Environmental science students complete sustainability projects

April 14, 2016

READING, Pa. — This spring, six groups of students in Mahsa Kazempour's BI SC 003 Environmental Science course at Penn State Berks have been working with John Rost, research technician for horticulture and turfgrass, on several projects related to pollinators and other sustainability efforts on campus.

“In the United States one third of all agricultural output depends on pollinators. Fruit and vegetable growers in Pennsylvania can attest to the significant role pollinators play in the production of many of our crops. Promoting pollinators' habitat on and near the farm benefits everyone who likes to eat,” according to the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service Pennsylvania website.

The students divided into groups by project. Some of the student groups have planted approximately 200 plugs of natural and pollinating wildflowers for bee habitats on campus.

Other groups have built natural bee structures or “huts” for bumble bee colonies from a compound called “hypertufa,” a stone-like property created by mixing equal parts peat moss, perlite and Portland concrete. The huts required an open space in the center and a tunnel for bees to enter from outside to this nest area. To accomplish this, they took small flower pots and turned them upside down to use as a base. To make the tunnel, they cut a small piece of PVC pipe, and cut a small hole in the pots to insert the pipe. From there, they went to work molding the hypertufa mixture around the pot and tube. The students were creative with the structures, crafting one as a Nittany Lion head and another as a paw print. The structures will be installed on campus during Earth Week.

Students have also utilized bamboo growing on campus to construct bee houses for solitary mason and leaf cutter bees; these bees like to make individual nests in small holes. The bamboo bee houses will be installed throughout the campus and the horticulture research farm area to provide a habitat for native pollinators.

Other student groups are working on informational brochures on pollinators and flowers that support native bee populations. The brochures will include information on what types of plants are on campus for pollinators, what Penn State Berks is doing to help pollinators, and what everyone can do to help maintain pollinators on their own. 

In addition to their work with pollinators, several teams have designed and painted rain barrels for sale. They have also been working on informational brochures on constructing rain barrels, which eliminate non-point source pollution and reutilize rainfall. The barrels were purchased at auction through the Berks County Conservancy.

The six groups have chronicled their experiences on the course project website. When visiting the page, additional information about the honey bee and rain barrel projects can be found by clicking on “Penn State Berks Horticulture Team” and “Penn State Berks Sustainability Center,” respectively.

For more information, contact Kazempour, associate professor of science education, at 610-396-6312 or MUK30@psu.edu.   

  • man cutting bamboo
    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated April 22, 2016