Center Affiliate Assigned to Governor’s Wetland Taskforce

September 28, 2021

On Monday, September 20th, Governor Holcomb’s office released the official list of appointees to the Indiana Wetlands Taskforce as required by Senate Enrolled Act 389. The list includes a representative from Purdue’s Center for the Environment, Sara McMillan, Associate Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering(ABE) and convener of the Water Challenges research area.

The taskforce has been charged with advising policy makers regarding wetlands development and providing a report and recommendations to the governor by the end of November 2022. The focus of the legislation was the definition and regulation of Indiana wetlands, in particular, isolated wetlands, which are not directly connected to waters such as streams, rivers or lakes. 

McMillan’s research focuses on the impacts of humans on water quality and ecosystem function in agricultural and urban lands. She studies the transitions between land and water – wetlands, floodplains, and small streams. As she notes, “these ecosystems are often the most vulnerable to changing land use and climate but also provide important watershed scale services such as nutrient removal and flood storage.”

As an interdisciplinary researcher, she frequently collaborates with social scientists and ecologists to identify factors that contribute to healthy ecosystems and communities. It is in this spirit of collaboration that McMillan has worked with researchers, state employees and non-profit organizations around the state to bring attention to the science of how wetlands function to promote better understanding of why even isolated wetlands provide positive ecosystem services to the state, such as flood mitigation, water quality improvement through filtering, and the provision of important habitats for plants and animals as well as essential migration locations for numerous birds.

In February, McMillan worked with fellow Purdue faculty members and affiliates of the Center for the Environment, including professor Jane Frankenberger (ABE), assistant professor Jacob Hosen and professor Jason Hoverman (FNR), and professor Cliff Johnston (AGRO) to provide presentations through a virtual forum on the topic of Indiana Wetlands. She also worked with Jill Hoffman, executive director of the White River Alliance and Dr. Indra Frank, Environmental Health Director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, to organize the overall event.

The Center, led by faculty in the water challenges signature research area, is currently working with both organizations to host a follow up event, Virtual forum on IN Wetlands II: Where Are We Now?, which will take place on Tuesday, October 5th, from 3:00-5:30 PM. This event will feature three speakers from Purdue: Sara McMillan and Jacob Hosen, as well as Tyler Hoskins, a post-doctoral researcher in the laboratory of Marisol Sepúlveda. Registration for this virtual event is available here.

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