Just in time for Earth Day, biology and ecology students at West Liberty University are planting trees in public spaces from Wheeling to West Liberty to increase the quality of life in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia.
Students planted two types of native flowering trees along a portion of the Heritage Trail along the Ohio River near WesBanco Arena, according to Professor James Wood,
“These trees will add beauty to this public green space in the city, supporting birds and other pollinators while also providing shade for trail users in the height of summer heat,” Wood said. “Adding trees along the trail makes it better for everyone."
The purchase of the trees was made possible thanks to a grant obtained by West Virginia University Agricultural Extension Agent and Wheeling resident Karen Cox.
Students also partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the WVU Extension to work on the National Wildlife Refuge at the northern tip of Wheeling Island.
“The wildlife refuge is such a great resource for the public and for wildlife," Wood said.
"It offers beautiful views of the river and is a great place to go bird watching close to downtown.”
The outreach and service projects also provided West Liberty students with a hands-on look at careers in natural resources.
Cox and Elian Barr of the wildlife service spoke with students about working to protect and restore natural areas and educating the public about managing endangered species and invasive exotic plants.
But there's more work to be done on campus, Wood said. “Our next project is closer to home: we’ll plant trees on campus near Campbell Hall."
“The goal is to increase educational opportunities on campus, while making the campus more visually attractive and promoting conservation. This round of tree planting will support the planting event last fall when over 40 native trees were planted by students during a service project.”
Dr. Wood is a faculty member in the biology department in the univerisity's College of Sciences.
Biology majors offered at West Liberty include Environmental Stewardship and Education; Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology and Zoo Science.
Students also have the opportunity to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Human Biology as well as a Master of Science Physician Assistant Studies degree through the 3+2 program. For more information, visit westliberty.edu.