Pollinating insects–bees, butterflies, hover flies, and beetles–have experienced widespread declines in recent years. Perhaps surprisingly, cities have demonstrated the capacity to support diverse pollinators. This is because urban areas can contain many kinds of habitat–gardens, green roofs and remnant natural areas–but also interested and invested community members. We wanted to leverage the unique opportunity to conserve pollinators through community empowerment. So, in spring 2019, with support from the Tufts Green Fund, we created the Tufts Pollinator Initiative (TPI).
TPI is an ecological, educational, and collaborative plan to bolster pollinator health and promote community awareness on the urban Medford/Somerville campus of Tufts University.
TPI cultivates pollinator habitat to feed pollinators and demonstrate that gardens can be attractive and ecologically relevant. As of spring 2020, we have planted 1500 square feet of perennial native plants in three locations. Collectively, our gardens contain more than 30 species of native grasses and flowering perennials that support pollinators throughout their life cycles. We prioritize plants with diverse flower size, shape, and bloom times to support as many pollinators as possible. During the summer, we survey gardens on and off campus to learn about how pollinators interact with native plants.
TPI also educates diverse audiences about pollinators. We teach classes and guest lectures on sustainable food systems, pollination biology, and pollinator conservation through the Tufts Biology Department, Environmental Studies Program, and ExCollege. Further, our established pollinator gardens provide opportunities for experiential learning and independent research. We also provide community education--guided campus walks, interactive workshops, informational handouts–that is free and open to all. We want to give both students and community members the knowledge, capacity, and motivation to support pollinators on their own.
TPI collaborates with local organizations to increase our community impact. We co-host events with beekeeping and gardening organizations as well as campus-based clubs to organize free outreach and education events.