Bees, Please: Xeriscaped Pollinator Garden in the Great Plains

By Victoria Chraïbi, Fulbright Student 2009-2010,  from Hanover College to McGill University

The sun is shining, the buds are blooming, the insects are emerging. It’s the season for gardening!

Gardens are hot spots of beauty and, with increasing necessity, biodiversity. Pollinators, especially bees, are declining in North America. Pollinator gardens are popping up in urban areas to provide much-needed sanctuaries. The plant selection for original pollinator gardens were designed for areas with substantial water resources, and did not translate well to drought-stressed regions.

In Lincoln, Nebraska, I collaborated with Dr. Doug Golick of the Department of Entomology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to design a xeriscaped pollinator garden for a new outdoor classroom. The outdoor classroom serves as a teaching resource for the university and the public school district, as well as a public garden along a popular jogging path. In the ELP garden, we tackled the task of finding the best plants that are both water-wise and attractive to pollinators. This is the first garden we know of that solely focuses on these aspects in the Great Plains.


Our research cross-checked characteristics to identify 64 perennial plant species that would fare well in Nebraska’s plant hardiness zone (5) and only require about 1 inch of water per week. With our location on the prairie, we incorporated as many native plants as possible in a context for visitors to rethink their aesthetics as garden residents rather than roadside weeds. This includes milkweed varieties to support monarch butterflies, and plants like Platte thistle which have a threatened conservation status.

We installed the garden in the summer of 2015, and now that the plants are established, I would like to take you on a tour! Let’s begin with an overview.


The outdoor classroom includes three gardens: a larval habitat, a restored prairie, and the ELP xeriscaped garden. These installations serve two main purposes: 1) they provide different insect habitats for students to study, and 2) they give the casual passerby ideas of how to incorporate different gardening techniques and styles into their own home. The plot includes benches and tables, a leafcutter bee hotel, and the “honeycomb,” a walk-through native bee habitat and lab space.


The ELP garden resides on a 10 m x 16 m plot, and provides one entrance to a gravel path that will eventually wind its way through the entire garden.

As I mentioned above, we focused on several native prairie plants. Our garden introduces many smaller-size varieties of common flowers like coneflower that are more aesthetic for home gardens.


We did introduce a few foreign but well-known pollinator plants:


We also provided a couple plants that are not necessarily great pollen producers but that are reliable home-making resources for native leaf-cutter bees.


We are working on providing a full list of plants with their attributes and pictures on our website:

The plants are watered by a drip line irrigation system using direct drip lines and small sprinklers. They receive 1-3 of water per week, and are only watered on weeks when it doesn’t rain.


The beds are filled in with a few inches’ worth of mulch. Mulch helps trap moisture, insulate the plants during winter, and suppress weeds. It also covers up the irrigation lines. Black-colored mulch provides some design elements to the landscape.


We added some fun decor using recycled materials. A waterless “water feature” provides a small stream of tumbled glass mulch made from recycled glass.


Two cinderblock benches provide a place to rest and watch the bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Entomology students designed mosaics for the benches using recycled glass tiles.

Five educational signs line the path so that any visitor to the garden may enjoy and learn the purpose of the garden.


At the grand opening of the garden last fall, we invited the Entomology Department, university officials, and public school affiliates to explore the new community resource.


The plants in the garden are thriving, and so are the pollinators. Here is a small example of our residents:img015

The Entomology Department is now using the garden for introductory entomology courses. They are working with the public school district to create course curricula at different grade levels and plan field trips to the garden to conduct experiments with entomologists. ELP enabled us to purchase some excellent research equipment that will be used as teaching tools in the garden for years to come. An evapotranspiration gauge measures the amount of water lost from the ground, so students can compare how a xeriscaped garden, restored prairie, and open lawn lose water. A GoPro camera records timelapse video of plants to track when they produce food and which insect species favor them. In this way, we hope to assess which plants really are the best at being water wise and pollinator friendly.


