St. Ambrose University is now a certified Bee Campus USA affiliate, making it one of only three colleges in Iowa recognized by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation for taking steps to protect and conserve native pollinators.

The Society also recognizes communities, and there is only one Bee City USA affiliate in Iowa: the city of Mount Vernon.

Earning certification was one of the first goals set by the St. Ambrose University Sustainability Committee, which seeks solutions and adopts stewardship practices to sustain the world and allow it to thrive.

“This was one-mile marker on a very long journey toward sustainability at the institution. We hope this creates momentum and sparks new initiatives. We can be doing so much more and we are hopeful we can continue to cultivate this perception and image that St. Ambrose University can and should be the leader in sustainability initiatives in the Quad Cities,” said Dennis Tarasi, PhD, co-chair of the sustainability committee and assistant professor of biology.

According to Bee City, pollinators are a keystone species in every ecosystem on Earth, enabling the reproduction of more than 85 percent of all flowering plants and 67 percent of crops. While bees are the most important pollinator, butterflies, moths, beetles, flies, wasps, bats, and hummingbirds also contribute to pollination.

Research has shown significant declines in native pollinator populations. Globally, up to 40 percent of pollinator species on earth are at risk of extinction in the coming years as a result of habitat loss, the use of pesticides, and climate change, according to Bee City.

As a Bee Campus, SAU will form a committee to advocate for pollinators; increase native plantings and provide more nest sites; create and adopt an integrated pest management plan; reduce pesticide use and expand non-chemical pest management methods; and offer educational and service-learning opportunities.

“Through the certification process we came to realize many of those requirements are already being met by the university,” Tarasi said.

SAU reduced the use of spray chemical pesticides and limited the use of granular products more than three years ago, he said. Native plants are used in campus landscaping whenever possible. Students have created on-campus nesting sites and planted multiple pollinator gardens. And outdoor spaces, such as a prairie space located between Cosgrove and Rohlman residence halls, support and sustain pollinators.

“We are hoping the greater community comes to recognize some of the challenges facing our food system. Raising awareness of the concerns and creating plans to increase native plantings and an integrated pest management plan can be used as a model for others in the region as to how they can also help pollinators in their plight,” Tarasi said. “This is an opportunity to further our standing as a sustainability leader in the regional community.”