Controlling invasive species on campus

Social Sciences

- Paul Marck

Juila Jennings doing field surveys of invasive species in the Bowker Creek area in the summer of 2016. Photo by Lindsay Kathrens.

Sustainability Week, Oct. 10-15

Invasive species management is one of four projects approved and funded this year by the Campus Sustainability Fund

Lindsay Kathrens is on a mission to repel the invaders. Whether they lurk in Mystic Vale, Cunningham Woods, Bowker Creek or brush up along campus buildings, Kathrens and her colleague Julia Jennings lead a clutch of up to 40 students engaged in the Invasive Species Management Project at UVic. This small army of volunteers is on the march to eradicate the spread of plant species that threaten native-growing campus flora.

Kathrens, who graduated in June with a double major in environmental studies and geography, says the Invasive Species Project makes classroom studies more meaningful and practical, connecting course work and students with initiatives that are already underway in understanding ecology and campus ecosysems.

 “That project has been an opportunity to apply our learning through self-directed studies. It gives people an opportunity to situate learning in place,” says Kathrens, now a coordinator with the project. “The natural areas around our campus provide a real place for learning, a living laboratory.”

The Invasive Species Management Strategy involves a cross-section of campus stakeholders, including Facilities Management grounds staff, students, Environmental Studies faculty and community members to coordinate the removal of invasive species on campus, develop an action plan and identify priority areas for action.

Invasive species management is one of four projects approved and funded this year by the Campus Sustainability Fund, which provides one-time allocations to campus projects that focus on water savings, sustainability awareness and learning opportunities.  The fund was created earlier this year with the university’s contribution of $100,000 to help the campus community develop and engage in projects that advance the goals of the Sustainability Action Plan.

Project leader Dr. Valentin Schaefer of the School of Environmental Studies and academic administrator of the Restoration of Natural Systems Program, says UVic’s campus has a largely intact and healthy native ecosystems based around Douglas-fir and Garry Oak forests and tree stands. But they are under threat of becoming degraded and overgrown by invasive species such as English Ivy, Himalayan blackberry, English holly and English hawthorn. There are also noxious plants, such as daphne laurel, that can cause severe allergic reactions.

Invasive plants get a bad rap from Schaefer. “If these invasive species are left unchecked, they will progress into a phase of exponential growth and they will become extremely difficult or impossible to control if that happens,” says Schaefer. “What the Campus Sustainability Fund has allowed us to do is conduct a field survey of campus, identifying where the invasive species are located and recommending appropriate action for each site.”

The Campus Sustainability Fund allows the project to be more strategic and effective with inclusive student participation and educational outreach, Schaefer adds. “The Campus Sustainability Fund has enabled us to develop 10 area management plans in a format that makes them easy for an instructor to adopt in their course curriculum and engage their students.”

Kathrens agrees the funding has been invaluable. “It’s allowed us to do work we’ve been wanting to do for a long time but never had the capacity to do.”

Building on the success of the Revolving Sustainability Loan Fund that was established in 2011, the Campus Sustainability Fund assists in funding projects suggested by members of the university community that further UVic’s Sustainability Action Plan.

In addition to invasive species management, three other Campus Sustainability Fund projects got underway this summer:

  • District energy system carbon intensity reduction feasibility research—examining alternative energy technologies and their potential integration into the district energy system
  • Edible landscapes—with the goal of engaging faculty, staff and students in the investigation, review and design of potential edible landscapes on the UVic campus
  • Women and trans bike repair workshop series—a bike repair workshop series for women and the transgender community

The deadline for new project applications to the Campus Sustainability Fund is Oct. 15. More information:

The war on invasive species

Dr. Valentin Schaefer of the School of Environmental Studies is also academic administrator of the Restoration of Natural Systems Program at UVic. As project leader of the Invasive Species Management Project, financially supported by the Campus Sustainability Fund, Valentin told The Ring about the project’s work and benefits.

What is the risk of invasive species on Vancouver Island?

Invasive species are a serious threat on the island. In the Greater Victoria area, we have the Capital Region Invasive Species Partnership (CRISP) working as a collective effort between municipalities and other stakeholders to try to keep out new invasive species and either eliminate or control existing invasions. It also targets invasive species that are a serious threat to human health such as giant hogweed – which has actually shown up on campus at times but Facilities Management has been quick to eradicate these invasions. There is a watch list of species that may show up and the strategy is to catch these invasions early before they become established. On a larger scale we have the Coastal Invasive Species Committee (CISC) that operates on the island and the Sunshine Coast that removes invasive species along highways and in sensitive areas. They try to keep the invasions of species such as Scotch broom in check as much as possible. The CISC is one of a number of local weed committees associated with the provincial Invasive Species Council of BC.

What is the work of the Ecological Restoration Volunteer Network (ERVN)?

The Ecological Restoration Volunteer Network was formed in 2010 in response to several years of strong student interest to restore habitat on campus. Students from the Restoration of Natural Systems (RNS) Program and the Environmental Studies Students Association (ESSA) in the School of Environmental Studies were keen to organize to remove invasive species. At that time the RNS Academic Administrator applied for a Work Study grant to support a Volunteer Coordinator position. The position has been supported by Work Study and supervised by the Academic Administrator every year since. The position has been held by ESSA or RNS students. The students initially used equipment from the RNS Program but subsequently applied for club status to purchase some of its own equipment and provide refreshments at events.

Sustainability Week

Sustainability Week at UVic, Oct. 10 to 15, is another opportunity for faculty, staff and students to learn about sustainability initiatives on campus through Campus Planning and Sustainability. Activities and events include:

  • Oct. 11 – Green Buildings: Urban Adventure tours
  • Oct. 12 – Energizing the UVic Data Centre tour
  • Oct. 12 – Edible campus forum
  • Oct. 13 – Campus ecology walk
  • Oct. 13 – Creative compost collaboration
  • Oct. 14 – Campus bike tour



In this story

Keywords: biodiversity, environment, Campus Sustainability Fund, administrative, community, sustainability

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