NSU faculty, students to host open house at Monarch Waystation

ABERDEEN, S.D. – Northern State University biology faculty and students will host a public open house at one of two new Monarch Waystations in Aberdeen.

The “Pollinator Garden Community Meet and Greet” will be held 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 14, at Kuhnert Arboretum, located south of Melgaard Road. Drs. Alyssa Anderson and Jodie Ramsay will attend, along with NSU biology student interns Tessa Durnin, Sean Kramer and Matt Wiebers.

The pollinator garden was created with funding from a $5,000 grant from the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Wildlife Diversity Small Grants Program. The grant paid for plants and materials for two gardens, as well as the three student interns, who helped to plant and maintain the gardens. The second garden is located on the NSU campus, south of the Gerber Building across from the NSU greenhouse.

Because of the gardens’ combination of plants, they have been designated as Monarch Waystations, or a collection of plants that attract pollinators such as monarch butterflies. Ramsay, chairwoman of the NSU biology department, said signs will be put up at both gardens to indicate this.

The gardens were planted this summer, and the three student interns are now monitoring pollinators at both locations. The gardens will also be used for some NSU courses as well.

At the Sept. 14 event, the NSU team will be available to answer questions, talk about the plants and hand out packets of wildflower seeds as well as milkweed seeds, the only plant that monarch caterpillars eat. They also hope to do monarch tagging demonstrations, and students will bring along insect collections. The team plans to hold a similar event next spring.

Anderson, assistant professor of biology, said monarch populations have declined in recent years in part due to habitat loss.

“Creation of Monarch Waystations, which provide milkweed for developing larva and nectar for adult monarchs, is one way to help sustain monarch populations,” she said.

Ramsay said the gardens are a precursor to what the university plans to do on a bigger scale at the new Regional Science Education Center, set to open in 2019, where all landscaping will consist of native plants.

“We’re trying to raise awareness about needing more habitat for pollinators,” Ramsay said.

For more information, contact Ramsay at Jodie.Ramsay@northern.edu. More information about the Monarch Waystation Program can be found at www.monarchwatch.org/waystations