WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — About 300 base and local community members learned how to give wings to efforts toward healthier and more diverse habitats for hummingbirds and humans alike June 8 at the annual Pollinator Expo, hosted by 88th Civil Engineering in partnership with local conservation organizations.
“The Expo was a highlight of what conservation organizations across the state are doing to help reverse the decline of pollinators, and it was great to see so many people from the base populace take an interest in this topic,” said Danielle Trevino, a biological scientist for 88 CEG’s Environmental Branch. “The more they learn, the more people typically want to participate in efforts to support pollinators.”
After a two-year hiatus in response to the pandemic, the open-air market event returned to Wright Memorial, where the base has collaborated over the years with the Division of Forestry at the Ohio Division of Natural Resources to create a sustainable tree canopy.
Representatives from organizations and agencies such as Fish and Wildlife Services, Five Rivers MetroParks, and Beaver Creek Wetlands Association offered free native species seeds, face-painting, and information about how anyone can contribute to healthier habitats and ecosystems.
Samantha Yu Blythe, an environmental science teacher at Miamisburg High School, brought her 4-year-old daughter and her mother, Leslie Blythe, to the expo to eat some cookies, pick out some pollinator face paint, find new plants and expand their gardens and conservation knowledge.
“This was my first time ever coming out,” Yu Blythe said. “I love it. I got so many cool little plants to add to my pollinator garden in our yard.”
“I’m very much into the plants and environmental pursuits, and we have a couple little ponds in our backyard,” said Blyth, a former teacher and leader of an ecology club. “I’m excited to add some milkweed to our collection around there.”
At an Air Force base, butterflies, bats, beetles and bees aren’t typically the flying mission in mind, but Trevino said Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s lines of effort can take off in a stalk of milkweed.
“A lot of the work we do in Natural Resources not only benefits the environment but can help enhance morale and welfare on the installation as well. We want to have beautiful natural areas for our Airmen to enjoy. Butterflies and flowering plants are certainly more enjoyable than mowed grass or concrete,” Trevino said. “When it fits within the constraints of the 88 ABW’s mission, we want to do everything we can to create natural areas for the benefit of the installation, its wildlife, and the personnel that work on base. In addition, native habitats are easier to maintain and realistically cost a lot less to maintain once established.”
On-base nature enthusiasts paid special notice to how 88 CEG Environmental Branch’s efforts are slowly but surely transforming both the base landscape and personnel’s perceptions of the installation.
“I decided to attend because the Air Force has taken the initiative to become better stewards of the environment,” said William Neitzke, 88th Air Base Wing director of safety and expo attendee. “We’ve realized some of our previous practices did long-term damage, and we’re working to be better, so it’s important I attend as both an employee of the Air Force and a citizen who also wants to respect and protect the environment.
My favorite booth at the expo was the ones where they were giving away native plant seedlings. The idea they were not only educating the public about invasive plant species but then giving them a native plant to grow helped to reinforce the ideas they were teaching.”
Trevino is excited to continue promoting interactive events for Airmen and the public that sow the seeds of change far beyond what 88 CEG personnel alone can accomplish.
“We are really at a point in conservation where it is imperative to take care of all species,” she said. “Each year more and more species are in decline. Acting now, to create, enhance, and protect native habitats is one of the best actions we can take to protect the biodiversity we need as a planet. Planting native is an easy way to help.”