May 9, 2016  

Purdue students work to ‘green’ the Bicentennial Torch Relay

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. —A team of Purdue University students is making sure the environmental issues of each county along the Bicentennial torch relay route aren’t left in the dust.

Three students working with the Environmental and Ecological Engineering in the College of Engineering are assembling environmental profiles for each of the state’s 92 counties along the 2,300-mile relay route.

Taisha Venort, a second-year master’s student in ecological sciences and engineering and agricultural and biological engineering, said the team’s goal is to increase environmental awareness among all Indiana residents.

“Very often, people live in a locality and don’t know of the characteristics of that region,” she said. “We felt it was important to highlight the environmental characteristics of each and every Indiana county along the torch route. We are providing such awareness by communicating the environmental features of each county as the torch moves from one to another.”

Jacob Widner, a second-year master’s student in ecological sciences and engineering and EEE, said the trio is working with Bicentennial Committee officials to determine the best delivery method for the profiles.

John W. Sutherland, the Fehsenfeld Family Head of Environmental and Ecological Engineering and professor of mechanical engineering, is overseeing the project work.

Monique Long, a then doctoral candidate in her final year, said EEE wanted to play a significant role in the Bicentennial torch relay by getting information out and stimulating public interest in the environmental features, challenges and improvement efforts in each county.

“When you become aware of something, you become invested,” she said. “Environmental awareness will bring about that interest in taking care of the environment.”

The environmental profiles offer information for each county in two-page packets that include details on conservation efforts, clean energy initiatives, endangered species and local environmental challenges.

Contact information for the Soil and Water Conservation District and visitor center/tourism bureau in each county also is included.

Students researched state and federal websites for the information and consulted with Earth Charter Indiana ( and the Wabash River Enhancement Corp. (

In addition to the torch relay, the project has long-term goals as well, with the collected information available for integration into the curriculum of middle schools throughout the state. The hope is the information will foster environmental awareness among younger generations.

Venort said children are sometimes more aware of their environment, something she hopes will be passed on to their parents and communities.

“Children in middle school are always more enthusiastic to learn and are, in general, more curious about what’s happening in their environment,” she said. “If we’re able to elevate such curiosity and facilitate access to information for these children in a way they can understand, then it is a great start.” 

Writer: Brian L. Huchel, 765-494-2084, 

Sources: Taisha Venort,

Monique Long,

Jacob Widner, 

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