After a year on hiatus, the Natural Heritage of Indiana returns to the small screen on Sept. 21, with the first of a four-part series on WFYI-TV, Channel 20.
The first episode, The Indiana That Was, aired about a year ago. Since then, award-winning, freelance producer-photographer Sam Orr has been developing three new episodes.
The series is based on the book The Natural Heritage of Indiana , edited by Marion Jackson, a retired ecology professor from Indiana State University. Originally published about 11 years ago, the book was reissued earlier this year by Indiana University Press.
The first episode features a breath-taking aerial tour of old-growth forests through Southern Indiana, where a canopy of oak, maple, ash, beech and other trees covers the landscape for as far as the eye can see. This must have been what Indiana was like just a few hundred years ago.
The series illustrates the incredible and indelible changes of the state’s natural heritage. In the last 200 years alone, millions of acres were turned into some of the most productive farmland in the world, the shores of the Ohio and Lake Michigan became industrial powerhouses and cities and towns took shape on the landscape.
“It’s surprising to me the amount and beauty of the natural landscape left,” said Jackson in a recent interview. The retired professor grew up on his family’s farm in Ripley County, a portion of which is part of Versailles State Park.
He credits state, federal, private or not-for-profit owners, such as the Nature Conservancy, for the preservation and protection of many of Indiana’s remaining natural remnants. Among the highlights are Turkey Run and Shades state parks, cliffs in southern Indiana, and woodlands and rugged areas where few people go, Jackson said.
Through photography, animation and a beautiful narration by Yael Ksander of Indiana University, the state’s natural heritage unfolds before our eyes. Besides its entertainment value, the series and book have broad educational applications, from Indiana history to archaeology, paleontology, geology, geography, botany and more.