Quinnipiac named Bee Campus for efforts to protect local species

Krystal Miller, Associate News Editor

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation named Quinnipiac University a Bee Campus USA Affiliate on April 10.

The Xerces Society is an international nonprofit organization that protects the world through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitats, according to its website.

Sarah Lawson, an assistant professor of biology, said she helped fill out the application for the university to be a Bee Campus by citing the work with the pollinator garden at the Albert Schweitzer Institute and creating a proposal about using less pesticides and planting more native plants.

Amanda Riha

“So we’re really kind of forward-thinking about putting in native landscaping … to support our pollinators and those would support higher trophic levels as well,” Lawson said. “So hopefully the campus will sound more like birds and bees in upcoming years.”

Lawson said university officials also submitted an application to become a tree-designated campus, which focuses on planting native trees.

Recently, Quinnipiac officials cut down the white pine trees in the Pine Grove, which Lawson said were invasive, non-native species. University officials do not intend to cut down any additional trees unless they pose a safety hazard, Lawson said.

“So unfortunately, the white pines, a lot of times they were a danger because when the tornado came down, it took out a lot of the structural integrity of the root systems and a lot of the trees that were in between and so whenever wind would come down, those trees would just fall down,” Lawson said.

Instead, Quinnipiac officials intend to replace the white pines on the current site of the South Quad project with native tree species, Lawson said.

Lawson previously worked to install Quinnipiac’s pollinator garden and is currently working with the Indigenous Student Union to install an Indigenous people’s section of the garden. The Indigenous people’s section would include medicine and herbal remedies Indigenous people in the Connecticut area would have used, Lawson said.

Quinnipiac is also offering a new environmental studies program that focuses on environmental science and policy, Lawson said. 

“I think it’s a really great step.” Lawson said. “It’s showing that university really is trying to be more sustainable.”

Lawson said she is working on uploading a pollinator garden website with a list of the plants in the garden. The website will define the difference between native and non-native plants and will include ways to reduce pesticide usage.

Courtney McGinnis, a professor of biology and a toxicologist working to reduce pesticide usage on campus, worked with Lawson to complete the Bee Campus USA and tree-designated campus applications.

Expressing excitement about the university’s Bee Campus USA affiliation, McGinnis said university officials have been supportive of efforts to become a more environmentally friendly and sustainable campus.

“So these being supported by upper administration, I think will ultimately make us a stronger campus as we are hoping to become some leaders in living our ultimate sustainability plan,” McGinnis said. “I hope to see us continue to advance some of our sustainability initiatives,” 

McGinnis said that university officials are also applying to become a Nature RX campus, which focuses on the stress-relieving benefits of the outdoors.

“That’s really to promote the benefits of being outside in nature, which kind of go hand in hand with the benefits of the pollinator garden and thinking about that space as a peaceful space, a meditative space where people or students can go and be present in nature,” McGinnis said. 

Riya Miller, a junior 3+1 biology major, has volunteered at Lawson’s lab for pollinator health and diversity for the last two years. Although she said she had not heard about the new Bee Campus USA affiliation, she said it seemed like it would help advocate for more pollinators.

“I’m glad that the campus has chosen to put a focus on pollinator health,” Miller said.