Tufts Pollinator Initiative strives to support urban pollinators through habitat creation and community education.
Insect pollinators play key ecological, economic, and cultural roles: they pollinate crops and wild plants, provide pest control services, feed vertebrates like bats and birds, and form an important cultural link between humans and nature. Yet, insect pollinators have experienced widespread declines in recent years. The culprit? The interacting effects of habitat loss, pesticides, climate change, exotic species, and disease.
Cities have emerged as one possible refuge for pollinators. Not only do cities contain many kinds of habitat–gardens, parks, green roofs, restoration areas–but also interested and invested community members. In spring 2019, with support from the Tufts Green Fund, we founded the Tufts Pollinator Initiative (TPI) to conserve insect pollinators in urban Medford and Somerville, Massachusetts.
We plant pollinator gardens. Collectively, our three gardens support over 115 species of pollinators throughout their life cycles. We prioritize plants with diverse flower size, shape, and bloom times to support as many pollinators as possible, demonstrating that pollinator gardens can be both attractive and ecologically relevant. During the summer, we survey gardens on and off campus to document which pollinators live around us.
We educate Tufts undergraduates. We teach classes and guest lectures on pollinator biology, sustainable food systems, and insect conservation through the Tufts Biology Department, Environmental Studies Program, and ExCollege. Under mentorship of a graduate student, undergraduates conduct research projects in our gardens and train as environmental scientists.
We educate community members. Our gardens bring nature closer to home and contain interpretive signage, giving as many community members as possible the opportunity to observe and interact with insect pollinators. For those more acutely interested in pollinators, we offer guided campus walks, interactive workshops, outreach days, and informational handouts. Our programming is always free and open to all. We want to give community members the knowledge, capacity, and resources to support pollinators on their own.
We collaborate 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.