the livelihoods of countless farmers, and threatened the vitality of our state.

Facing these kinds of threats demands active collaboration from Indiana businesses, policymakers, and community organizations. It also requires the resources and leadership to deliver solutions that protect Indiana’s economy, health, and livelihood.

Answering this need led IU to partner with Cummins Inc., Citizens Energy, and the Nature Conservancy to launch one of the nation’s most comprehensive efforts to prepare for the effects of environmental change. Led by a team of IU researchers from across the university, the Prepared for Environmental Change Grand Challenge initiative is the second project announced under IU’s Grand Challenges program.

As part of that Grand Challenge, 11 research fellows from across the world are working together at IU’s Environmental Resilience Institute to understand the myriad of impacts environmental change is having on Indiana. With expertise in the scientific, sociological, legal, historical, and artistic challenges of climate change, these researchers are producing insights that can quickly translate into actionable steps for Hoosiers across our state.

Alex Jahn

Alex is helping create “forecasting systems” that will help Indiana residents predict the future of the state under varying climate and urbanization conditions. Through combining his study of the migratory patterns of American robins with the work of ERI colleagues on the spread of Lyme disease, Jahn is identifying the impact environmental change has on people, including the risks to human health and food security.

Tara Smiley

Tara's research is making predictions that will help protect “linchpin species” in Indiana, whose loss would create the greatest negative effects on the environment. Through tracking naturally-occurring chemical signals found in the environment, she is able to monitor animals’ diets and migratory patterns. She is then able to apply her findings to Indiana animals’ current vulnerability to climate change and assist in future conservation efforts.


Adam Fudickar

Adam, in collaboration with the IU School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, is applying cutting-edge technology to create new sensors that monitor the movement of birds across the state. These sensors, including lightweight accelerometers, are safely affixed to birds allowing him to study the changes in migration and reproduction patterns as they relate to the changing environment.

Ranjan Muthukrishnan

Ranjan's research explores the short- and long-term effects of invasive species management strategies and Hoosiers’ psychological attitudes towards them and nature as a whole. His work involves collecting physical samples in the field and creating mathematical models to understand management strategies. He is also interested in the difference in attitudes on invasive species verses issues such as pollution and climate change.