From Vacant Lots to Pollinator Gardens

May 2, 2016 / By: Karen Lally, SCP Intern

This semester Chip Small's Environmental Problem Solving (ESCI 310) class is partnering with the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (MWMO) to examine pollinator habitat. In recent years, the alarming decline of bee populations in Minnesota has become a hotly discussed issue among local residents and ecologists. Because of this, MWMO is interested in possibilities for converting vacant lots in their district to pollinator gardens for bees and other pollinator species as well as encouraging residents to plant pollinator gardens. The students in Environmental Problem Solving’s pollinator team are utilizing both literature sources and GIS mapping software to determine the optimal space and distribution of pollinator gardens, considering factors such as size of- and distance between- the gardens, foraging behaviors of each MN pollinator species, required and desired habitat for each pollinator, and current pollinator deserts.  This will help MWMO target locations where pollinator gardens are most needed for pollinator species.

According to Emma Squires-Sperling, a Biology and Environmental Science major, this project has "been a great opportunity to get experience dealing and solving real world problems both inside and outside the classroom. This course is mainly self-taught and really helps one gain experience working in teams, analyzing and synthesizing what we've learned in school." Not only is this a great way to gain experience and real-life application of course work, but it also is helping in a real way to improve the environment. Classmate Cassie Clark emphasizes that "pollinators are vital to the agriculture industry, and their recent decline has been a topic of emerging concern. I hope that we can help in some small way to conserve MN biodiversity." Their team member Brittany Allen also believes that "sustainability is the future. We have to change our everyday lives in order to protect our environment and help future generations." Projects such as these help raise visibility of sustainability issues while offering concrete solutions and strategies which involve local communities.