Center for Urban Ecology busy this spring

Photo by Reid Bruner

The Center for Urban Ecology at Butler University is busy working on initiatives that its staff hopes will benefit the environment and the community.

Tim Carter, director for the center, said the campus farm will expand as a result of a grant from the Nina Mason Charitable Trust.

The added land will help provide room to house chickens on the campus farm.

Travis Ryan, associate professor of biological sciences and a founding member of the center, said acquiring the chickens will help educate the community about how to make food local and teach kids about how they get their food.

“Without an exposure to where food comes from, it leads to some ignorance about food, which leads to making poor food choices,” Ryan said. “This is an educational effort that says…you can do this. You don’t have to depend on stuff in a bag at a convenience store.”

Ryan said the farm has already procured the chicken coop from Andrew Brake of but is waiting for someone to sponsor the addition of the chickens, which Carter said would cost $1,500.

After that, Carter said taking care of the chickens will be a “no-brainer.”

“It’s a pretty cut-and-dried system,” Carter said. “Chickens don’t take a lot of management. They go out in the day. The minute [it] starts to get dark, they come inside.”

Another low-maintenance project at the campus farm is the bee colony that was installed last year.

Shelby Johnson, an intern with the center, said she checked on the bees last week with other members of the center and found that the bees didn’t survive the winter.

“It’s the result of global warming,” Johnson said. “All our bees died, so we’re ordering some new bees.”

Ryan said the bees then went through their food supply and died of starvation because they remained active during the warm winter when they usually become inactive.

Understanding why the bees died is another part of what the center does—research.

Ryan said in addition to studying turtles in the canal and squirrels around campus, he is currently working with students on research involving road kill in residential areas.

“By looking at who gets run over, what time of the year and where [they get run over], you can begin to piece together the hidden life of animals in an urban ecosystem by looking at the distribution of dead bodies,” Ryan said.

Ryan said students will monitor the new green roof that was installed atop the Pharmacy Building and he hopes to have students using the campus farm as a laboratory for a physical well-being class in the near future.

Johnson said there is no shortage of ideas among students at the center either.

“It’s kind of cool, because with the CUE, you can have any idea that has to do with urban ecology come to the CUE, and they will fund your project,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the center has plans to use canoes to clean up the area of the White River that runs behind Butler during mid-April.


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