SMC, IUSB students evaluate invasive species

DOWAGIAC — Dozens of Southwestern Michigan College and Indiana University South Bend students got their hands dirty Friday morning in an effort to protect native plant species on SMC’s campus.

The SMC and IUSB Honors Programs teamed up Friday to evaluate and remove invasive species, particularly spotted knapweed, from the pollinator field on SMC’s Dowagiac campus. For the project, student teams worked together to count and pull knapweed from the ground and cut down small, dead trees from the pollinator field.

“We are doing what we can to control those invasive species now, and in the spring, we want to have a controlled burn out here, which will give the native species a better foothold and help keep the invasive species in check,” said Stacey Rocklin, Michigan State University Institute of Agricultural Technology program coordinator and an organizer of Friday’s event. “It’s great that there are so many students involved with that today.”

Maintaining and limiting invasive species is important to make room for native species and for increasing biodiversity, according Eleanor Serocki, a representative with the Van Buren Conservation District.

Rocklin said she hoped not only that the project would help protect the environment at SMC’s campus, but would also inspire students to get involved with agriculture and community service.

“This is a volunteer project, but it is also a learning opportunity, where kids are putting into practice things they have seen in the classroom,” she said. “I hope this inspires somebody to pursue a career in plant sciences.”

Friday’s event was a continuation of a partnership between the SMC and IUSB honors programs, as last April for Earth Day, SMC’s honors program helped Indiana University’s honors program clean along the St. Joseph River bank in South Bend. Gary Franchy and Mark Pelfrey, co-founders of the SMC Honors Program, said they found Friday’s event a successful extension of that partnership and that they hope to continue to partner with IUSB for future service projects.

“We are very keen on building this partnership,” Pelfrey said. “This is also just a great way for our students to get out there and do some good work in the community.”

Many of the students who took part Friday morning seemed to enjoy themselves as they laughed and joked with each other as they pulled up weeds from the field. One such student was 18-year-old Andrea Lee, president of SMC’s agriculture club.

“Sustainability is something I’m really passionate about, and getting the invasive species out is just really going to help this area thrive,” she said. “I’m really happy to see so many other students out here and taking an interest in this. It is just really important.”

To learn more about SMC’s honors program and future projects, visit: swmich.edu/honors.

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