A young Soldotna scientist is looking to save the peninsula’s pollinators, one seed packet at a time.
Anna Devolld is a 14-year old home-school student with the Connections Homeschool, and for the past year she has been developing a project known as P.O.P. — Promote our Pollinators. In an interview with the Clarion, Devolld said the purpose of P.O.P. is both to educate the public about the importance of pollinators and provide a solution to the problem of pollinators’ dwindling population. The pollinators that Devolld is targeting with her project are butterflies, bees, bats, ladybugs and hummingbirds.
The seeds of P.O.P. were first planted last October when Devolld was brainstorming on what sort of project to submit for the annual Caring for the Kenai competition — an event that challenges peninsula students to come up with unique approaches to conservation and environmentalism.
Devolld said that she’s always loved to garden, and one day while admiring the sunflowers in her yard she noticed that they were covered in bees. After finding out that some pollinators were at risk of dying out, Devolld decided she was going to do something about it.
Devolld’s initial idea was to create pollinator packets of mixed seeds that could be distributed to and planted outside homes, schools and businesses on the peninsula. After doing some research on the local plants that would best attract pollinators and would also grow well in close proximity to each other, Devolld eventually settled on six plants to include in her Pollinator Packs: calendula, aster, salvia, zinnia, nasturtium and alyssum.
Over the course of April and May of this year, Devolld said that she planted and distributed 20 Pollinator Packs to local businesses and individuals. As Devolld worked on the project, however, it quickly grew to be much more comprehensive than she could have imagined.
Beyond just distributing her pollinator packs, Devolld has created educational fliers and activity books, held “make-and-take” presentations in schools and senior centers and designed promotional items like tote bags, buttons and stickers. She has also started working with the City of Soldotna and Soldotna Parks and Recreation to design and install permanent pollinator garden signs in community spaces. P.O.P. now has a website, Facebook page and Twitter profile, and recently Devolld set up shop at Kenai’s Industry Appreciation Day with help from the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District to spread the word about her dynamic new project.
Over the life of this project, Devolld said she has had to teach herself all sorts of new skills, from graphic and web design to marketing and public speaking. Devolld said that learning the intricacies of the technology side — specifically making a YouTube video as part of one of her presentations — was a little difficult, but that she has had a lot of fun learning how to do graphic design.
Devolld’s mom, Shona, said she couldn’t be prouder of the initiative and growth she’s seen out of her daughter in the past year of developing P.O.P.
“Anna has always been a little shy,” Shona Devolld said. “So to watch her bloom because of all this brings tears to my eye. No pun intended.”
Devolld has already received a number of awards and recognitions for her budding project. In April, Devolld took home third place at the Caring for the Kenai competition, in July she was recognized as a State Merit winner for the annual 3M Young Scientist Challenge — the nation’s premier science competition hosted by 3M and Discovery Education — and in August she was one of the winners of Alaska Communications Summer of Heroes Scholarship Program. Devolld has also received grants from Enstar, the Challenger Center of Alaska, Caring for the Kenai and the Awesome Foundation.
“There are also several businesses who have shown their support through monetary and in-kind donations,” Devolld said. “I’m so grateful for their generosity! I’ve placed their logos on the back of my P.O.P. activity books to show my appreciation.”
Looking to the future, Devolld said that she will be focusing on distributing more pollinator packs and expanding the educational outreach of her project. This spring Devolld is planning on planting and providing an additional 150 Pollinator Packs throughout the community.
“It is my hope that these packs will be placed all over our urban areas, providing the reliable, easy-to-locate food sources that pollinators need at frequent intervals,” Devolld said. “I’ll also be encouraging participants to use natural pest control methods like ladybugs!”
Devolld has also begun working on creating an online curriculum for P.O.P. that can be used by teachers and educators across the country with the help of her distance education teacher. The online class will include topics and activities to inform students about what pollinators do for the environment, why pollinators are declining and what they can do to help. Devolld said the curriculum will be geared toward third through sixth graders.
Devolld said that she hopes to be a role model for other young people — specifically young girls — by showing them that being interested in science is something worth pursuing and celebrating.