Oregon State’s research addresses issues that improve lives, protect natural resources and drive economic growth. While cutting-edge research takes place in buildings like the Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory, Cordley Hall or Hallie E. Ford Center, research into topics such as pollinator health can take place in campus’s landscapes—right before our eyes.
The Corvallis campus is a living laboratory. Tucked away in small corners on the west side of campus are a number of small projects. Student projects, faculty projects and more—all supported by the Landscape Shop, which is part of Facilities Services.
One of these projects was started by Isabella Messer, an undergraduate studying Horticulture in the College of Agriculture Sciences. She recently began her first research project detailing bee visits to pollinator-attractive plants in OSU landscapes. She’s counting in five-minute increments how many visits pollinators make to plants such as showy milkweed, columbine, oregano and pearly everlasting, which are scattered around landscapes around the greenhouse gardens west of the Agricultural and Life Sciences Building. Messer wanted to count visits to plants that weren’t represented in the landscapes, so she and Horticulture professor Gail Langellotto approached Todd Cross, Trades Maintenance Coordinator for the Landscape Shop, about the possibility of adding to the Corvallis campus landscapes.
Cross had recently connected with Langellotto at the PNW Pollinator Summit, hosted by Oregon State in February 2019, and was eager to help. “The real value in a project like this for us in the Landscape Shop is what we learn,” explained Cross. “Landscape is a constantly evolving trade and if we are doing our jobs well we should always be open to new techniques, new products, new plants and new ways of thinking. Pollinators are a hot topic right now and for good reason.”
Along with Bill Coslow, supervisor of the Landscape Shop, the group met to plan a planting timeline, define responsibilities and figure out irrigation issues. Messer planted the specimens around the greenhouses and has been counting pollinator visits since this spring.
“Isabella can literally walk out the door of ALS and start doing ecological science,” explained Langellotto, who is supervising this research project. “I have fewer concerns about her safety, compared to if she had to visit multiple private properties. The Landscape Shop has been fantastic, in terms of inviting us in to do science, and keeping open lines of communication to make sure that we can meet our goals without compromising theirs (and vice versa).”