School’s not yet out at Fleming College’s Frost Campus where the summer semester is just now winding down for some students in Fish & Wildlife, Ecosystem Management, Forestry, and Heavy Equipment, and where environmental projects have been on the go all summer.
Maybe because the campus is on the edge of town, what happens there often passes unnoticed. Too bad, because what happens is cutting-edge and inspiring environmental action.
Let’s take as examples four projects, each of which furthers the College’s position as a leader in environmental and natural sciences, setting the standard for education, training, innovation and research (the goal set out in its Vision Statement).
Ecosystem Management Technologist Jason Kerr has been supervising Fleming students hired to implement an invasive species management technology program created by a student team last winter.
They’re attempting to clear the 186-acre campus of dog-strangling vine, European buckthorn, invasive honeysuckle species and wild parsnip. Not easy work, particularly since they’re trying to avoid any herbicides. Drive down Adelaide Street and as you approach the campus you’ll see black tarps covering swaths of vine. That’s one strategy. They’ve also been pulling, cutting and — for shrubs — girdling (peeling off rings of bark to kill the plant).
It’s important work, as Jason explains: “We heavily utilize the different ecosystems (forest, meadow, wetland) on campus as teaching and outdoor classroom space but many of these spaces are in decline due to the encroachment of invasive species. Invasive species threaten native flora and reduce biodiversity by out-competing native species, and in some instances pose a health and safety risk to our students.”
For the students doing the work it’s practical experience and, as Jason notes, “It’s a real-world scenario they will likely encounter once they enter the workforce in the environmental sector.”
Arboretum and Green Roof
Jason has also been coordinating an arboretum project. After a year of planning with a committee, work is underway at Frost Campus. Back in May, a team planted 50 or so new native trees and shrubs. The trees were staked, mulched, and equipped with slow-drip irrigation bags (“gator bags”). Over the summer, during dry spells, the students have been topping off the bags.
The plantings follow the courses of the TransCanada Trail as it traverses Frost Campus, and a linked pre-existing trail network. Together these will form a Native Tree and Shrub Loop that will be a valuable resource not only for students, but for any Trail user and community member.
Signage will be added, and right now the pre-existing trail is being upgraded to make it fully accessible.
To support the project, a colleague, Sustainability Projects Coordinator Marcy Adzich, is revamping a large (roughly 500 sq ft) flat green roof on-campus to serve as a tree nursery to support the arboretum. Her focus will be on rare and at-risk species. Because climate change is a reality that we need to be prepared for, a number of trees native to the more southerly Carolinian region will also be included — Sweetgum, Kentucky Coffee tree and others.
The original bluestem plantings were ripped out recently to make room for flowering pollinator plants and some vegetables, while the remaining green roof cells will be used to monitor and maintain potted tree seedlings until they are ready for the rooting beds, planned to be in place in front of the Butterfly Garden in the fall.
Meanwhile, the Heavy Equipment Program’s lead, Rick Hyde, will have his students grade the space for the rooting beds.
It’s fitting that now that City of Kawartha Lakes is officially a “Bee City” Fleming has been officially designated by Bee City Canada as a “Bee Campus.” Back in July two hives were purchased with money raised by Fleming’s “Students for Sustainability” group.
Marcy, a qualified beekeeper, brought the hives onto campus at night, to minimize disruption. The bees will overwinter in a field adjacent to the Community Garden. Tending them will be a learning opportunity for Sustainable Agriculture students (and the bees will, of course, be pollinators for the gardens).
There’s hope that if the project goes well it can be replicated at other Fleming campuses.
Rick Hyde’s students at Frost Campus have brought in their heavy equipment to clear a space adjacent to the Lindsay Community Garden. Shortly they will be moving into position massive concrete blocks that will form three large bays.
Two of the bays are for vegetable waste from the gardens and the college’s Sustainable Agriculture program. Turning the waste to accelerate decomposition and produce usable compost would be hard manual work, so the heavy equipment operators will return every so often to take care of that.
The final bay is for wood chips. The College’s Forestry program generates quantities of wood chips and regularly drops off loads for Lindsay Community Garden (LCG) pathways.
An additional service Rick’s students will perform is moving large loads of rich soil dredged from last year’s wetland reclamation work to the gardens (perfect for fall soil amendment).
Note: For those who would like to learn more about the bee project, Marcy is planning an Open House, September 21st from Noon to 2 pm.