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WCU certified as a Bee Campus USA affiliate

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By Julia Duvall

The buzz around campus is coming from more than just end of semester excitement.

Western Carolina University has become an affiliate of the Bee Campus USA program, designed to marshal the strengths of educational campuses for the benefit of pollinators. WCU joins many other cities and campuses across the country united in improving their landscapes for pollinators.

“WCU's Bee Campus USA certification is a direct product of the environmental science 495 senior capstone project that was completed last semester,” said Sarah Parsons, assistant professor in WCU’s Department of

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Geosciences and Natural Resources. “The goal of the capstone project was to install pollinator gardens and promote pollinator conservation on campus, both requirements of Bee Campus USA. The certification was a natural next step for this project.”

In collaboration with WCU grounds management superintendent Andy Pedonti, the capstone project students evaluated eight possible locations on campus for a pollinator garden.  They compiled a report that prioritized which pollinator gardens should be installed where and put together a list of recommended region-specific pollinator plants that they developed in collaboration with native plant and native pollinator experts, Sunny Himes and Jacob Heiling from WCU’s Biology Department.

Bee Campus USA is administered through the Xerces Society and provides a framework for university and college campus communities to work together to conserve native pollinators by increasing the abundance of native plants, providing nest sites and reducing the use of pesticides.

The project is funded by WCU's Sustainable Campus Initiative, a committee of students, faculty and staff advisers responsible for allocating money towards the implementation of renewable energy projects, energy efficiency improvements, research and internships on campus. 

A campuswide pollination planting event was held May 1, breaking ground on WCU's first Bee Campus USA pollinator garden.

“As a part of our Bee Campus USA certification, WCU is committed to establishing a Bee Campus USA committee, creating and enhancing pollinator habitats on campus and reducing the use of pesticides on campus,” Parsons said. “We also want to offer educational opportunities and service-learning opportunities about pollinators and pollinator conservation and displaying signage at pollinator habitat sites. We have already made great strides on many of our Bee Campus USA commitments.”

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