Dig It | Beaufort County Now | Week of service, celebration marks Earth Week 2022

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
    Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of ECU News Services. The author of this post is Jules Norwood.

Chad Carwein, university sustainability manager, supervises while Julia Florack works with a bee hive frame. The honey is the product of several beehives on ECU’s campus. (ECU Photos by Cliff Hollis)


    East Carolina University and its student environmental organizations celebrated Earth Day with a full week of events, kicking off with a honey extraction demonstration and wrapping up with a farm tour.

    "We're celebrating a very successful semester coming back to in-person events and learning and working," said Chad Carwein, sustainability manager. "The students have hit the ground running, and we're really just trying to celebrate all the good work they've been doing throughout the semester. But also, for those that haven't discovered our sustainability program yet, (it's an opportunity to) come out and learn about it, learn about all the exciting things we're doing to try and reduce environmental impacts of our operations."

    One of the highlights of Earth Week was the grand reopening of the Otter Creek Natural Area, a 67-acre property that was given to the university in the mid-1980s by the L. Howard Ellis Jr. family. It was used for teaching and research until about 2005, when it fell out of use, Carwein said.

    For the last two years, Carwein, with support from ECU's University Environment Committee, has led an effort by student and staff volunteers to clean up the site and reestablish the trail system. University officials including Dr. Grant Hayes, interim provost, Dr. Susan Pearce, chair of the environment committee, and Dr. Purí Martinéz, chair of the faculty senate, visited the site to commemorate those efforts and reopen it for teaching and research.

    Carwein and Dr. David Knowles, retired biology professor, led attendees on a hike along the site's trails to Otter Creek, which feeds into the Tar River. The site features about 70 feet of elevation change including a steep north-facing slope. That area gets less sun and features some vegetation species that usually aren't found this far south and east, such as mountain laurel and American beech, Knowles said, and at the bottom is a natural spring. Otter Creek itself is home to some 30 species of fish, he added.

    Timothy Elleby, president-elect of the ECU Black Students Union, said participating in the cleanup of the site was a unique and rewarding experience for members of the group.

    "We came out two or three times, and we were just kind of laying the groundwork, moving trees and putting logs to the side," he said, as well as clearing underbrush along the trails.

    Other groups contributing to the effort include student athletes and environmental student organizations such as ECO Pirates, ReLeaf ECU Chapter and SustainabiliBEES.

    The site will not be open to the public but will be available to faculty and students for teaching and research purposes through a signup process. Carwein said he hopes to eventually provide recreational opportunities as well.

    Golden opportunity

    Students, staff and members of the community also had an opportunity this week to sample the golden product of ECU's beehives, located near Lake Laupus on the health sciences campus and near the Belk Building. Both areas are great for the bees, with lots of flowering trees and wildflowers, Carwein said.

    Carwein and several students demonstrated the process of harvesting honey from the honeycomb and gave attendees a chance to try their hand as well.

    "I love honey, so I'm excited about seeing how this happens," said Dorris Conner of Ayden, who brought her two teenage grandchildren to the event.

    Taylor Easter, a 2021 ECU graduate, and Ryan Coco also attended, sampling honey fresh from the honeycomb and trying on a set of beekeeper's protective clothing. Easter said she's fascinated by beekeeping and wanted to learn about the process. She's interested in starting her own hive someday, she said.

    During an Earth Day Expo at the Life Sciences and Biotechnology Building, student and faculty researchers presented displays and activities on a variety of topics related to biodiversity, including a live hawk from Sylvan Heights Bird Park, the Blackbeard wave glider, an augmented reality sandbox, seed planting and an interactive nature-themed play by ECU theatre students.

    Other events included a workday at the campus orchard, a tree planting near Cotten and Fleming residence halls, sustainability trivia, litter cleanup and water quality testing at the Town Creek Culvert, a screening of "How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can't Change," produce distribution from the Purple Pantry, a Tar River kayak cleanup, and a tour of Green Roof Farm in Fountain. At least 27 departments and organizations set up tables outside the Main Campus Student Center during the ECU Earth Day Festival on Friday.

    ECU's sustainability efforts have earned numerous recognitions in recent years, including Tree Campus USA, Bee Campus USA, Bicycle Friendly University, and inclusion in the Princeton Review's Guide to Green Schools.
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