As a part of their summer 2016 sustainability internship, Emma Karsten ’18 and Olivia Shehan ’18 researched ways to both reduce Hamilton’s carbon generation and beautify the campus at the same time. One strategy they identified was to reduce certain acreage mowed by the Facilities Management Grounds shop, by way of low mow zones and pollinator gardens. Low mow zones are beginning to pop up in several campus locations and will help Hamilton save carbon by reducing lawn mower fuel consumption, as well as labor and equipment wear-and-tear.

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But pollinator gardens also provide essential habitat for pollinators on which farmers rely. Karsten and Shehan worked with Biology professors Bill Pfitsch and Ernest Williams, and Grounds Manager Don Croft, to specify a native wildflower seed mix that would be appropriate for the Hamilton campus climate and attractive—both visually and to pollinators like bees and birds.  Grounds foreman Rick Johnson put the students’ research to the test via a test plot at Facilities Management in fall, 2017.

As a result of this successful pollinator garden test plot, this year’s Hamilton Sustainability Coordinators (HSC) have been working to fully implement Karsten and Shehan’s vision. Current HSC co-leaders Chris Hart ’19 and Hayley Berliner ’19 (both summer sustainability interns at Hamilton) worked with the Grounds shop to identify a 1.5-acre plot near Rogers Estate, with upper and lower gardens. Rick Johnson and the Grounds crew prepared both the plot and seed mix over the past several weeks.

On October 18, on a frigid 40 degree yet sunny fall morning, HSC members got busy with planting the upper and lower Rogers pollinator gardens. Co-leader Hart, Sarah Stigberg '20, Mike Moubarak '21, and James Carhart '21 worked on the first phase of the work—planting the wildflower mix in the lower garden. Then the group, joined by Hannah Katz '21 and Avery Morgan '21, did the second phase of the work—spreading straw in the upper garden.

After four hours, the upper and lower gardens were both planted and hayed. While we eagerly await the results of this pollinator garden collaboration between FM Grounds and HSC next spring, it is just as exciting to see the research efforts of our sustainability interns put into action and practice on Hamilton’s campus.

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