More than a dozen students clutched their shovels in gloved hands and padded off into the brush to begin the morning’s work of settling saplings into their new homes.
The student volunteers planted 72 native trees and shrubs on the hillside adjacent Clark Field on Saturday as part of a service project with Landscape Services.
“I’m going to bring my friends here, and I’m going to show them this tree, and I’m going to say, ‘Look, I planted that,’” public health freshman Catherine Cruz said.
The project is a component of the Tree Campus USA designation, an award given to campuses around the country by the Arbor Day Foundation. The foundation has given the designation to UT for the previous seven years.
Campus urban forester Jim Carse and his team of arborists work to keep the campus tree population healthy and sustainable. He said the Clark Field hill would benefit greatly by adding native species.
“It’s one of the only areas on campus that’s been left untouched and wild, other than maybe Waller Creek,” Carse said.
Jennifer Hrobar, supervisor of urban forestry, said the service project is a chance for students to get involved and learn about combatting invasive plant species and supporting wildlife.
“There’s a ton of wildlife in there — birds and larger animals,” Hrobar said. “There are all types, from the tiniest insects to raccoons and even bigger animals.”
Most of the species planted Saturday are native to the area, according to Hrobar. Planting native species increases diversity and creates habitats for the variety of campus wildlife.
Besides creating a sustainable environment and preventing erosion down the hill, Hrobar said the new plants will draw attention to the area.
“We’ll have some flowers in the spring and colors in the fall,” Hrobar said. “It doesn’t have to be so weedy and unkempt looking. There can be beauty in that habitat.”
Civil engineering senior Michael Simmons found out about the event during Sustainability Week and decided to volunteer.
“I’m really interested in planting more trees in cities and getting more green space integrated into cities, so that’s what brought me out here today,” Simmons said.
Members of the student organizations Texas Lonestars and Texas Public Health also came to help. Biology freshman Lydia Nassab got involved through her student organization.
“I am not a huge environmentalist, but coming out here feels rewarding to just get involved with something new and exciting,” Nassab said.