The buzz surrounding our declining pollinators keeps getting louder and louder. The recently developed UGA Public Service and Outreach program, Connect to Protect, joins the Greater Atlanta Pollinator Partnership (GAPP) in spreading the word about the loss of our native insect diversity and providing ways to get involved. Like GAPP, Connect to Protect focuses on the opportunity that our urban areas provide for constructing pollinator habitats. The idea is to create a connected network of beautifully designed and ecologically minded landscapes within our communities. Using native plants in our landscapes acknowledges the coevolutionary relationships that have developed among plants and their insect partners over thousands of years. As a result of these partnerships, many insects have high specificity to breed or feed only on particular native plant species or families. Increasing the diversity within our landscapes can create dramatic expressions of color and texture while providing resources for wildlife. The hope is to create corridors of native plant gardens through our urban environments.
Education is the other crucial piece of the pollinator conservation puzzle. What better way to ensure a future for our ecologically crucial insects than to teach children about the fantastic world of pollination biology? Connect to Protect organizes hands-on educational programs for elementary-aged children to learn in an informal environment while getting their hands dirty. Planting pollinator gardens at schools creates accountability with garden maintenance while providing an introduction into the various career paths that biological science offers. Installation of native gardens, coupled with education programs ensures that our communities are aware of the plight of pollinators and have ways to get involved that are both fun and ecologically beneficial.
This is a call to arms! Getting involved in conservation does not require a degree in biology, nor does it require large tracts of land. We can no longer rely solely on our dwindling wildlands to support insect and plant diversity. Small pockets of native plants have the power to transform our neighborhoods into ecological havens and change the way people think about our landscapes. By focusing on the inextricable relationship between plants and pollinators, the Connect to Protect program advocates for increasing both plant and insect diversity in our expanding urban areas.
Visit the State Botanical Garden in Athens, Georgia for the Connect to Protect Native Plant Sale. A variety of native wildflowers, grasses, and forbs will be for sale on October 6th, 7th, and 8th and October 13th, 14th, 15th.
Get involved, plant a garden, and spread the word!
Guest Blog written by: Lauren Muller, UGA College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. M.S. Candidate, Horticulture