College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Center for Urban  Ecology

CUE Projects

The CUE provides an organizational framework to support and enhance the current research activities and interests of Butler faculty and students in the area of urban ecology. CUE student interns participate in all aspects of urban ecological research including research design, data collection, data analysis, and the dissemination of research findings.

Rain Barrel and Cistern Project

In Fall 2009 the CUE was awarded a grant from United Water to implement its Rain Barrel and Cistern Project. The project will install rain barrels at six sites in Indianapolis, and collect samples from those sites, as well as 20 other sites that already have rain barrels or cisterns. The project will be examining the water quality in the barrels. Additionally, the project will generate a "micro-green infrastructure" map for the entire city.

Urban Turtle Ecology Research Project (UTERP)

During the 2009 field season, we investigated the occurrence of turtles in retention ponds throughout northern Indianapolis. A visual survey of nearly 70 retention ponds and other small ponds and lakes showed more than half (57%) were inhabited by at least one of six species of turtles. The distance between streams, rivers, lakes, and other sources of new turtle population and the size of the pond influenced occupancy, with larger ponds that are closer to a source being more likely to be inhabited. We found that in general, the density of turtles in the retention ponds is less than that of the Central Canal where we have conducted more extensive studies.

Window Strike Project

Every year during the fall and spring neo-tropical bird migration, many birds collide with windows around campus. Some birds are stunned, but for many of the birds, the result is death. The CUE began conducting a study in the Fall of 2009 concerning these window strikes.  We are now partnering with Lights Out Indy and will continue to conduct this study into the spring of 2012.

How to help:

  • If you find a dead bird, please collect the specimen, please do not throw it away. The specimen can be placed in a plastic bag, or a small box, disposable cup, etc.
  • Please note the location it was found and the date.
  • Bring the bird to the CUE, Gallahue Hall, Room 68, x6505. The specimens will be identified and possibly stored.

What to do if you find a 'stunned' bird: A stunned bird is one that appears dazed, is sitting on the ground and not flying away.

  • The bird should be gently moved and placed in a shady, quiet spot nearby. In many instances when it is approached it will fly away.
  • If possible, please notify the CUE where it was observed and the date.
  • Please provide as much information as possible (general size of bird, color, etc.).

Urban Squirrel Ecology Research Project (USERP)

In 2009, we continued our long-term monitoring of urban tree squirrel populations living on and around the Butler campus. The summer of 2009 marked the seventh year of data collection through live-trapping. We recorded 111 captures of fox (Sciurus niger) and 24 captures of Eastern gray (S. carolinensis) squirrels from Butler's campus and 57 captures of fox squirrels at Eagle Creek Park. These data will add to a multi-year dataset to help elucidate the population dynamics of tree squirrels living within a suburban/urban landscape. We also extracted DNA from hair samples collected from over 100 individuals to get a first look at the genetic diversity within these populations. Finally, we are also currently surveying residential areas around campus to estimate squirrel leaf nest abundance and distribution. Our hope is that through genetic analyses and an examination of leaf nest distributions we will shed new light on how these ubiquitous species have responded over time to an increasingly fragmented and disturbed urban landscape.

Shortridge Magnet School

The CUE is working closely with Indianapolis Public Schools' Shortridge Magnet School for Law and Public Policy. Staff and Faculty at the CUE have forged partnerships with Shortridge science faculty, to develop experiential learning opportunities and  outdoor learning experiences. During a tour of the Shortridge school last year, we learned that they have a greenhouse on campus. One of our initiatives is to help Shortridge get their greenhouse up and working.  Shortidge is also one of our rain barrel installation sites for the United Water grant.  Shortridge students will assist CUE interns in installing the rain barrels and monitoring water quality.

Urban Ecology Monitoring Projects

The CUE has participated in monitoring projects since its formal establishment. Ongoing campus monitoring projects that have helped to restore and steward the Butler Campus include the Bluebird Nestbox Project, Hoosier Riverwatch and Monarch Watch.

The CUE is currently assisting Keep Indianapolis Beautiful and their I-70 "A Greener Welcome" project. CUE staff and faculty will be monitoring four of the restoration sites over the next three years.

  The CUE is also working with the St. Clair Place neighborhood and monitoring a section of the neighborhood that will be converted to urban agriculture.