Humans have extensively modified the hydroscape and landscape of Indiana to produce the food, fuel, and fiber necessary for modern society, altering the environment over centuries from the scale of individual farms to entire river basins. Observers can see the results of these modifications, but relatively little is known about the actions that created them.
Documentation of the human changes that created Indiana’s current hydroscape and landscape is scattered across a wide range of sources, from General Land Office surveys to state legislation authorizing and funding the drainage of swamps. A team led by IU Associate Professor Rebecca Lave and postdoctoral researcher John Baeten is working to acquire, digitize, and map these archival materials in a publicly accessible historical geographic information system.
To conduct this work, the team has established an interdisciplinary research hub, the Historical Landscapes Laboratory, focused on the environmental and spatial history of Indiana. Lab members include undergraduate research assistants who are trained to identify, analyze, and integrate historical data into geospatial applications.