Topics: College of Sciences and Humanities, College of Architecture and Planning

March 11, 2007

Nine Ball State students will explore the Alaskan wilderness and research environmental issues and landmarks as part of a three-week study beginning May 12.

Participants will meet with government agencies and attend seminars about resource use and conservation. They will also tour Prince William Sound, observe gold mining sites and explore national parks and archaeological sites. In addition, the students will board boats to observe glacial and geological processes along Alaska's southern coast.

"The goals of the study are to expose the students to resource management efforts, acquaint them with a different culture and provide them with an opportunity to integrate personal observations into an interdisciplinary academic experience," said John Pichtel, a Ball State professor of natural resources.

Junior JoAnne Davis, a wildlife biology major, said she has always wanted to go to Alaska and the three-week field study will afford her the perfect opportunity. Interested in working for the Department of Natural Resources or the National Park Service, she hopes to talk to professionals and look into different job opportunities.

"I have heard so much about Alaska's pristine beauty that I could not pass up such a great opportunity," Davis said. "I will be able to see what area I really want to get into."

Senior Shannon Forry, a landscape architecture major, also hopes to use the experience to explore her career ambitions.

"My future goals as a landscape architect deal with creating and preserving landscape designs for future generations to enjoy," Forry said. "By going on this trip, I hope to strengthen my knowledge of conservation and resource management so I can apply it to my future designs."

As part of the study, students are required to select an area of expertise that they research prior to the trip. An operational meteorology and climatology major, Ball State junior Jason Berry plans to concentrate on climate change.

"What I am looking forward to most is touring areas of permafrost and visiting Kenai Fjords National Park, home of Exit Glacier, which is said to be receding due to its climate change," Berry said. "By visiting these areas and conducting independent research, I hope to learn more about the natural causes and localized effects behind climate change."

After his research concludes, Berry plans to publish the results in a report.

Pichtel said this field study provides participants an intensive look at natural resources and environmental management issues.

"This kind of interaction cannot be gained from being in a classroom or reading a text," he said. "This is the sixth field study to Alaska that I have led. Students have consistently had powerful experiences from this trip."

Students participating include:

  • Jason Berry, junior from Defiance, Ohio, majoring in operational meteorology and climatology 
  • JoAnne Davis, a junior from Martinsville, Ind., majoring in wildlife biology
  • Shannon Forry, a senior from Hamilton, Ohio, majoring in landscape architecture
  • Katrina McKinley, a sophomore from Indianapolis, Ind., majoring in environmental communication and interpretation and park and recreation management
  • Tristen Moe, a junior from Brownsburg, Ind., majoring in land management
  • Cory Murphy, a freshman from Granger, Ind., majoring in environmental management
  • Kyle Peterson, a sophomore from Mt. Prospect, Ill., majoring in land management
  • Casey Smith, a senior from Muncie, Ind., majoring environmental management
  • James Vittetau, a senior from Carmel, Ind., majoring in history

By Jennifer Strempka