HomeEducation2022 Student Impact Award Winners: Pollinator Protection

2022 Student Impact Award Winners: Pollinator Protection

This year the Institute on the Environment and the Office of Sustainability hosted the inaugural, system-wide Student Impact Awards. These awards honor student efforts to lead the way towards a future in which people and planet prosper together. Meet three of the winners, whose leadership efforts focus on protecting our pollinators.


Entomology Department is abuzz about Chan Dolan’s research and community leadership 

Graduate student Chan Dolan’s research on bumble bee nesting ecology is leading the field of pollinator conservation. Few studies document bee nesting habits, yet good nesting sites are a prerequisite for healthy pollinator populations. In the first year of her Master’s degree, Dolan has already piloted methods to document nesting and led community science efforts to educate and empower people to implement bee conservation measures. At the Nachusa Grasslands in Illinois, she led a 25-person workshop on the endangered rusty-patched bumble bee. There, she taught participants how to search for and identify the endangered bees as well as what can be done to protect them. The workshop effectively trained volunteers who can now find this rare species in other areas of the region. It also contributed data to regional and federal efforts through a collaboration with USGS to protect this endangered bee and the imperiled tallgrass prairie ecosystem where it lives.

Dolan is an unyielding changemaker in the Cariveau Native Bee Lab and the Entomology Department at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. In her first year as a graduate student, she has taken leadership roles within the department’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee and joined the university’s Trans Advisory and Action Team. She is also leading efforts to support broader awareness of LGBTQIA+ issues within STEM by coordinating workshops and seminar speakers that educate her colleagues and create safe spaces for students experiencing identity-based discrimination. Dolan is an incredible ally and supporter of other graduate students, undergraduate students, and staff in the research lab, ensuring their voices are heard during decision-making processes. 


Ashley Darst helps communities understand threats and benefits to butterflies

In 2021, Ashley Darst surveyed butterflies along restored roadsides to test how seeding with native prairie plant communities promotes diverse pollinator communities in road verges (which you may know as a boulevard, berm, curb strip, or furniture zone, amongst many other regionally unique names). Results of this work will inform future roadside restoration and management. Darst also led a project on butterfly attraction (or lack thereof) to salty nectar, an issue along roadsides with high salt application. This summer, she’lll be working on an urban ecology project, helping to survey heavy metal contamination and bioavailability across the Twin Cities. The results will speak to variation in metal tolerance across butterfly species and also provide data to local communities on metal concerns in parks and gardens.

Darst also engages with local communities through her research. In her roadside work, she joined in regular communications with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the Board of Water and Soil Resources, and county-level roadside managers. In addition, she has presented results and discussed implications at technical advisory panel meetings with stakeholders. This summer, Darst is helping engage local community gardens and non-profits contributing to food security in the Twin Cities. 


New student organization, Helping Hives, makes un’bee’lieveable progress in their first year

A new student organization on the University of Minnesota Duluth campus, Helping Hives, aims to make it easier for UMN Duluth students to learn about bees, beekeeping, and the importance of pollinators and pollinator habitats. Although the campus has long had beehives at the UMD Land Lab, it is located five miles from campus and isn’t as accessible to all students as an apiary on the main campus grounds would be – Helping Hives aims to change that! 

With less than a year as a student organization, Helping Hives has maintained steady attendance at weekly meetings and formed partnerships with the Office of Sustainability, the UMD Land Lab, Facilities Management staff and Grounds crews, the Recreational Sports Outdoor Program, and Student Life. UMD wants students to use the campus as a living lab as a space for learning and engagement beyond the classroom, and Helping Hives is leaning into that mission. This crew knows how to get their peers excited about all things bees and pollinators, and they have a lot of fun getting out into the community to volunteer, share their knowledge and passions, and inspire the next generation of pollinator protectors.

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