A new student-led pollinator garden planted on campus

A uOttawa student water pollinator plants on campus
Holly Gordon
In the summer of 2022, Victoria Rose King, a master’s student at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, won a grant by participating in WWF-Canada’s Designing Change for a Living Planet 2022 competition. She and her group participated in this national competition, which brings together post-secondary students to take action for nature, by proposing to build a native pollinator garden.

So why a pollinator garden? Pollinators are an umbrella category that includes bees, butterflies, beetles, and birds. These animals are essential to the success of ecosystems and the crops we eat; however, many pollinator species are in decline. Pollinator gardens are one vital way to increase biodiversity on campus: they create a habitat for pollinators, sequester carbon, increase the resiliency of the ecosystem, and aid in restoring habitat connectivity. They can also serve as the foundation for many scalable projects that all campus community members can engage in.

Climate change and increased foot traffic are making it harder to maintain and beautify transitional grass spaces on campus. More importantly, these simple grass spaces also have limited benefits for wildlife and biodiversity.

Victoria’s project aimed to create an opportunity and space for students and faculty members to focus on habitat restoration, community engagement, mindfulness, and potential research. “I wanted to build a pollinator garden in a central campus area to allow students to be mindful and reflect on nature while reflecting on their responsibility to the Earth.”

Working with our office and the Grounds team from Facilities, Victoria and the team chose a portion of Marion Square (across from the STEM building) as the project site. The garden’s size was based on the number of plants that could fit in the budget. The Grounds team and student volunteers removed the sod and edged the garden. After the soil and mulch were delivered, the team purchased the plants. Victoria researched pollinator-friendly plants that would thrive in this space and whose bloom times would vary to offer extended value for pollinators.

Ritchie Feed & Seed had a nice variety of pollinator-friendly plants native to Ontario. A few blueberry bushes were added to the list to contribute to the edible landscape initiative and provide food for birds.

“After purchasing the plants, we mapped out where they would go and began to plant and water them with the volunteers,” noted Victoria. After planting, they scheduled weekly waterings to help establish the plants. The team regrouped one final time in the late fall to trim down the plants and prepare the garden for winter.

“Without exaggeration, bees were hovering around the flowers immediately after planting. We spotted at least five different types of bees and wasps right away. Students walking by also stopped to tell us how nice it was looking. It was so amazing to see the immediate benefits of the garden. I can’t wait to see what it looks like next summer when everything is in bloom!”

Bee on black-eyed susan flowers
Yellow-banded bumble bee on black-eyed susan flowers