By Elizabeth Adkisson, PEAK Student Sustainability Coordinator
Image Text: Pollinator Habitat, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, Planted for pollinators and protected from pesticides. Join in at xerces.org.
The Xerces Society, a non-profit environmental organization that focuses on the conservation of invertebrates considered to be essential to biological diversity reported that 40% of pollinator species on earth are at risk of extinction in the coming years as a result of habitat loss, the use of harmful pesticides, and climate change. This is a staggering percentage that should concern every one of us as a third of all food globally is produced due to insect pollination, while 90% of wild plants and trees require pollinators to reproduce according to the non-profit. Our forests, food, and winged warriors are in danger.
Southern Oregon University was the very first Bee Campus recognized in the United States in 2014 for the work it has done for pollinators. This set a precedent for the 98 other college campuses to become certified by the Xerces Society with the standards of establishing an on-campus committee to advocate for pollinators, reducing the use of pesticides that are detrimental to pollinator health, planting more native plants and nest sites, and offering service learning projects and courses that incorporate pollinator conservation to educate students on actions they can take to protect our tiny indispensable friends. SOU has maintained this certification for over eight years and is committed to working with other universities to enhance and sustain the pollinator population. We are also a Tree Campus!
What image comes to mind when you think of trees? Is it a lush, expansive forest such as the ones that sprawl all across Oregon and are home to a plethora of animal, plant, and fungi species? Is it the park or street back at home that brings a certain serenity and wellbeing as you walk, admiring the leaves and how they change from season to season? Or perhaps it’s the services they provide to humans like the materials that make up our homes and businesses, the air that we breathe, or the fruits and seeds that we cherish as food. Whatever you envision, I think we can all agree that trees are essential for the survival of the planet and the physical and mental health of both humans and animals.
Image Text: [Tree Campus Logo]. Celebrating our commitment to a greener, healthier environment through trees. [SOU Logo]
In December of 2021, SOU was recognized for the seventh year in a row as a Tree Campus. Tree Campus USA is a national program founded by the Arbor Day Foundation that honors college and university campuses that effectively manage the trees on their campus, connect with the community to promote healthy urban forest management, and have a student body that is actively involved in environmental stewardship. There are currently 402 campuses across the nation with this recognition.
SOU has a “Tree, Bee, and Bird Committee” that operates to conserve, rather than degrade, natural habitats for pollinators and organizes events such as Arbor Day to further expand the native plant and tree populations that have been decimated in our highly urbanized world. We are now working to collaborate with Bee City USA in Ashland to enhance community knowledge about pollinators and to encourage immediate action on the parts of individuals and organizations to ensure a strong future for these keystone species that are so vital to the entire ecosystem. So whenever you’re feeling blue, take a walk in the green on the Southern Oregon University campus and admire the 175 acres of trees, bees, and bird habitat that we respect,cultivate, and enjoy.
This year, to further expand our roots we will be hosting an annual Arbor Day celebration! Our goal is to bring students into the process of tree planting which will inspire them to contribute to the Sustainability Movement in whatever way they can. In the past, Arbor Day has been a super fun way for students to get their hands dirty and simultaneously create real change for the environment. We hope to beautify the campus with these trees and native plants which will provide natural temperature regulation, pollution reduction, and stress relief for students and faculty! There will also be food provided by the university, free T-shirts and stickers, and local guest speakers with a passion for Sustainability. The celebration will take place on April 29th so mark your calendars and do some light stretches before digging and planting alongside your SOU community!
While there are many actions that SOU has taken for pollinator conservation, the work isn’t over and students are the most important actors in sustaining the momentum by giving those bees, birds, and butterflies a voice and viable habitat. The Pollinator Club was recently created by a student, Elizabeth Mackey, with the goal of educating students on the importance of pollinators and to get them involved in the active transformation of our campus to accommodate pollinators. If you’d like to learn more about the Pollinator Club and create an even more bee-friendly college, please contact Elizabeth Mackey at email@example.com.