Where do we head from here? As a first-of-its-kind garden in Nebraska, the ELP garden has received state funding for maintenance. UNL also has plans to collaborate with the Riemann Gardens in Ames, Iowa to redesign a portion of their garden along the same concept.

I wish to thank the Fulbright-RBC Eco-Leadership Program for funding this amazing community resource. I also wish to thank Dr. Doug Golick of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for collaborating to include the ELP garden in his own ambitious project of an entomology outdoor classroom. Entomology students, especially Kendra, were incredibly helpful in installing and nurturing the garden. The plants in the ELP garden were sourced from our local partners Finke Nursery and Stock Seed Farms. Please like the page “Journal of an Eco-Leader” on Facebook to follow updates on all of my ELP projects.


Dr. David Last on his experience as the Fulbright Visiting Research Chair in Peace and War Studies

“The opportunity to spend a semester there as a Fulbright scholar has changed the way I look at military education, the private sector, and America’s global role.”

Jackson hall postcard

By Dr. David Last, 2015-2016 Fulbright Visiting Research Chair in Peace and War Studies at Norwich University

The road from Montpelier to Northfield, Vermont, winds through a narrow valley flanked by the Dog River and the Vermont Yankee Railway. Arriving in Northfield in January I was puzzled by the house numbers—1824, 1848, 1853—until I realized that these were the dates they were built. Norwich University is the oldest private military academy in America, established in 1819 and moved to Northfield after a fire in 1866. It was the birthplace of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) in 1916, and plays an important role in developing new models for citizen soldier education.

Although I teach at Canada’s Royal Military College, just five hours away, and study the effect of military education on security, I had never visited Norwich and was only dimly aware that it existed. The opportunity to spend a semester there as a Fulbright scholar has changed the way I look at military education, the private sector, and America’s global role. It provided an opportunity to lead two experiments in undergraduate military education, from which I hope other military academies will benefit. I’m also looking forward to spending more time in Vermont in the future.


Norwich University was founded by Captain Alden Partridge of the US Army Engineers. Educated at West Point and appointed acting superintendent when he was just 29, he clashed with colleagues over his insistence on practical education. When forced to leave the army, he established the American Literary, Scientific and Military Academy at Norwich, Vermont. Almost 200 years later, Norwich University is an extraordinary place.

Around the world, and particularly in NATO countries, leaders are talking about the need for joint, inter-agency, civil-military, multi-national, and public-private partnerships to meet emerging security challenges. But most of the world’s service academies are jealously single-service public institutions where innovation is constrained by legislation, tradition, and staff turnover. Norwich is different. Two thirds of its students are cadets who wear uniform to class, and a third choose a “civilian lifestyle.” It has ROTC cadets from army, navy, air force, and marines. It has civilian and military students from 19 countries. It treats undergraduate students like adults and gives them research and work-study opportunities. It offers Masters programs online to mid-career professionals. Until I saw all this first hand I would not have guessed at the dynamism of a small private military academy with a long-serving president. It is an outstanding leadership laboratory from the top down.

Postcard-Norwich Artillery Battery

The Norwich Fulbright experience has also changed the way I look at the private sector. As a long-term public servant, I harbour suspicions about the greed and self-interest of the private sector. I trust government, not business, to serve the public interest, and look at the privatization of police and military power with grave misgiving. My year at the US Army Command and General Staff College reinforced this, but my semester at Norwich showed me a different face of the public-private partnership. The deep culture of public service and the cultivation of citizen-soldier leadership combines with a generous, committed alumni and the celebration of enterprise that gives back to the institution. The obvious agility and innovation of Norwich as a private institution is a convincing argument for the superiority of private sector military education, at least in this case. Delegations from Cote d’Ivoire and Thailand during my visit seemed to agree.

