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Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences

ECU Biology Students Educate Greenville Community through Service-Learning Project

September 22, 2016

By Lacey L. Gray
Director of Marketing and Communications
Thomas Harriot College of Arts & Sciences

Biology Service Learning
East Carolina University biology students and faculty are educating the public through various service-learning projects within the city of Greenville. The activities, which started in fall 2015, are funded by a $20,000 grant awarded to the East Carolina Biodiversity Initiative from the Dominion Foundation – the philanthropic arm of Dominion, one of the nation's largest producers and transporters of energy.

In collaboration with Greenville Recreation and Parks, faculty and students in the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences Department of Biology have spent the past year working on various projects.

“The work supported by this grant is an excellent example of ECU’s emphasis on serving the region, increasing public-private partnerships and promoting STEM opportunities,” said Director of Outreach for the East Carolina Biodiversity Initiative Dr. Heather Vance-Chalcraft. “We are proud of our collaboration with Greenville Recreation and Parks.”

Through funding provided by the grant, ECU undergraduates enrolled in a service-learning plant biology course assisted with the removal of invasive species from public spaces. The idea to create and install educational signage along local green spaces developed out of the class exercise to remove the invasive species.

“Students in the course worked to remove an exotic plant species that has been spreading rapidly through the Greenville Greenways,” said Dr. Carol Goodwillie, associate professor of biology. “The idea of developing a sign came from the students themselves, as they became passionate about the project and wanted to educate the public.”

Each year, the Greenville Greenway receives many visitors who come to enjoy the outdoors while walking their dogs, taking a jog or run, or biking the paths that run along the Tar River.

“The new signage on the greenway provides visitors with information to facilitate their understanding of the value of the natural resources that occur along the greenway,” said Dr. David Chalcraft, former director of the East Carolina Biodiversity Initiative. “An enhanced public understanding of nature is critical to ensure the preservation of our precious natural resources so that they can be enjoyed by future generations.”

The signs created by ECU students now are installed and visible to the community. Two signs are located along the Greenville Greenway, one in the Town Commons and one at River Park North.

“The high quality signage resulting from this partnership is an asset to the city’s greenway system and to its citizens, educating greenway visitors on a variety of environmental issues,” said Director of the Greenville Recreation and Parks Department Gary Fenton. “We are grateful for the opportunity to ‘join forces’ with ECU’s Biodiversity Initiative.”

After such a positive interaction over the past year, faculty and students at ECU hope to continue work on collaborative projects with the city in the future.