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Changemaker Highlight of the Week: People for Pollinators

Posted: Thursday, March 16, 2023

Elyse Talley, University of Evansville biology, and ethics major, wanted to study the research-implementation gap, particularly as it relates to native plants' importance to conservation efforts. She found there was plenty of research into the importance of native plants for pollinators such as bees, and how increasing the number of native plants and pollinator zones will be immensely helpful in improving environmental stability. But as important as that research is, there was not as much material available on how to educate and invigorate a community around the concept.

Increasing the native plant population will lead the way to a healthier, cleaner environment, and Elyse wanted to figure out how to make that happen on a large scale.

So she set out to close that gap. With the guidance of Professor of Biology Cris Hochwender, Elyse spent the Summer of 2022 in the University of Evansville's Native Plant Garden, identifying plants and bees. She paid close attention to which plants attracted which bees and monitoring their pollination habits and efficacy and began laying the groundwork for her ChangeLab, called People for Pollinators.

In the Fall 2022 semester, she worked hard to make connections in the community, ultimately forming meaningful connections with John James Audubon State Park, Seton Harvest, Wesselman Woods, Warrick and Vanderburgh Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and the Indiana Native Plant Society. Through these connections, she has been involved in coordinating local events for raising awareness and also distributing what Elyse has called "Seeds of Change" - packets of native plant seeds that include care instructions.

Currently in its second full semester, People for Pollinators is UE's largest ChangeLab with 16 students enrolled. The team is multidisciplinary, with students from biology, environmental science, communication, literature, psychology, and exercise science. Together, they have continued preparing Seeds for Change seed packets, raising awareness of native plants through social media and community events. Their efforts will culminate in the Spring 2023 Earth Day Celebration on UE's campus when native plants and seed packets will be given away free.

The work that Elyse has undertaken is immense and important. The community she has become a part of has been inspired and invigorated by her efforts. She recently was awarded the Community Conservationist Award from the Vanderburgh County Soil & Water Conservation District.

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