FIU and MAST collaborate in planting project

Photo by Stephanie Mason

Paola Molini/Staff Writer

The University invited students from MAST@FIU to participate in the restoration of a butterfly garden at Oleta River State Park.

The College of Architecture + Arts, along with the School of Environment, Arts and Society, are collaborating with MAST@FIU students to design and plant a  new butterfly garden

On Dec. 6, a group of students from the high school magnet program, joined in the planting of several Florida native seedlings, in the shade house at Biscayne Bay campus.

Once grown, the plants will be transferred to Oleta’s butterfly garden with hopes of restoring and preserving the Monarch and Atala butterfly species, both of which have been close to extinction.

“The School of Environment, Arts & Society really wants to try and get MAST@FIU students involved as much as possible,” said Nicholas Ogle, Environmental Coordinator of the School of Environment, Arts & Society.

“The advantage they have of being on a college campus is being able to benefit from those resources. Not only the resources, but the campus itself.”

Throughout the activity, MAST@FIU students organized in three stations where Ogle, along with Oleta’s ranger, Jennifer Roberts, spoke to students about Oleta’s history and the connection between butterflies and their host and nectar plants.

“Butterflies use different plants as different life cycles. They use a host plant as a larva, eat that plant, and once they become a butterfly, they require a different plant for food source,” Ogle said.

“Each butterfly has a different host and food source plant. This activity was a good way to show MAST@FIU students the interaction and the importance of different butterfly species.”

MAST@FIU has been housed in FIU facilities since last year. The program allows high school students to attend a school that is different from the ones designated by county, and it specializes on a field that provides students with an avenue to focus on a specific career.

“ We are part of Miami Dade Public Schools, but we have a partnership with FIU, so our students attend class on campus,” said Gina Koch, Lead Teacher of MAST@FIU.

Through this partnership with FIU, these high school students have opportunities to start getting involved in Academia before graduating.

“The idea is that when you have a school on a college campus, you can do activities such as the butterfly garden. MAST@FIU students can work with FIU professors, they can go into the research labs, and they can attend lectures,” said Koch.

Natalie Antnor, freshman at MAST@FIU, said she enjoyed learning about the butterflies, how to identify them, as well as what plants they like to eat and which ones will help these species prevail.

“It makes us know more about the environment,” Antnor said. “We are the next generation and I feel we have to be able to understand because we are going to be the ones taking care of it.”

Students from MAST@FIU have planted coontie, fire bush and scorpion tail seeds for the host and food source of the atala and monarch butterfly.

Professors Robert Rovira and Nick Gelpi, along with CARTA students, are working on the design and the construction of the garden.

“We are fortunate that the project with CARTA was going in Oleta,” Ogle said. “They are putting together some different designs all made from woodcrete material, which is more porous and allows water to drain easier.”

Both departments are hopeful of unveiling the garden sometime in May.

“At the moment students plant the seeds and care for them,” said Ogle.

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