When visiting the University of Oklahoma's campus it is easy to appreciate the beautiful landscaping that includes enthralling fountains, alluring flowers and brick buildings of grandeur. What you may not know is, tucked away on the 3rd floor of the Sarkey’s Plaza, lies a garden filled with native plants, cobblestone walkways and a butterfly garden that was once built in memory of the late Jennifer Wise.
Even in passing Jennifer continues to make an impact on students and the environment. Jennifer Wise was the Manager of Administration and Operations in the College of Geosciences at the time of her passing on April 22, 2000. Jennifer’s goal was to make a positive difference in the lives of others, which she accomplished admirably. She made this world a better place and continues to be sorely missed by friends and family. Before her passing, she was working on obtaining her bachelor’s degree at OU. In her memory, the Jennifer L. Wise Scholarship was established to assist women over 40 years of age in seeking a bachelor’s degree at the University of Oklahoma.
Bruce Hoagland, Associate Chair in the Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability, refers to the butterfly garden as a "weigh station" for monarch butterflies. Each fall, millions of monarch butterflies begin to migrate from the United States to central Mexico. There they wait until the weather conditions are more favorable for a flight back home in the spring.
“The monarch migration is truly one of the world's greatest natural wonders, yet it is threatened by habitat loss," said Hoagland.
These weigh stations are places that provide the resources necessary for monarchs to continue their migrations. They are filled with native plants that attract the monarchs and other pollinators.
"If humans disappeared from the Earth the pollinators probably wouldn't notice," explains Hoagland, “but if pollinators disappeared from the Earth then we as humans would be in big trouble."
While this species is incredibly important to our ecosystem, they are greatly underappreciated. Habitat loss is one of the many factors advancing their decline. This butterfly garden will have multiple uses. We are hoping to have QR codes displayed for guests to learn more about each plant and their role with the pollinators. We also want to use this garden for research with students at OU campus and Norman areas.
TEAM, which stands for Tribal Environmental Action for Monarchs, has played a large role in assisting with the need for native plants and expertise for this project.
“TEAM, is a coalition of seven tribal partners — Chickasaw, Seminole, Citizen Potawatomi, Muscogee Creek, Osage, Eastern Shawnee and Miami Nations — who are restoring monarch habitats on their lands with the assistance of Monarch Watch and the Euchee Butterfly Farm. The TEAM coalition has restored over 50,000 milkweeds and 30,000 native wildflowers to date on 350 acres of habitat." (1)
In recent years, efforts have been made to revitalize the butterfly garden on the Sarkeys Plaza. These efforts would not be possible without the help of many. To learn more about creating your own pollinator garden click here. To give in Memory of Jennifer L. Wise follow this link OU Foundation Giving and type in Jennifer Wise in the search area. If you would like to stay up to date about the butterfly garden and other events within A&GS make sure to follow our multiple social media platforms.