June 9, 2023

UCalgary and community work together to learn from our rich biodiversity – and protect it

Sustainability strategy connects Bee Campus designation, ongoing teaching and research, community engagement, and more
Some of the most commonly observed pollinator species in Calgary.
Some of the most commonly observed pollinator species in Calgary. Mindi Summers

The University of Calgary is taking the lead on conservation and stewardship efforts for pollinators in Calgary, which is home to the largest number of bumble bee species in North America.

According to Dr. Mindi Summers, PhD, associate professor (teaching) in the Department of Biological Sciences, this is being achieved through the university's Bee Campus designation, ongoing research and community engagement.

Cross-pollinating campus and community

While developing UCalgary's digital bee species collection, Summers led the effort to secure Bee City Canada's Bee Campus designation for UCalgary. According to Summers, the university has a critical role to play in conserving, protecting and supporting pollinators in our communities, which makes this designation so significant.

Summers collaborated with The City of Calgary for students in her course to survey insect biodiversity and share information on pollinator-plant associations with city ecologists. This work has informed planting guides and restoration efforts, and led Summers and her students to design and launch the Calgary Pollinators Project , a creative approach to engaging the community in sustainable bee-forward efforts.

The project invites anyone to become a wildlife photographer by uploading images of pollinators to the iNaturalist website for specialists to identify. With more than 6,000 observations of more than 300 pollinators so far, the project aims to reach 10,000 observations by the end of this summer. Summers notes that anything that touches a flower is considered a pollinator and is ready for its close-up (if you're quick enough).

The UCalgary Campus Community Garden near Cascade Hall on Main Campus is an ideal location to get involved in the Calgary Pollinators Project. With 62 strictly pesticide-free gardening plots and two large beds of native wildflowers, the garden serves as a safe haven for pollinators. Last year, the garden was home to Bank for Bees, a functional piece of art by Dylan McLernon, MFA'18, which doubled as a bee habitat. The project was part of Campus as a Learning Lab, an initiative that encourages the use of campus facilities to contribute to education and research through experiential-learning opportunities.

This year, McLernon will be unveiling a new piece as part of the kickoff to Pollinator Week, which runs June 19 to 25. In conjunction with its Office of Sustainability and Faculty of Science, UCalgary will host events and activities across campus to promote the conservation and celebration of our busy bees and other pollinators.

Wheatfields and grain silos outside Rowley, Alberta

Wheatfields and grain silos outside Rowley, Alberta.

Mike Grant, Unsplash

Research into novel techniques to improve crop resilience

Researchers at UCalgary have created an innovative research project on crop yields in the Canadian grain industry. Led by Faculty of Science researcher Dr. Marcus Samuel, PhD, and his team in collaboration with the Government of Saskatchewan, this project aims to investigate new, non-GMO ways to improve Canadian crop yield with high protein content and to develop drought-resistant wheat seeds. With Alberta crops becoming increasingly vulnerable to fluctuating temperatures, hailstorms and drought, this research is critical to minimizing the impacts of extreme climate changes.

Grassroots agricultural teaching and learning

UCalgary's Werklund School of Education, meanwhile, is exploring partnerships with the Highfield Regenerative Farm to offer an innovative eight-week Design for Learning course. Through interdisciplinary teaching methods, pre-service teachers are learning about global sustainable development topics such as urban farming and food security. The course, taught by Stephanie Bartlett, ME'16, a PhD candidate and Werklund instructor, provides students with practical and experiential-learning opportunities through community partnerships. The outcomes of the course highlight the impact community engagement can have at a local level, while also providing students with the skills to engage with global issues. This program showcases how local initiatives can contribute to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

UCalgary's approach to sustainability recognizes the interconnected social-ecological challenges facing societies today. By utilizing strong partnerships and supporting change through teaching, learning and operations, the university is reshaping the future of sustainability.

Read more about UCalgary's progress.

UCalgary is committed to improving biodiversity by promoting pollinator-friendly initiatives in the community and on campus. The 2022 Institutional Sustainability Report highlights a year of progress in improving life for all populations through research, teaching, learning, and campus and community impact. The report is guided by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals covered in six sustainability themes. The Life, Land and Water theme highlights the importance of maintaining and promoting ecological health.

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