Student volunteers gathered at the start of the Trails at Wesleyan Woods to remove invasive species on Friday, Feb. 18. The event was run by Marlins Go Green and headed up by VWU 2021 graduate Skyler Lattuca, who currently serves as horticulturist and sustainability coordinator at Norfolk Botanical Garden.
According to the National Wildlife Federation, invasive species can be plants, animals or other organisms that spread quickly and are harmful to humans or the environment. The danger of invasive species is that they can spread quickly and hurt native wildlife in ways that they can not control.
Kat Vanden Berg, senior Art and Biology major, said the main plants being removed by the volunteers were privet and English ivy.
Freshman Rowan Stuart and sophomore Franklin Washington used saws and ropes to take down mimosa trees and other greenery labeled as harmful.
As a horticulturist, Lattuca’s job is to help maintain the gardens around Greer. He must distinguish the plants that are part of the intended ecosystem from the ones that can be harmful to the environment.
“While my job is to maintain the ones around Greer, we’ve kind of expanded that over the years to include the forest on campus,” Lattuca said. Lattuca noticed that the forests on campus were not being properly cared for. “We decided to try and coordinate volunteer efforts and whatever time I have in the winter when all the plants are dormant to at least remove the invasive species where we can,” Lattuca said.
While the horticulturist position at VWU was created in 2017 when the Greer Environmental Sciences Center was completed, under VWU’s previous horticulturist, invasive species clean ups were more consistent.
Lattuca said he had optimistic goals of wanting to have an event like the one on Feb. 18 every Friday. In addition to Marlins Go Green, he hopes athletic teams will be able to help out in the fall. “Hopefully, we can have people come and get educated and get them outside and volunteering for the community,” Lattuca said.
By: Colette Kearney