GreenServe Native Plantings Draw Pollinators and People


A student enjoys GreenServe 2018’s on-campus project. Photo courtesy of Dr. Andrea Overbay.

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!

President O’Day digs in. Photo courtesy of Dr. Andrea Overbay.
Native pollinator garden volunteers. Photo courtesy of Dr. Andrea Overbay.

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.

A butterfly hovers over Purple Mistflower. Photo courtesy of Dr. Mari Elise Ewing.

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.

The native plants draw lots of pollinators. Photo courtesy of Dr. Mari Elise Ewing.
A bee lights on some Mealy Sage. Photo courtesy of Dr. Mari Elise Ewing.

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.

The pollinator garden in full bloom. Photo courtesy of Dr. Mari Elise Ewing.

Our Year in Review

We can’t believe that it’s already that time again … the end of another successful school year! We want to share seven of our favorite 2016-2017 stories:

A New Addition to Our Extended Family

On August 12, 2016 William Robert Strauch was born to one of our Environmental Studies faculty, Dr. Mari Elise Ewing, and her husband Nate Strauch.

Will, named after his two grandfathers, has a contagiously friendly spirit and spreads smiles on each of his campus visits.

Dr. Mari Elise Ewing, her husband Nate Strauch, and their son William Robert Strauch. Family photo in the woods.
Photo taken on Will’s baptism day at Hell Creek on the Ewing family farm in Colorado (Thanksgiving 2016)

Sneed Prairie Field Trip Program Welcomes 10,000th Child Visitor

On Tuesday, the 4th of October, the 10,000th child visitor was welcomed to the Sneed Prairie Field Trip Program. Since the program’s beginnings in the summer of 2002, over 70 Austin College field trip leaders have led field trips for dozens of classes from more than 20 school districts. We send a huge thanks and congratulations to all that have helped us make this project a success!

AC Unplugged Includes the Cottages

For the past eight years Austin College Thinking Green has been hosting “AC Unplugged”, a month long energy saving competition that takes place among the four residence halls. This year Think extended the competition to our junior and senior students living in the cottages in hopes of yet another participatory lesson in energy conservation. Cottages that chose to participate were in competition for two awards – largest percent decrease and least amount of energy used overall. Cottage winners in each category were reimbursed for 2/3 of October’s electricity bill!
In total, there were 8 participating cottages who decreased their consumption by an average of 35% and maximum of 48% from the month of September to October. The total amount of electricity saved by cottage residents was 3,741 kWh – enough to power the average US household for 3.5 months!

We are excited about this addition to Unplugged and looking forward to how it may grow further next year.
Suggestions? If you have witnessed or participated in similar energy saving endeavors, please feel free to contact us with thoughts or suggestions. Contact

Think Hosts Trash Bash

In order to increase student awareness and engagement with campus recycling efforts, Think hosted their first ever “Trash Bash”. Various organizations designed and decorated their own recycling bins, which were then put to use in the IDEA Center.

Most Artistic (left) and Most Creative (right) recycling bins.
Most Artistic (left) and Most Creative (right) recycling bins

EPA Green Power Partnership

We have been officially recognized by the EPA as a Green Power Partner. Almost 100% of Austin College’s electricity is from renewable sources.

EPA green power partnership logo
EPA Green Power Partner

9th Annual GreenServe hosted by Think and the Service Station

students picking up trash along roadside
GreenServe volunteers collecting litter at Binkley Bike Trail
GreenServe volunteer holding a snake at the Buckner farm.
Recent ENVS graduate, Lola Alexander, at Buckner Farm

This year’s theme – on the baseball hats in the photos seen here– was “Make Earth Green Again”. We consider the event a happy success as we had approximately 194 volunteers working at 14 sites across Grayson County.

GreenServe volunteers moving rocks at Eisenhower State Park.
GreenServe “Rock Star” volunteers at Eisenhower State Park

New Alumni Connection Platforms

Just in case you didn’t already know – we have launched a new initiative to stay in touch with our ENVS alumni and friends. We have (of course) this blog, which will help us share stories with you, and a LinkedIn Page, which is used to keep our alumni contact information up to date.
If you have not already connected to our LinkedIn Page or joined our Alumni Group, please do both by following the links below.
Click HERE for the ENVS LinkedIn Page
Click HERE for the LinkedIn Alumni Group

And so another great year has come to an end.
In just a few weeks three students will begin outstanding internships at Bamberger Ranch, The Land Institute, and the Little Traverse Conservancy. These internships are made possible by a generous alumnus and partnerships between Austin College and the host organizations. We always hear great reviews from our interns and their hosts, and we look forward to hearing about this summer’s experiences!

Check back soon for more updates!

GreenServe 2016: Highlighting Native Planting

Seven years ago, Austin College hosted our first GreenServe; an event created and proposed by a student in ENVS 135 (Introduction to Environmental Studies). This campus-wide opportunity attracts nearly 200 volunteers to community service projects focused on environmental responsibility, sustainability, and raising awareness for Thinking Green.

Volunteers for trash pick up at Denison Dam
Volunteers after habitat clean up at Denison Dam.

The event is co-sponsored, organized and implemented by two student led groups: Austin College Thinking Green (or Think) and the Service Station. By tradition, service projects last for three hours on a Saturday morning that falls on or near to Earth Day. In contrast to the three hours spent at each site, there are several weeks and countless hours that go into the planning of GreenServe in hopes that students will be provided with a wide range of opportunities from organizations that will inspire or establish a greater connection and meaning to long term environmental responsibility.

GreenServe Volunteers completing trail maintenance at Binkley Bike Trail.
GreenServe Volunteers completing trail maintenance at Binkley Bike Trail.

During the two weeks before GreenServe students, faculty, and staff, sign up for a project to which they would like to contribute. Some examples include:

  • Site maintenance and restoration work at Sneed Prairie
  • Promoting environmental awareness at Texoma Earth Day Festival
  • Native plantings on campus
  • Maintaining the Sherman Community Garden
  • Environmental Education to students in the RooBound program
  • Habitat clean up at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge
Volunteers prepare to plant their section of plants at GreenServe.
Volunteers prepare to plant their section of plants at GreenServe.

This year, our 7th annual GreenServe, there was a special focus given to a site on our own Austin College campus. Over 80 GreenServe volunteers planted hundreds of native Texas flowering plants and grasses around the IDEA Center to support pollinators and encourage the adoption of native habitat restoration and education.

The plants were purchased with the Student Sustainability Fund.  As a result of a student referendum, five dollars of each student’s activities goes to the Student Sustainability Fund, whose expenditures are chosen by a student committee.

GreenServe volunteers at the native planting site.
GreenServe volunteers at the native planting site.

Next year’s GreenServe will be on Earth Day – April 22, 2017.