Taylor Arboretum

Preserving the Planet

Widener biology Professor Bruce Grant, playing the role of tour guide and teacher, leads a student and four faculty members down a lush, green path in the Taylor Arboretum.

Concern for our world and the insect harbingers who live in it is what has been bringing Grant into the Taylor Arboretum, a 30-acre preserve of trees of varied species on the banks of Ridley Creek in Wallingford slightly more than a mile from campus, since he started at Widener in 1993.

He and his students are researching moths in Delaware County and Central America, not simply for their interest in the moths, but as a study of biodiversity and global warming.

In addition to taking over the Taylor Arboretum, the university acquired a five-acre hub in Costa Rica to facilitate study in the tropical nation.

But these properties are just part of a larger sustainability effort involving all eight of the university’s schools and colleges as well as the two law schools.

“Widener has quietly and steadily become a leader in advancing sustainability in higher education,” said James R. May, a professor at Widener’s Delaware Law School who also serves as the university’s chief sustainability officer.

Sustainability efforts include a Student Sustainability Committee, chaired by Iman Elkhashab, a sophomore biology major from Broomall, Pennsylvania.

“Our main goal is to teach students that caring about the environment is important,” she said.

Major achievements of the student committee have been coordination of student panel presentations at the university’s first “Sustainability Showcase” and participation in the first “Student Sustainability Week,” intended to promote sustainability efforts in the community, on campus, and in the classroom at Widener and beyond.

Elkhashab, who spent part of her summer researching both fungi and caterpillars in the Taylor Arboretum, said its accessibility is a fantastic way to teach students about the environment.

“A lot of people end up caring more about the environment when they go out and see the good and the bad of what is happening in person.”

Professor Grant says he hopes that his efforts in research and education will be part of a larger worldwide movement.

“The hope is that science won’t merely watch the unraveling of our ecosystems,” he said. “We hope that we can do our best science and apply it to saving the planet.”

Learn more about the academic programs offered at Widener related to sustainability and environmental conservation.