The Mountain’s Pollinator Education Program Updates

Thanks to a generous grant from the Macon County Community Foundation, The Mountain’s Pollinator Education Program is becoming a reality!

With our allocated funds, we have purchased brand-new collecting and identification equipment for cataloging the biodiversity of our 82-acre tract. The results of all new surveys will be shared with the Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust, which owns our conservation easement. Equipped with the baseline knowledge of our Arthropod fauna, we can begin to monitor for any changes over time alongside of the ongoing improvements to our Many Hands Peace Farm and mountain meadow habitats.

Most importantly, with this new equipment and supplies, we can engage the next generation of environmental stewards through our programs and outreach to local schools. We’re very excited to teach these young people about the importance of pollinators, how to identify native and non-native species, and what can be done at home to create inviting pollinator habitats.

In 2019, we will be hosting a variety of age groups:

  • Our first young bug enthusiasts will be kindergartners from The Highlands School. These students will be learning about the links between pollinators and the food they eat every day as well as observing pollinator behavior in nature.
  • In June, we are running a program for our Senior High MountainCamp with a focus on identification, practical ecosystem management techniques, and broad concepts of Conservation Biology as it relates to insects and their kin, “the little things that run the world” (E.O. Wilson).
  • For Elementary Camp, we plan to run an arthropod-focused Bio Blitz event with the help of other local non-profits. This will be a day-long race to identify every living thing on our property and to gain a snapshot of our neighboring species in the beautiful biodiversity hotspot of Highlands.
  • We are hoping to run similar programs with other area schools and are thrilled to have the scientific equipment we need to make a difference in our students’ lives.
  • An increasing number of guests and groups are visiting The Mountain and touring our high-altitude Mountain Meadow, Many Hands Peace Farm, and Food Forest, which provide the ecosystem and pollinator habitat. Thanks to grant funding from the Laurel Garden Club, three information kiosks have been installed

 

In the coming years, we plan to broaden our scientific programming by soon adding two bee hives and insect rearing equipment. A new classroom is being created in an unused stable at the base of The Mountain. This educational space will be equipped with a set of microscopes and other learning supplies. Learners young and old will be able to see and experience just how fascinating nature and its insect inhabitants can be.

We will work extensively within the Highlands community and partner with Macon County Schools in raising awareness about the vital cause of conserving and protecting our local pollinators. We are deeply appreciative of the Macon County Community Foundation for providing the essential grant funding for this project.

The Mountain is grateful for the support of the Highlands community and our partnership with the Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust. This grant will result in at least one collaborative “Bioblitz” event involving several area nonprofits. Sarah Pursel, Children’s Education Coordinator/Development Assistant for the Land Trust will be leading the Entomology programming, with renowned National Geographic photographer, Kevin Fitzpatrick, assisting with the Bio Blitz planning and programming.

Thanks also goes to Alyssa Fuller, trained entomologist and member of The Mountain staff, for her central role in planning this program, community partnerships, and acquiring the necessary equipment.

Alyssa will soon be leaving our staff and the area for new adventures in the Northeast. We wish her the best on this next part of her life journey.