Norwich faculty and international students showed me a different way for America to interact with a global community. Thirty years in the Canadian army serving overseas with NATO and UN missions left me wary of American influence, and studying international political economy warned me of the harm that a hegemon can do. As a foreign student at Leavenworth, I was aware of the conscious effort to socialize allies, and the irony of leaders like Zia ul Haq in the CGSC “Hall of Honour.” Norwich turns a different face to the world, through foreign cadets and civilian students, study travel, exchanges, and partnership arrangements that are genuine collaborations, not campaigns to influence allies. The rumpled professorial civilians with impressive CVs, teaching in anachronistic army green uniforms, represent the very best of American altruism and internationalism.

student scholarship postcard

Finally, I had a unique opportunity to experiment with undergraduate military education. Norwich calls itself a leadership laboratory, and has innovated since its foundation. I took American and Taiwanese cadets to meet francophone and Anglophone Canadian cadets to an international workshop on non-violent civil resistance, observed discussions of cross-cultural communication with ROTC leaders at six private universities, and travelled to Israel-Palestine with American and Canadian cadets funded by Olmsted and Fulbright respectively. We have survey data about knowledge of, and attitudes towards, non-violent conflict. We conducted a pilot cadet-led field study on peace and conflict, and have a draft handbook for other military academies. We can compare institutional responses to practitioner research on two projects.

The four months at Norwich University flew by. Talking to cadets and students daily, getting to know the institution, and travelling with future American and Canadian leaders has changed the way I see military education, the contribution of the private sector, and American influence abroad. I look forward to continuing work with friends and colleagues from Norwich.

The road to Norwich is grey and icy in January, but lined with trees in bloom by early May. It was much harder to leave than to arrive.


 Ann Chen’s grassroots aerial mapping and multimedia educational workshop,

with youth from the Saulteau First Nation in British Columbia


By: Ann Chen

(Fulbright – National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellow, 2014-2015, and recipient of a Fulbright Canada RBC Eco-Leadership grant, 2015-2016)

Anne Chen 2

Last year on my Fulbright, I had the opportunity to attend the Indigenous Mapping Workshop at a Google office in Waterloo, Ontario. Organized by the Google Earth Outreach Team and the Firelight Group, the three day workshop brought together people from and representing indigenous communities across Canada working with mapping cultural and environmental data. It was at this conference that I met Donovan Cameron, a member of the Saulteau First Nations and GIS advisor. He invited me to teach a kite and balloon mapping workshop in his community and so we began hatching a plan last summer for a short educational workshop for the youth in his community.

Now, thanks to the Fulbright Canada RBC Eco-Leadership Program, I will be returning to Canada this summer to lead a week-long workshop with a group of Saulteau First Nations youth. The workshop will introduce indigenous youth to do-it-yourself, open-source low-tech mapping tools to expand their interest in science and the natural environment through the lens of civic science. The workshop will also include discussions about how civic science methods can be adapted to complement indigenous mapping knowledge and practices.

Ann Chen

I am looking forward to sharing these skills with this group and to get them excited about geographical data and mapping through a hands-on immediate method such as kites and balloons!

Photos courtesy of Ann Chen.

The Fulbright Canada-RBC Eco-Leadership Program provides grants to Fulbright Canada grantees and to Fulbright Canada alumni to undertake community-based environmental initiatives.

Promoting Energy Literacy at the University of Ottawa

By Stephen Blank, 2015-2016 Fulbright Specialist Project on Energy Literacy, and 2012-2013 Fulbright Research Chair in Governance and Public Administration to the University of Ottawa


This past December I went to uOttawa, as a Fulbright Specialist, with the goal of creating greater energy literacy among uOttawa students. The project was hosted by the University’s ‘Collaboratory’ on Energy Research and Policy, operating within the Institute for Science, Society and Policy (ISSP). Dr Monica Gattinger, Founding Director of the ‘Collaboratory’ and now Director of the ISSP, played a central role in organizing and supporting the project.

What is energy literacy?

