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Rewilding Dartmouth: A Student's Passion for Pollinators Leads to a More Colorful Campus

Written by Jack Walker, Sustainability Program Coordinator

As part of an ENVS lab, students observe biodiversity of insect and plant life in one pollinator garden at the Dartmouth Organic Farm.

The Green is one of the most recognizable images of our campus. This carefully managed section of turf might be an iconic trademark of Dartmouth–but what might happen if we embraced greater landscape biodiversity, allowing other patches of sod around campus to be a bit wilder, pop with a bit of color, and provide shelter and forage for pollinators?  

Brian Arruda ‘25 has an answer. For three years, he’s been at the forefront of creating pockets for pollinators on campus. As a first-year Sustainability Action Program student, Arruda and his teammates saw an opportunity to both reduce the energy needed to maintain campus grounds, while also creating a more ecologically diverse space. “During my freshman spring, I had a class in Silsby Hall. Every Monday at the same time, our class would be disrupted by a lawnmower buzzing right outside the windows. It was so loud that our professor would halt class for the five minutes it took to mow this tiny patch of grass. There had to be an alternative.” That same spring, Arruda and his teammates began holding meetings with Dartmouth Facilities, Operations, and Management to begin building out a list of potential sites to convert to wildflowers, as well as forging a crucial partnership with David Hammond and other Class of ‘89 alumni who have helped grow this project to more than just the Dartmouth Campus.

Preparing the sunken garden outside the Life Sciences Center for planting wildflower seeds.

Perennial wildflowers come back each year in the sites that have been planted.

That first spring, around a dozen sites were planted on campus, the Organic Farm, and in the town of Hanover. “It’s crucial to have students there actively participating in the planting and maintenance of the wildflower beds,” Arruda states, because “participation proves to the administration that students want this change.” In the fall of his sophomore year, Arruda secured funding from Dartmouth Sustainability for his work on the Pollinator Project and continued marking and seeding potential sites and organizing volunteers to manage existing sites.

The Pollinator Project has grown massively since its onset. To date, the project has planted over 54,000 sq. ft of new pollinator habitat at over 16 locations throughout the Dartmouth campus and Upper Valley, as well as spawning a non-profit organization, Creating Habitats for Pollinators, helmed by David Hammond of the Class of ‘89. Arruda is currently a junior at Dartmouth and a teaching assistant of ENVS 50, the Environmental Studies culminating experience course that has focused this year on growing the Pollinator Project. Reflecting on the impact of his work, he shared, “Of course I want to leave a legacy as a student. If it can be one that’s mutually beneficial to the college and the landscape, that’s even better.”

Volunteers from the Class of '89 prepare the site at the Dartmouth Organic Farm. [David Hammond in the center]

Brian Arruda '25 and David Hammond '89 prepare a garden site outside Collis Center.


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