Sisters of Mercy work to save Monarchs on university campuses


Ashley Carr, Contributing writer

This fall, Mercyhurst joined other Mercy campuses in the Mercy Monarch Milkweed Project, a collaborative effort to improve habitats for the dwindling Monarch butterfly population to promote increased pollination.

Additional plants for the project were added to the already vibrant Sister Maura Smith Peace Garden, located behind Frances Warde Hall.

Sarah Bennett, M.S., Chair of the Mercyhurst Biology Department and Sustainability Officer, is the head of the Monarch project at Mercyhurst.

“The project is for Mercy campuses to plant milkweed, but also plants that butterflies can get nectar from in order to support monarch butterflies,” Bennett said.

The Sister Maura Smith Peace Garden was put in place on the Mercy Walkway in 2014 as a student initiative, funded by the Student Sustainability Fund. The original plants, mostly perennials and edible plants, were chosen because they were favorites of Sister Maura, who passed away in 2015.

Twenty-five student volunteers from Mercyhurst Student Government and Mercyhurst Sustainability Club collaborated to put in the new plants, which include a variety of native species. Native species and perennials both increase the sustainability of the garden, working toward regeneration of natural wildlife in the area, with minimal upkeep.

Since Bennett came to Mercyhurst, she made one of her goals to reinvigorate the Sister Maura Smith Peace Garden, and her resolve has not changed.

“We’ve expanded this and made it more than just for monarch butterflies. We are making it more of a pollinator garden,” Bennett said. “It needed new plants anyway, and so what we’ve done up there is we’ve planted a lot of pollinator-friendly plants. We tried to stick to native plants where we could, though they’re not all native.”

Greg Baker, Vice President of University Mission, was initially contacted by the Sisters of Mercy, asking if the university would like to be a part of the project. He then passed the information to Bennett, and the project grew to include a number of professors in various fields.

More information on the various sustainable goals of the Sister Maura Smith Peace Garden can be found in the garden’s bulletin kiosk.

To get involved with the garden and other green initiatives on campus, join the Sustainability Club, or contact Bennett at