Senior Honors Project: Saving Our Ashes

All week, we are celebrating the accomplishments of our senior honors students. Each day, we will feature a different honors project shared by each group in their own words.

“Saving Our Ashes” – Jamie Engelke (’20), Gabriel Smith (’20) and Connor Halbmaier (’20)

Saving Our Ashes’ focus for the past three years has been to educate the Loras and Dubuque communities about the Emerald Ash Borer and to replace trees on the Loras College campus that were lost to age or disease. To meet our objectives, we successfully planted ten trees throughout campus and created a brochure to educate the broader Dubuque community about the Emerald Ash Borer. Throughout the past three years, we have successfully implemented many elements of our project.

One of our most successful elements was securing grants to carry out our project. With the support of Dr. Clark, we learned how to search and apply for grants that best matched our project goals. Over three years, we applied to the Loras College Honors Program Mini-Grant, the Loras College Student Union grant, and the Sustainable Dubuque grant. Through these generous contributions, we were able to procure $4,250 to implement our project. This allowed us to plant ten trees on campus, including five Red Sunset Maples along Loras Blvd., two Autumn Fantasy Maples near the Heitkamp Planetarium, two Hoopsii Blue Spruces between the Alumni Campus Center and Wahlert Hall, and one Magnolia outside of Christ the King Chapel. We were honored to have both the Telegraph Herald and The Lorian report on the plantings.

L to R: Dr. Erin VanLaningham, Jamie Engelke (’20), Gabriel Smith (’20), Connor Halbmaier (’20), and Dr. Aditi Sinha

We are very proud that our project has impacted not only the Loras community but the greater Dubuque community as well. The trees we planted will have many benefits for those on campus, as well as those who live in the surrounding area. The trees will help increase oxygen production and reduce carbon dioxide in the air while enhancing campus aesthetics. In addition, the trees will improve the wildlife ecosystem by providing habitats for native animals and pollinators. Furthermore, the benefits provided by the trees will help to mitigate the effects of climate change. The brochure we created will also have positive benefits. It aims to educate the broader community about the Emerald Ash Borer through basic information about this invasive beetle, signs and symptoms of its infestation, as well as ways for one to help mitigate its impact and spread. We hope that this education will reduce the spread of the invasive species and protect more Ash trees from being cut down due to infestation.

Another successful element was the dissemination of information during our project. During the course of three years, we co-hosted two trivia nights with the fellow Honors Program group, Chain Reaction. We also tabled at Loras Ecofest 2019 to share information about our project and answer any questions people may have had. These three events helped spread awareness of the benefits of sustainability to the Loras and Dubuque communities. Additionally, our group participated in the Loras College Legacy Symposium; we presented a poster during our Sophomore year and gave an oral presentation our Junior year. This gave us a chance to offer an in-depth overview of our project to students, faculty members, and other interested people. We also used the Honors Program Twitter account to help share information about why trees were being cut down on campus and our goal to replace them.

Throughout this project, we were fortunate enough to have worked with several stakeholders who helped us to be successful. To locate tree planting spots and coordinate the plantings, we worked closely with the Loras College Physical Plant and John McDermott. We purchased our trees from Beeler Tree Farm, who helped us spade in the trees to increase their chances of survival. Sustainable Dubuque supported us through their generous donation towards purchasing the trees. We were also fortunate to work with Dubuque Trees Forever, who helped educate us about planting trees, as well as provide basic knowledge on how to care for trees post-planting. We are so thankful for each of our stakeholders and their help in making our project the best it could be.

We would also like to thank our project mentor, Dr. Aditi Sinha, and Honors Director, Dr. Erin VanLaningham. We could not have done this without their help. Thank you for all of your guidance throughout our project over the past three years. We are very grateful for all of your support.

About Loras College
Founded in 1839, Loras College leverages its historic roots as Iowa’s first college, the second oldest Catholic college west of the Mississippi River and one of the nation’s 10 diocesan colleges to deliver challenging, life-changing experiences as part of its residential, Catholic setting. In 2019, Loras was the second-highest ranked Catholic college in the state of Iowa according to College Consensus, the 16th Best Regional College in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report and one of America’s Top 200 Most Loved Colleges/Universities by Forbes Magazine for the third consecutive year. Loras students ranked No. 2 in the world as part of the global Peeptrade Investment Challenge while a second group ranked No. 4. For the 10th consecutive year, Loras Media Studies student-led television station (LCTV) was named the TV Station of the Year by the Iowa College Media Association (ICMA).