Kayla Gutheil ’24 Explains the Buzz About Adirondack Pollinator Conservation

Back to All Stories

Environmental studies and English major Kayla Gutheil ’24, from Averill Park, N.Y., describes her summer work with the Adirondack Pollinator Project to promote pollinator species conservation.

This summer, I had the privilege of working with the nonprofit organization AdkAction in Keeseville, N.Y., through the Upstate Institute Field School. AdkAction is committed to improving the Adirondacks through eight projects that address issues ranging from environmental justice and conservation to community revitalization and affordable housing.

The project that I was most directly involved with is the Adirondack Pollinator Project (APP) in an effort to answer the question: With limited time and resources, what actions can a community-based nonprofit take to make the greatest difference for pollinator species conservation?

Just some of the pollinators and pollinator friendly flowers in question
Just one of the pollinators in question: a monarch butterfly feeding from a red clover

Since the project’s inception in 2016, the organization has already spearheaded multiple initiatives, such as sending free native northeastern wildflower seed packets to Adirondack Park residents upon request — more than 70,000 packets have already been distributed. Additionally, AdkAction has sold over 10,000 native and pollinator-friendly plants since 2018 and has helped install 26 demonstration community gardens across the Adirondacks.

The educational component of the project can be seen in the “Library Buzz” children’s programming in celebration of Pollinator Week each year in addition to year-round events in partnership with the Wild Center, Paul Smith’s College, and Northern New York Audubon

My tasks largely consisted of researching new approaches that my organization can take to protect and expand pollinator habitat in the Adirondacks. Some of these ideas include reducing roadside mowing, revegetating closed landfills, and developing new partnerships with local farms and organizations that are seeking to engage in pollinator-friendly practices.

Kayla handing out promotional materials at an AdkAction event
Kayla handing out promotional materials at an AdkAction event

In addition to this research, I spoke with our project partners and other community stakeholders to gain insight on the effectiveness of our current programming and to gather suggestions on how to improve. I summarized my findings both in a report for my organization and also via a community presentation during my final week in the Adirondacks. 

I have also had the opportunity to be involved in AdkAction’s programming throughout the summer. I volunteered at our first annual Pollinator Festival and plant sale, helped lead one of our library education events, visited a few demonstration gardens, and even painted the faded Pollinator-Mobile trailer.

Kayla presenting her work with AdkAction to the Colgate community
Kayla presenting her work with AdkAction to the Colgate community

The impact of this work will take time to be realized, but my hope is that my ongoing engagement with and recommendations for the project will have a positive impact on AdkAction’s strategic planning for the upcoming years. I am grateful for this introduction into nonprofit work and for the opportunity to spend a summer living and exploring in the Adirondacks.