The Trailblazers unite against invasive English ivy

Students take to the wooded area nearby Kendeda to lessen the impacts of invasive species. Plants like English Ivy often overrun native plants and remove biodiversity from an ecosystem. / Photo by Alexey Tatarinov Student Publications

Amidst the hustle and bustle of Tech Beautification Day, one could witness a group of students working together to enhance the natural beauty of campus. Through their collective efforts, they showcased a sense of community and environmental stewardship reflective of their organization and mission.

Tech Beautification Day, which took place this past Saturday, Nov. 4, was an opportunity for students to roll up their sleeves and contribute to the enhancement of their campus. Organized by Trailblazers, Tech’s student-run environmental service organization, this event aimed to create a more vibrant and inviting campus environment.

“[The event] was fun; it was a little early, but it was with my friends and I enjoyed connecting with nature,” said Danyang Zhu, first-year BMED.

Zhu and Naomi Bodean, first-year EE, participated in the event through the service aspect of their sorority. Towards the event’s end, Bodean explained the significance of the work they had done removing invasive species.

 “The English Ivy, it’s really invasive, so it doesn’t allow native plants to grow. That’s bad for the biodiversity of campus. And that affects the plants and obviously also the animals because they rely on plants a lot too,” Bodean said.

When asked about the importance of participating and organizing such events, Zhu emphasized the value of giving back to the college community and working together for the benefit of all.

“It’s kind of like giving back to your college community, and I guess it benefits other people too, like other people in your peers. So you’re not just doing it for yourself, you’re also doing it for other people,” Zhu said. 

Violeta Escandon Correa, third-year CHBE and participant in the beautification efforts, explained how the removal of invasive species is a crucial aspect of maintaining a healthy ecosystem on Tech’s campus. 

“Removing invasive species is important because it allows for the native species to grow, which allows us to have healthy spaces here at Tech. And also, it helps to collaborate and bring people together,” Escandon Correa said.

Senior Facilities Manager Brooke Vacovsky provided further insight into the importance of removing invasive species during the Tech Beautification Day event by highlighting the destructive nature of invasive species.

“Invasive species are non-native plants that have been brought into the United States and planted here either for aesthetic reasons, or to control for erosion. So then instead of having this biodiversity you end up getting an entire forest full of English Ivy and it will climb up the trees and can kill them,” Vacovsky said.

Building on this statement, Vacovsky emphasized the significance of monitoring even native plant populations to oversee the preservation of the ecosystem, in order to ensure native and ornamental species can coexist.

“There are some invasive plants that don’t outcompete our native species, and they’re probably ornamental plants that are very pretty that we plant intentionally, but it really becomes a problem when those invasive species kind of take over a hillside or a wooded area,” Vacovsky said.

Steve Place, the Sustainability Program Manager at Tech, commended the students’ dedication to such environmental initiatives. He highlighted the significant role students occupy in shaping and maintaining the ecological environment on campus.

“The students are awesome. What we’ve tried to do is take a big step back, you know, let the students organize the whole thing. This is their campus, and we want to be able to give them something that they can point to and say, ‘while I was getting my degree, I was also involved physically on campus, and I’m going to be able to take this with me to my next adventure,’” Place said.

Place also acknowledged the pivotal role played by the creation of the Kendeda Building in driving awareness and fostering a culture of environmental action on campus. According to Place, its creation further inspired students to start the campus beautification project and other environmentally conscious events and initiatives.

“When I started here at Tech, I noticed this forest fragment, and I noticed the invasives. But it wasn’t until Kendeda was actually built that it really gave me an opening to say, ‘okay, given what’s happening at the Kendeda Building, and the environmental education stuff that we’re doing there, maybe we could do it across the street in terms of a project,’” Place said on the event’s creation.

In the end, Tech Beautification Day allowed students to make a tangible impact on the campus environment and served as a testament to a spirit of community and sustainability at the Institute. 

“Working with the students, just to see them so passionate, so committed and so reliable, I think that’s something that I kind of lacked as a student. So to see these future leaders of our world, whatever they decide to do, I think that they’re making an impact on the grounds, but also the ideas of sustainability are making an impact on them,” Vacovsky said.

More information on Trailblzaers can be found on Instagram @gttrailblazers.