(Estherville, Iowa) Led by the Biology and Environmental Studies programs, Iowa Lakes Community College will be developing a pesticide-free pollinator paradise covering approximately 2 acres on the Estherville Campus with a diverse mix of plant species, grasses, shrubs, and trees. The pollinator project will start this spring and summer with seed harvesting, site preparation, walkway development, and plant installation around the site.
“Although they often go unnoticed, pollinators play a huge role in our ecosystem, and our current landscape is virtually a desert for these critters. Our goal is three-fold; mow less grass, beautify the campus, and provide a habitat that should abound with butterflies, bees, and other pollinators as the project matures,” explained Brian Bristow, Iowa Lakes Biology Professor.
Farm Credit Services of America awarded a Working Here Grant of $2,000 to help finance the project. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife program will assist with the project planning, monitoring, technical assistance, and providing specific seed mixes at no cost. In addition, the Iowa Lakes Biology Club, the Talent Search STEM Camp, and the Iowa Lakes Conservation Club have committed to contributing toward the cost of fruit trees. Finally, the Iowa Lakes Maintenance Department will assist with site preparation, walkway creation, ecosystem management, and other tasks throughout the development.
The project will take two to three years to develop and will benefit the community by providing interactive educational programs regarding agricultural and environmental subjects, growing fruits and berries to donate to local food banks and helping our environment by encouraging the development of more plots for pollinators and improving air quality.
“Our goal is to help communities identify areas of low use and restore these areas into habitats for pollinators and reduce the inputs of fertilizer and pesticides on lawn spaces in urban areas. We have received overwhelming support from our community through donations and sponsorships of the fruit trees and bushes. This habitat is the first of what we hope to be many campus green spaces converted into a sustainable landscape that students and residents can enjoy while hiking through and grabbing an apple along the way,” shared Drew Howing, Environmental Studies Assistant Professor.
Eventually, Environmental Studies students will develop an app to create an interactive learning experience using Geographical Information Systems (GIS) for students and the public, allowing visitors to learn more about the habitat and its contributors.
PHOTO CAPTION: Iowa Lakes Community College students and Biology Club members Brooklynn Wille and Krishna Patel, both from Algona, preparing fruit trees for the pollinator paradise project.