Kirby Delaney, a VIU masters of community planning program graduate who wrote her thesis on the benefits of bees in communities, left, Chris Brown, masters of education student and president of VIU’s Community Peace Garden, and Margot Thomaidis, a master of community planning student and member of the peace garden ecosystem club are part of an effort that helped the VIU Nanaimo campus be designated B.C.’s first Bee Campus by Bee City Canada on Wednesday. CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

VIU students in Nanaimo have been busy creating haven for bees

Peace garden and program to protect pollinators providing new educational opportunities

Knowledge is the nectar expected to flow from a new program that will provide educational opportunities for students while protecting bees and other pollinators.

Vancouver Island University’s Nanaimo campus became British Columbia’s first Bee City Canada Bee Campus with an event held at the campus’s peace garden Wednesday.

Bee City Canada designation – intended to inspire municipalities, First Nations, schools, businesses and other organizations to take action to protect pollinators – commits VIU to organize activities that help protect bees, wasps and other insects. A VIU press release noted 70 per cent of all plant species depend upon pollinators, which are under threat by environmental stresses, such as pesticides, pollution and parasites.

“It’s part of a movement,” said Shelly Candel, director of Bee City Canada. “It’s across Canada – there’s now 34 cities across Canada – there’s already four in British Columbia, two First Nation communities and Clearwater and Kamloops,”

VIU joins eight universities across Canada that have been awarded Bee Campus designations.

The campus peace garden has been revitalized and will become a haven for bees by growing a variety of plants favoured by pollinating insects. VIU’s sustainability advisory committee and faculty of education contributed $1,000 each to the project.

“This is a demonstration site that we want to show feasibility to be able to scale up to other spaces,” said Chris Brown, education student and president of VIU’s Community Peace Garden. “Because it is a marginal space. It’s the northwest side of the library. We don’t have a great light profile. There’s no irrigation installed right now, but everything is doing well.”

Brown envisions such features as a greenhouse that can tap waste heat from the campus library’s HVAC system vents as part of the garden’s future potential as a demonstration and teaching site. Planning calls for an edible forest on the plot too.

“This garden is multi-disciplinary, so all of the different groups on campus can benefit from this as an educational space.”

READ ALSO: Student club buzzing about bees

The university’s masters of community planning program and the VIU Peace Garden Educational Ecosystem student club are also working together to raise awareness about the importance of pollinators to maintain healthy ecosystems.

Margot Thomaidis, a masters of community planning student in her final year and member of the peace garden club, helped apply for the designation and said the next steps involve building more garden beds, buying plants, increasing soil production and other tasks and hosting gardening basics workshops in early 2020.

“Everything we’re doing, such as increasing biodiversity, is supporting pollinators – there’s that lens – but including as many students as possible when we’re doing it because it’s about awareness. It’s about education,” Thomaidis said.

An immediate goal, she said, is to plant large numbers of flowers that will produce food for bees in the spring.

Kirby Delaney, a VIU masters of community planning graduate, wrote her thesis on the benefits to bees and communities from making space for pollinators in municipalities. She explained how making a space for bees on campus has already brought multiple departments together to focus on and derive educational opportunities from working to achieve the Bee Campus designation.

“It means that, as a university, we’ve made a commitment,” Delaney said. “It means that there was a lot of work behind the scenes to figure out what this program would look like at VIU and lot of student hours, a lot of faculty hours to make all of this actually happen before the designation process could actually begin, so there’s already a lot of research and a lot of manual labour behind it.”

To learn more about VIU’s Bee Campus designation, click here.

For more information on Bee City Canada, visit https://beecitycanada.org/.



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