Enhancing Pollinator Health & Habitat
On September 20, 2016, East Georgia State College (EGSC) was honored to be designated as a Bee Campus USA Institution and, over the past 15 months, has taken initial strides towards fulfilling its obligations as a member of this organization. EGSC is a small, primarily two-year college, that also offers four-year baccalaureate degree in Biology. Numerous community events are held on its campuses each year, school groups often visit the college, and many of its faculty and staff are involved in outreach programs. In addition, EGSC serves as host to the Magnolia Midlands Georgia Youth Science and Technology Center (MMGYSTC). The mission of the MMGYSTC, and its director, is to provide quality programs for kindergarten through eighth grade teachers and students that address the educational standards for these grades. EGSC’s commitment to environmental awareness and community outreach is further supported by its recent designation as a Tree Campus USA affiliate.
In the fall of 2015, EGSC established an apiary on its main campus in Swainsboro, GA. The initial purpose of the hives was to help educate visitors, as well as the college’s students, faculty, and staff about honeybees and their importance to our lives and the threats they face. Since the installment of EGSC’s beehives, numerous people have visited the hives on campus and, with the use of a portable observation hive, EGSC faculty and the MMGYSTC director have taken honey bees and educational material to many events and schools throughout the region. Since its acceptance, East Georgia State College has worked even harder to enhance its outreach activities with respect to honey bees and other pollinators.
Policies & Practices
EGSC’s Bee Campus USA committee has worked to develop plans to increase pollinator-awareness to the general public, as well as the college’s students, faculty, and staff. Committee members have been involved in setting up an apiary, writing grants, public outreach, and establishing a Bobcat Apiary homepage. The committee is working on publishing an Integrated Pest Management Plan, and a native, pollinator-friendly plant list, both of which will be posted on the apiary website.
Education & Outreach
Since establishing beehives on campus, Erin Youmans, the director of the MMGYSTC and Paul Cerpovicz have used a portable observation hive to bring honey bees to many local schools to talk to students about the importance of honey bees and other pollinators to the environment and our lives. These visits have reached at least 1000 students in our region since September of 2016. It is amazing how excited people get when they see honeybees up close and learn more about them. One visit, in particular, fascinated a sixth grade student so much that she later visited the EGSC campus with her mother and, for the first time, suited up and helped to inspect the hives on campus. As a result of her experiences, this sixth grade student now has a beehive of her own!
Service by Students, Faculty, and Staff
a. Bobcat Apiary – East Georgia State College’s Bobcat Apiary is maintained by a faculty member in the School of Mathematics and Science. Established in the fall of 2015, the initial purpose of the apiary was to help educate visitors, as well as the college’s students, faculty, and staff about honeybees and their importance to our lives and the threats they face. Since the installment of EGSC’s beehives, numerous people have visited the hives on campus and, with the use of a portable observation hive, EGSC faculty and the MMGYSTC director have taken bees and educational material to many events and schools throughout the region. In addition, several faculty, staff, and students have taken a turn at inspecting the bee hives.
b. Grants for Education and Habitat Improvements – Erin Youmans, the director of the MMGYSTC, has written and received three grants to support “Bee-Cause we Love STEM” Family Science Nights activities to raise awareness, interest, and concern for the loss of honey bees and to connect this issue with the STEM fields. Besides helping with the purchase and development of innovative educational activities centered on honeybees, Erin’s grants have funded the purchase of a Bee Cam that allows anyone to have a live-view of one of the hives in EGSC’s Bobcat Apiary at any time. Her latest grant will be funding the purchase of data collection sensors to place under two of the apiary hives to regularly monitor their weight, temperature and humidity levels. This data can be accessed, monitored, and analyzed by students, both on the EGSC campus and elsewhere.
In addition, Dr. David Chevalier has received a grant to fund the establishment of a hoop house to supplement the college’s greenhouse, as well as eight raised bed pollinator gardens on the campus. Each of the eight gardens will be roughly 8 ft x 4 ft, for a total of 256 square feet of campus green space, and will be constructed by a local scout as part of an Eagle Scout project.
c. Arbor Day Celebration – East Georgia State College hosts many campus events for its students and the community each year, and many of these overlap with and support the Bee Campus USA initiatives. One of the most recent annual events to be established is the celebration of Arbor Day each February hosted by the Tree Campus USA Committee. On February 9, 2017, the first of EGSC’s Arbor Day Celebrations was held on campus with EGSC students, faculty, and staff, as well as community officials and local elementary school students and their teachers. In all, there were approximately 25 elementary students and perhaps 30 faculty, staff, and community leaders present. During the ceremony, a birch tree was dedicated and planted in honor of Dr. Willie Gunn, former president of EGSC. The elementary students helped to plant the tree and listened to a Georgia Forester about the importance of trees to our lives and the environment and how to care for them. The Georgia Foresters also handed out pollinator-friendly red bud shoots, along with instructions for planting them, to all of the visitors.
d. Mason Bee Houses – To help collaborate with, and to spread pollinator awareness to more of the campus community, art students taking Three-Dimensional Design were assigned to research, design, and construct mason bee houses as a project in the fall of 2017. An artist’s showing of their projects was held in the fall, that included a talk of the importance of pollinators to the nearly 30 students, faculty, and staff present. Since the weather in the fall was not yet suitable for mason bees, their houses, along with pollinator information, have been on display in the campus library, along with information on mason bees and wildflower seed packets for any of the approximately 1500 students, faculty, and staff on the Swainsboro campus to view. When the weather warms, the mason bee houses will be set up in pollinator gardens around campus this coming spring to increase the presence and awareness of mason bees to our community. It is expected that projects such as this will become an annual event with the art students on campus.