Energy Literacy is a term that refers to a basic understanding of what energy is and the role it plays in our everyday lives. It also refers to our ability to comprehend the implications of changing energy sources, supplies and uses and our collective ability to apply this understanding in a meaningful way. Our goal was to find ways to help University of Ottawa students have a clearer sense of the major energy and energy-environment issues that will face them when they graduate. We were not out to create a tool box of answers to energy questions, but to ensure that students gained familiarity with the questions.

How can we increase energy literacy?

Through in-depth conversations with 40 uOttawa professors in 15 departments and faculties and meetings with energy and energy-education specialists, associated with the University, I was able to arrive at recommendations designed to help to solve a key challenge to the promotion of energy literacy on the uOttawa campus – a lack of collaboration among the university’s remarkable wealth of energy resources. In fact, the great majority of people with whom I spoke were eager to improve their connections with others in the university who share their interests.

5 Key Recommendations:

  1. Develop enriching course content
  • Create energy-related modules for both energy and non-energy courses that are consistent with main themes of the courses. Although developing effective modules requires collaboration with individual professors, once done, the product exists and can be used again and shared for similar courses.
  1. Share information and widen understanding of university energy assets
  • Class speaker exchanges could be established help to share information and energy assets. For example, a social science faculty member could speak to engineering students, allowing them gain a basic understanding about the policy making process then an engineering faculty member could speak to social science students.
  • Explore opportunities to share assets. For example, site visits to developments such as, the Sunlab Facility, or invites to meetings with professors involved in carbon programs provide opportunities to enhance understanding
  1. Broaden the base of faculty communication
  • Energy related resources are often isolated within disciplinary (or even narrower) silos.The value and impact of these assets on raising energy literacy can be increased significantly by enhancing connectivity among them. For example, “Lunch and Learn” programs could provide an opportunity for these professors to meet, learn about one another’s research and teaching interests, and to explore possible collaborative opportunities.
  1. Develop university-wide course to promote collaboration on energy literacy
  • Riadh Habash, Professor and McLaughlin Research Chair in Energy and Health, suggested creating a university-wide transdisciplinary course titled “Energy and Sustainability Development.” The objective would be to ensure that participants acquire the knowledge and skills needed to understand energy and sustainability development.
  1. Create channels of communication
  • Channels of communication are essential for linking individuals and groups with energy interests. For example, a new and independent website could contain variety of materials including brief (TED-type) talks by UO professors and researchers, modules (with teaching guide-comments), interviews with visitors to campus, references to current literature, events, developments, links to other energy focused centers, organizations, etc.

Strategies capable of enabling members of the uOttawa community, who share interests in energy matters, to connect, exchange information and work together, would have a positive impact on the energy literacy levels and could lead to energy-focused research (particularly the creation of interdisciplinary teams).  This type of development would go far to set uOttawa apart as an energy leader, an area of focus and goal that has proven to be an important part of the community’s identity.


Open Awards For Canadian Students and Scholars

Fulbright Canada is now accepting applications for our core Canadian Scholar and Canadian Student competitions!  Awards are granted to Canadian scholars and students to undertake a program of residential exchange in the United States. These awards are meant to support research, degree programs, and teaching opportunities in the United States.

Opens: May 15th, 2016

Closes: November 15th, 2016 at 5pm EST


Zhao in Lab 2
Dr. Boxin Zhao, Chemical Engineering professor at the University of Waterloo, 2015-16 Visiting Research Chair at the University of California – Santa Barbara

Fulbright Canada awards support exceptional scholars and established independent researchers.  Apply now to various openings in the Fulbright Visiting Research Chairs Program (US$25,000 per academic semester) and the Traditional Fulbright Scholar Awards Program(US$12,500 per academic semester).

Whidden, Julia Acadia University Biology Museum
Julia Whidden, Acadia University alumna, 2015-16 Fulbright Student at the University of Miami


Fulbright Canada awards also support exceptional graduate students and early career independent researchers. Apply now to the Traditional Fulbright Student Awards Program (US$15,000 per academic semester) or the Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program (US$800 per month, plus tuition, room & board).

