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CEES Makes a Splash at the Earth Day Indiana Festival

Guest blog submitted by IUPUI undergraduate, Jacki Renforth (, a Senior in the Communications Studies Program.  Jacki's news story, which focuses on environmental initiatives at IUPUI and the Earth Day Indiana Festival, is a part of her course final project in J200 - Reporting, Writing, and Editing.

Earth Day is over, but not for the IUPUI Center for Earth and Environmental Science staff and volunteers.

More than 100 vendors came out to this year’s Earth Day Indiana Festival to educate and celebrate sustainability and going green, including the Center for Earth and Environmental Science, also known as CEES. The organization treats most days like Earth Day. CEES has multiple educational programs, events, and service learning projects they host throughout the entire year; they also test the water quality of Eagle Creek Reservoir, which is our major source of drinking water for the Indianapolis area. CEES is always actively participating in educational outreach. When one program ends, another begins.

CEES staff and interns are excited for the Earth Day Indiana Festival!
Pictured (left to right): Jacob Burch, Elizabeth Johnson, and Nick Jenshak

Assistant Director of CEES, Jessica Davis, says when she was a kid she had a love for wildlife and wanted to be a veterinarian. She knew from a young age she wanted to make a difference. As an adult, Davis lived in Africa for some time where she worked with big game wildlife and monitored their health.

“While monitoring their health I realized there was no preventative medicine for these animals, their health issues were just a symptom of larger problems,” Davis said. She soon realized to make the difference she wanted to make, she would have to start at the root of the problem to fix it. When Davis returned to the States, she pursued graduate studies in Ecology at the University of Dayton, which reinforced her systems thinking - remove one problem and it will impact the rest of the planet’s ecosystems.

“Environmental issues impact everyone. The economy is dependent on the environment, society is dependent on the environment, and existence depends on the environment. We need a thriving ecosystem for these to be a success,” Davis said. “People don’t act because they don’t know; if you present the information, people can make informed decisions,” she said.

Elizabeth Johnson, Education Outreach Coordinator for CEES, said when there are events such as Earth Day Indiana Festival, CEES tries to have a presence. At this year’s event Johnson, Davis, and two CEES interns Jacob Burch and Nick Jenshak, had set up a mobile table, which demonstrated soil erosion. As festival goers stopped at the table, the four were able to explain issues that soil erosion poses on the environment.

“My favorite part of volunteering is taking stuff that I’ve learned, relating it to volunteer work, and simplifying it down for people to understand,” Burch said. “People don’t know about it, and telling people is what is important. You feel you owe it to others to inform them.”

CEES Education Interns, Nick Jenshack (left - red jacket) and Jacob Burch (right - black shirt), demonstrate how water moves through the landscape, causing erosion and deposition, to Earth Day Indiana attendees.

Throughout the IUPUI school year, CEES organizes service learning projects, where students can volunteer their time to help. CEES tries to incorporate service learning projects, which go hand in hand with student classes. Faculty sometimes will give extra credit opportunities for students to attend these projects especially if they coincide with the class. According to Davis, there is a much larger student body getting involved after students come to one service learning project for a class. They want to continue their volunteer work.

As the IUPUI academic calendar comes to an end, CEES’ mobile trailer technology program starts up. CEES takes a mobile trailer around to different schools in the Indianapolis area, teaching science to kids who might not have the funds or proper materials needed for science education. They do this for free. According to Johnson, schools sometimes focus on language arts and math for ISTEP testing, and science can get pushed aside. Kids are able to use some of the latest technology to interact with, and test soil samples and water quality. Kids get a hands-on learning experience that can make science fun.

According to Davis, CEES wants to increase people's awareness of the Center and wants people to understand the issues of water quality and how people can make a difference on their own. Davis and Johnson both mentioned a few examples, which people can engage to do a part to make a difference such as: turning off lights when you leave a room, bike to work or class, go to events to learn and make connections, compost, reduce, reuse, recycle, and being creative with the items you have in your home.

For more information on what CEES, what they do and how you can get involved with service learning projects please visit their website at

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