News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 18, 2008

Series tracing the changing faces of Indiana’s landscape


TERRE HAUTE — A four-part series tracing the changing faces of Indiana’s landscape and based upon an Indiana State University emeritus professor’s book is set to begin airing Sunday on WFYI-TV (Channel 20), the Public Broadcasting Service member station in Indianapolis.

The documentaries follow the changing face of the Indiana landscape from ancient times to man’s arrival, using a book edited by Marion Jackson, ISU emeritus professor of life sciences, as a guide.

“It’s quite exciting and interesting,” Jackson said about the documentary filming. “When we came up with the book 10 years ago, we never guessed we’d have all this stir about it.”

That book, “Natural Heritage of Indiana,” entered its third printing in February. As editor, Jackson pulled together 37 authors’ essays and chapters as well as more than 40 photographs.

For more than 20 years, Jackson has worked closely with The Nature Conservancy, the Indiana Natural Heritage Program and the Indiana Division of Nature Preserves in inventorying the locations and habitat conditions of rare, threatened and endangered species of plants and animals of Indiana. These collaborations have focused on natural area research and protection strategies for vulnerable habitats and species.

For the past two years, documentary filmmaker Samuel Orr has traveled around Indiana shooting footage, including many plant and animal species, to bring the book to television.

“This was really WFYI’s brainchild,” Jackson said. “They came to Terre Haute to talk about the possibilities and how to put it together.”

Tom Sauer, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at ISU, said, “ISU is proud that professor Jackson was a distinguished member of our faculty for 38 years, and we are thrilled that the new documentary will bring his name and the work he did at ISU to the attention of Hoosiers throughout the state. The documentary will help us celebrate our heritage and also consider our future, which depends on our ability to, in professor Jackson’s words, ‘enter into a willing partnership with the Indiana that nurtures us’.”

The first episode, “The Indiana That Was,” is scheduled to air at 7 p.m. today. It was originally broadcast in late 2007. That episode was recognized by the Indiana Society of Professional Journalists as one of the best documentaries of 2007 and it received two Emmy nominations. This rebroadcast features new material. From ancient seas and coral reefs, to Ice-Age glaciations, this program will explore the massive changes in Indiana’s landscape, as well as the flora and fauna that developed over these periods.

The second episode, titled “Life in the Water,” is scheduled to air at 7 p.m. Sept. 28. It focuses on Indiana’s two great water systems — Lake Michigan and the Ohio River. The documentary takes viewers into water habitats throughout the state looking from a microscopic level to prehistoric-looking fish.

“Life on Land,” the third episode, is scheduled to run at 7 p.m. Oct. 5. This show will explore the diversity of plant and animal life in the state’s forest and caves. It will include the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly and its migration from Indiana to Mexico.

Episode four, “A Changing Landscape,” is set to air at 7 p.m. on Oct. 12. It will focus on humans’ impact upon the Indiana landscape and the consequences to the native systems. This episode will feature stories of hope with conservation and the return of species that had been driven out.

The series is sponsored by ISU, Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, The Nature Conservancy, the Efroymson Family Fund, a Central Indiana Community Foundation fund, the Indiana Academy of Science, the Indiana Natural Resources Foundation and the Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society.