Fulbright Canada has been promoting cross-cultural academic exchange for 25 years. Our innovative programs in the arts, humanities, and sciences that have allowed scholars and students to experience life-changing cultural learning and engage in networking and professional development opportunities.

Please consult our website for further details on the programs and eligibility requirements. Also, explore the Fulbright Canada blog to learn first-hand how exceptional Fulbrighters describe their experiences.

Are you ready to start your journey?    Apply Now

Rethinking Waste in Red Deer, Alberta

By Starr Brainard, 2015-2016 Independent Researcher in Canada

I am currently about three months into my Fulbright experience. Come spring, I will be happily getting my hands dirty collecting production data from various alternative farms in Central Alberta. In the mean time, my research consists mostly of of emails, literature reviews, and online surveys. While necessary and informative, these steps of my research aren’t pushing me out into the ecosystem of plants, animals, and most importantly people in my host community. I am fortunate to be interning with my community host organization ReThink Red Deer and be a Fulbright Canada-RBC Eco-Leader. Through ReThink Red Deer and The Fulbright Canada-RBC Eco-Leadership Program I have been able to engage my local community in meaningful and rewarding ways over the past few weeks.

To quick bring you up to speed: The Fulbright Canada-RBC Eco-Leadership Program provides small grants to current grantees and alumni of the Fulbright Canada program to partner with local organizations in order to make a significant positive environmental impact in their community. The mission of the non-profit ReThink Red Deer is to promote citizen-driven leadership by providing learning and practical opportunities for sustainable living in Red Deer and District.

The weekend of March 12 & 13 was the Fifth EcoLiving Fair hosted by ReThink Red Deer at Red Deer College. Since before arriving in Canada at the new year, I have been involved in the planning process for this event. It was amazing to see our efforts come to fruition in a fun and informative two days. Exhibitors sold organic local produce, worm composting towers, and heirloom seeds; and informed attendees of local initiatives and organizations. Workshops trained people how to build pollinator hotels, collect seeds, and keep bees and chickens in the city. Electric cars and art about sustainable food were on display; recycled urban lumber was being milled in the courtyard, and a Repair Cafe was hosted to teach participants to fix their things rather than throw them in the landfill. The energy and enthusiasm of all vendors, participants, and volunteers was tangible and infectious.

The EcoLiving Fair also marked the arrival of three Joracan composers to Red Deer College (RDC). My Eco-Leadership project is to install three community sized composers at RDC to pilot a food waste recycling program with the campus vendors. Composted food waste can then be used for landscaping onsite rather than shipping the waste landfills. This grant also seeks to engage the community, so delivery of the composting systems was accompanied by a workshop about how to compost, delivered by the Jordan director himself.

But the fun didn’t stop there. The very next week I was back at RDC to host another event that pushed students to rethink what they do with their waste. I collaborated with the RDC Makerspace, a place for informal and self-directed learning filled with 3D printers and robot parts, to host “Junk to Funk: a Design Challenge in the Makerspace.” At the event students were informed about the ongoing EcoLeadership Program and encouraged to challenge the Throw-Away Culture in which we all live. Teams of pizza-fueled students were given 45 minutes to make a creation from waste and construction tools provided for them. The creations were scored on their “recycle-ability,” encouraging students to consider the next stage of life for their creations after the competition; “structural integrity,” encouraging students to channel their inner engineers; and finally “funkiness,” encouraging students to get their creativity on.

While all the creations were wonderful, the winners were a modeled aquaponic growing system, an aluminum can camping stove, and a cardboard biplane. Winners walked away with gift-cards of their choosing from the campus store.

All in all, I feel honored to be able to work with Rethink Red Deer, Red Deer College, and be a Fulbright Canada-RBC Eco-Leader. Sharing my passions with community members and receiving such an enthusiastic response invigorates me and inspired me to go above and beyond in my research steps to come.

If you are interested in following my research or getting in touch my blog is and my email is [email protected]