Augustana students getting hands dirty for a cleaner tomorrow

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – Environmental Studies students at Augustana University aren’t just growing in their education but also in their love of helping the community.

With a little help from some grant funding, students in the class develop projects that will help the environment. From a campus orchard to restoring native prairie grass, the grounds are littered with inspired ideas.

Junior Mia Werger and her Environmental Studies Professor David O’Hara are looking out into what might seem like an empty plot of land, but, if you ask Werger, all she sees is the potential.

“About a year ago, this was just some grass that nobody had a plan for… and, I was really wanting to restore some native tallgrass prairie on Augustana’s campus,” Werger said.

For her environmental studies project, she’s planted over 100 different kinds of native prairie tallgrass.

“Because this whole area in Sioux Falls used to be miles and miles of tallgrass prairie, which is a really, really unique and incredible biome that, I think, now is the most endangered biome on the planet,” Werger said.

This is one of many projects that can be found sprouting around the campus grounds.

Courtesy: David O’Hara

“We have one student who is restoring hawk habitat, we have a student who is using aquaphonics to grow fish and food in the same place,” O’Hara said.

Each student is tasked with coming up with a project that will have a long lasting impact on the environment.

“I love it when students come to me with a new project – something I haven’t thought of because I love to see that kind of creativity – especially when it’s creativity that’s intended to be in service of the community,” O’Hara said.

Courtesy: David O’Hara

Werger’s prairie grass, for example, will minimize maintenance costs: since they were designed to live in South Dakota, they don’t need to be watered, mowed, or coated in pesticides

“A lot of insects, birds, small mammals that live in South Dakota depend on native plants for food and shelter, and when we plant this turf grass that’s two inches tall, it doesn’t feed or do anything good for the wildlife here,” Werger said.

She goes on to say the results won’t be visible till sometime next year, but in the meantime, she’s hoping her garden can plant the seeds of inspiration for those curious of the world around them.

“It just, sort of, opens their eyes to, ‘where are we?’ ‘what other creatures do we share part of this world with,’ and ‘how can we be better co-habitators?'” Werger said.

O’Hara says that some students in the class even volunteer during their off time to help maintain these projects.

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