Students, faculty work to expand butterfly habitat

Bees and butterflies help produce about one-third of the world’s food supply by moving pollen from plant to plant, enabling pollination and allowing us to enjoy apples, almonds, and many other fruits and vegetables.

But due to a loss of habitat, the populations of these essential pollinators has steadily declined.

Scientists and students with the Northern Kentucky University Research Foundation are working to improve habitats for bees and butterflies, work that will be expanded with the help of a grant from the Duke Energy Foundation.

The NKU Research Foundation was recently awarded $10,000 to fund the Greater Cincinnati Pollinator Habitat Initiative, a partnership with the Cincinnati Nature Center and area schools.

It was one of two grants made by the foundation to Northern Kentucky environmental initiatives.

The other was a $25,000 award to the Banklick Watershed Council to preserve a natural wetland, prevent the loss of floodplain and create a more than 100-acre contiguous nature preserve in Kenton County.
The project will expand the Brushy Fork preserve to protect an additional 50 acres of ecologically sensitive areas.

The grants were among $250,000 awarded by the foundation to 16 environmental agencies to fund clean water, wetlands protection and other conservation projects.

NKU and the Nature Center worked on the pollinator initiative with six schools this year, including Scott High School in Taylor Mill. The Duke grant will allow them to expand the program to six more schools in 2020.

Kristy Hopfensperger and Denice Robertson, faculty in NKU’s biological sciences department, are coordinating the grant funds. The project establishes two plots of land at each school to set up native pollinator habitat.

“It’s a step to help reverse the decline in monarch and other pollinator populations,” Robertson says. “We also get to impact future scientists through our encouragement and support.”

Students will test hypotheses on what leads to successful pollinator habitat restoration. NKU has three seed mixes that will be tested in the research.

The other schools currently participating are Cincinnati Christian, Cincinnati Country Day, Milford Middle and High Schools, St. Xavier High School and West Clermont High School.


Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by David Holthaus.

David Holthaus is the managing editor of NKY Thrives, an award-winning journalist, and a Cincinnati native. When not writing or editing, he's likely to be bicycling, hiking, reading or watching classic movies.