e. STEMM Club Students – Four students in EGSC’s “Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Medicine” (STEMM) Club have been involved in helping to grow pollinator-friendly plants in the campus greenhouse that will later be planted around campus in raised bed gardens and elsewhere.
f. Pollinator Garden Planting – Erin Youmans, a Bee Campus USA member and director of the MMGYSTC, organized an activity/contest for a local middle school class in which its students worked in groups to develop a plan for a pollinator-friendly garden. Each group used math skills to plot out a grid system for their garden, and conducted research into the types of plants to put in the garden, how big they would grow, and the conditions needed for their growth. The winning group won a $50 gift card donated by the EGSC Biology Department to use for supplies for their class, and their pollinator garden was laid out and planted on East Georgia’s campus. Overall, this project involved close to 20 middle school students working on the garden designs, and 4 EGSC staff to help plant the garden on campus.
g. GreenFest – Biology students, faculty, staff, and local students have given their time to help educate the community about honeybees and pollinators at the annual GreenFest events held the first weekend in October in Statesboro, Georgia. Since becoming a Bee Campus USA Institution, EGSC has participated in two GreenFest events, reaching an estimated 750 people from the community.
h. Local Talks – The MMGYSTC director and I have each visited the local Kiwanis Club on separate occasions to talk about EGSC’s membership as a Bee Campus USA Institution, and the efforts the college is doing to increase pollinator awareness both on campus and in the community. In addition, the MMGYSTC director has spoken to the local Rotary Club about these projects. In total, these visits reached approximately 70 community members.
i. Garden Club Event – A faculty member from EGSC brought bees and pollinator awareness information to display at the Pine Tree Festival Flower Show in April of 2017. This two day event was attended by approximately 150 people.
j. Parents, Family, Friends and Alumni Days – Each fall EGCS hosts a Parents, Family, Friends, and Alumni (PFFA) Day on its campus for the community. In addition to the usual campus tours and activities for the visitors, recent PFFA Days have also involved honeybees from the Bobcat Apiary, along with faculty and students talking to people about pollinator-awareness and passing out informational flyers and wildflower seeds to visitors. It is estimated that this event exposed nearly 50 people to the honey bees and pollinator information.
k. Building Expansion Dedication – In the fall of 2017, a dedication was held for the expansion of the college’s Academic Science Building. The ceremony brought many community leaders to campus, as well as the general public, and EGSC students, faculty and staff (an estimated 300-350 people). Honeybees from the Bobcat Apiary were on display during this event, and visitors had the opportunity to learn more about EGSC’s involvement as a Bee Campus USA Institution, and pick up wildflower seeds and informational sheets about pollinators.
l. Dr. David Chevalier, a member of the Bee Campus USA Committee, chair of the Biology Department, and chair of the Tree Campus USA Committee, worked with his students and local middle school students to refurbish a bog garden on the campus’s nature trail containing several native and endangered plant species.
m. National Pollinator Week – From June 19-25, 2017, EGSC recognized National Pollinator Week by posting photos of the Bobcat Apiary, facts about honey bees, and pollinator-awareness information each day on its Facebook page
n. Committee Work – All of the Bee Campus USA committee members:
Victor Poole (Web Service Specialist), Katelyn Moore (Communications Coordinator), Michelle Goff and David Steptoe (Directors of Plant Operations), Erin Youmans (Director of the MMGYSTC), Mike Rountree (Vice-President of IT Services), Jean Schwabe (Director of the Fulford Community Center), David Chevalier (Chair of the Biology Department and Tree Campus USA Committee), Jimmy Wedincamp (Dean of Math/Science), Dr. Boehmer (President of EGSC), Paul Cerpovicz (Committee Chair) have worked together to come up with new ideas and goals for the campus, and to implement and support projects related to pollinator awareness. Recently, EGSC also received recognition as a Tree Campus USA Institution, and many of the Bee Campus USA committee members also serve on both committees, as well as EGSC’s Sustainability Committee. While each of these committees has a different focus, they all have overlapping goals and therefore complement each other well.
For many of the biology courses taught at EGSC, discussions of pollinators and their habitats are already part of the curriculum. Currently, EGSC biology students cover topics on pollinators and their habitats in Biology II, Ecology, Conservation Biology, and Terrestrial Ecology. Students in Biology II discuss the importance of pollinators and run lab simulations on the foraging habits of honey bees. In Ecology, students studied the foraging patterns of the honeybees from the Bobcat Apiary. Students enrolled in Conservation Biology will be discussing pollinators, their habitats, and the threats they face and, when the weather warms enough, will be visiting the Bobcat Apiary to open the hives and study the honeybees up close. As a project in Terrestrial Ecology, students are designing and establishing an edible plant garden on the campus that will service pollinators.
To this point, EGSC has 24″ x 36″ Bee Campus USA posters to display on easels at various events, along with informational flyers. Posters depicting pollinators, their importance, and the threats they face have also been created. In addition, a question/answer board was made to “quiz” visitors about their knowledge of honeybees. Due to financial issues, EGSC does not yet have large, “permanent” campus signage displaying itself as a Bee Campus USA Institution. We are currently making efforts to establish funding to have these signs produced and placed around campus. In addition, as the pollinator gardens are established, signage will be made identifying the plants being grown, the purpose of the gardens, the pollinators they support, and the importance of pollinators to the environment.
Local Website & Contact Information
Please visit the Bobcat Apiary homepage to see more about what EGSC has done and plans to do to increase pollinator-awareness to the community, or contact Dr. Paul Cerpovicz at email@example.com.