GreenServe 2018 saw the expansion of native plantings on campus. Sixteen volunteers filled an empty bed behind the Abell Library with six different native species selected with the help of Dr. George Diggs. Drs. Peter Schulze, Keith Kisselle, and Mari Elise Ewing helped with the effort alongside Thinking Green Campus Awareness student co-leader Julian Coronado. Even President Steven O’Day and First Lady Cece O’Day dug in and got their hands dirty!
Austin College President Emeritus Dr. Marjorie Hass and the Board of Trustees launched Austin College Thinking Green in 2011 to serve as an umbrella for all campus greening initiatives. One of the outcomes was the formation of Thinking Green Campus Awareness, a committee of students who identify, organize, and publicize greening activities on campus. Dr. Mari Elise Ewing, Professor of Environmental Studies, serves as the Director, and Katie Collins and Julian Coronado, both seniors, serve as the two student co-leaders for this academic year. The mission for Thinking Green Campus Awareness is to increase campus participation in environmental responsibility and sustainable utilization of resources so that students will enrich their communities beyond Austin College.
Organized by Thinking Green Campus Awareness, GreenServe engages students from around campus in a morning of service focused on environmental responsibility and sustainability. Students volunteer at places like Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, Eisenhower State Park, both the Sherman and Pottsboro Community Gardens, and elsewhere throughout the Texoma community on projects such as trail maintenance, invasive species control, and habitat restoration.
GreenServe often includes an on-campus project. For GreenServe 2016, the on-campus project consisted of expanding the native plants around the LEED Gold certified IDEA Center. Ninety volunteers planted over 550 native plants paid for by the Student Sustainability Fund, created in 2011 by a vote of the entire student body and maintained through a five dollar annual student fee. The project increased awareness of and interest in native plants on campus, which lead to GreenServe 2018’s pollinator garden project.
Over the summer, the native plants were in full bloom, drawing numerous butterfly and bee species. Native plants and pollinators share an important symbiotic relationship, contributing to the health of their ecosystems. Pollinators use the nectar and pollen they gather for food. During foraging, they often carry pollen from one flower to another, which is a vital part of the reproductive cycle for many native plants. Over the years, pollinator populations have declined through habitat loss, disease, and pesticide use. Planting your own pollinator garden is a great way to help pollinator populations recover, and the pollinators are fun to watch! More information can be found at the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s pollinators page.
If you’d like to recreate our pollinator garden at home, here is the list of species we planted, all native to this area of North Texas:
Gregg Sage (Salvia greggii)
Mealy Sage (Salvia farinacea)
Mistflower (Eupatorium coelestinum)
Coneflower (Echinacea species)
Rock rose (Pavonia lasiopetala)
Desert willow (Chilopsis linearis)
For photographs and more information about the plants listed above as well as other Texas natives, visit UT Austin’s Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center webpage.