By Marsha Jackson

EVANSVILLE, Ind. - The United Methodist related University of Evansville and Vectren announced this summer a new way for students at UE to study the environment. UE and Vectren have entered into a unique partnership in which Vectren is providing the use of 1,100 acres of land along the Wabash River just north of Griffin, Ind., in Gibson County.

"This outdoor learning environment made possible by Vectren will provide University of Evansville students with invaluable opportunities to study 'green' issues and positively impact the environment," said UE President Stephen Jennings. "We are grateful for Vectren's generosity to be able to use this large piece of land and are excited about the possibilities for our work with the environment."

Niel Ellerbrook, Vectren chairman, president and CEO, said, "Several months ago, the University approached us about the idea of an outdoor classroom for students in the environmental studies program; and after some deliberation, we believed we had the perfect setting in the Wabash Valley flood plains in Gibson County.

"We became excited about this opportunity, as it was apparent that we could play a role by providing a unique learning environment - where nature and knowledge are combined. It is my honor to inform you today, the 'doors' are open at the 1,100-acre classroom that has been named: The Vectren Conservation Park, University of Evansville Environmental Research Lab."

Arlen Kaufman, director of the Environmental Studies Program and associate professor of chemistry at UE, said the land will directly affect the studies of UE students in the sciences, particularly those in the environmental studies program, but it will also eventually be a location for study for students across the disciplines.

Cris Hochwender, associate professor of biology and environmental science, along with three students, have already begun surveying the plant diversity on the land. Soon, they hope to start restoring parts of the site to native wetland meadow. "We want to try to create some restored prairie with native grasses," Hochwender said.

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Marsha Jackson serves as the news director at the University of Evansville.