Discovering biodiversity at Brook Road Academy

The following post was written by Sarah Croscutt, science teacher at Brook Road Academy.

As the life science teacher at Brook Road Academy and a current student in the graduate program for Environmental Science at Christopher Newport University, I have examined extensively the topic of biodiversity, the abundance and variety of living organisms in an environment.

Over half of the global human population lives in urban environments. Urbanization results in habitat loss, fragmentation, and disturbance, leading to a reduction of species’ richness and number. As green spaces shrink, humans lose their connection with nature.  Nurturing and maintaining our relationship with the natural world is a key factor in fostering a wider concern about conservation issues.

In developing urban areas, natural green spaces are most often replaced by the monoculture lawn.  Although appealing to the eye, a lawn may not be the most ecologically productive use of urban land space.   On the other hand, urban gardens grow green spaces with biodiversity and conservation benefits, positive ecosystem services, including food, and opportunities for people to nurture their relationships with nature, each other, and their communities.

The Learning Garden of St. Joseph's Villa

The Learning Garden of St. Joseph’s Villa

The urban garden on our campus grows nutritional food, educates our students, attracts wildlife, and provides an opportunity for our clients to commune with nature.   It also provides an opportunity for an urban, community-based land management, graduate-level thesis project to compare the abundance and diversity of insects, birds, and soil invertebrates in a well-planned community garden to those found in an adjacent lawn.  Four of the raised beds will be planted and sampled twice a week for birds, insects, and soil invertebrate throughout the growing season (21 weeks) beginning in May 2014.  The lawn adjacent to the culinary building will also be sampled and the biodiversity of the two systems compared throughout the data collection period.

The project is an excellent opportunity for the students at Brook Road Academy to participate in an experimental research project and provide much needed data to examine the relationship of urban community gardens and biodiversity.