For the past 2 ½ years, Fossil Rim Wildlife Center has been participating in a grant partnership with Tarleton University and Texas Agri-Life Extension. The grant, entitled Addressing Global Food Security and Hunger through Integrated Research, Education, and Outreach in Resource Conservation and Sustainability, is funded through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), which is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Simply put, this grant explores the relationship between biodiversity and human hunger.
One important thing we have found while implementing this grant, is that most people – both children and especially adults – do not know what the word “biodiversity” means. Simply put, “biodiversity” refers to “stuff.” In the case of genetic diversity, it refers to all the different types of genes (“stuff”) that make up the DNA of a species. In the case of species diversity, it refers to all the different types of animals and plants (“stuff”) that make up an ecosystem. And in the case of ecosystem diversity, it refers to all the different types of ecosystems (“stuff”) in a given place.
Through this grant we have developed educational programming and tour information that, first of all, teach what biodiversity is. After that, we can go on to teach about how biodiversity, and the protection thereof through sustainable agricultural practices and conservation, ultimately affects human hunger: all of this ‘stuff’ (biodiversity) provides all living things (including people!) with what they need in order to survive- clean water, clean air, a habitat or home in which to live, and all of the necessary nutrients and food that keep us healthy and alive.
We do this through diverse programs. We have developed programs on gardening, composting, sustainable agriculture, recycling, pollinators, endangered species, and more. The grant has also funded the building of two keyhole gardens, one of which feeds our education intern house; the other will provide food for the animals housed at Fossil Rim’s Children’s Animal Center. It has funded an intern project exploring compostable table products for Fossil Rim’s Overlook Café. It has funded a pollinator garden and a Monarch waystation. It is about to fund the printing of a brochure on the grant itself, a graphic “wrap” for our outreach vehicle, and the building of a kiosk for our Admissions Center featuring interactive panels that teach guests about biodiversity, human hunger, and Fossil Rim and Tarleton University’s work in these areas.
Probably most excitingly, the NIFA grant funded a month-long trip to Africa for two of our education staff, in conjunction with students from Tarleton University, researching some of these topics within the countries of South Africa, Swaziland, Botswana, and Namibia.
What they learned while there, and what we’ve learned here on site, will be implemented for years to come.
By: Tessa Chenoa Ownbey, C.I.G., Director of Education