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.