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PC Is Getting Buzzed

Flowers on Phoenix College Campus Flowers on Phoenix College Campus Flowers on Phoenix College Campus

Beyond the typical classroom, is a living laboratory at Phoenix College. Sure, the engineering spaces and computing labs are cool, but are they outside with living things? In a recent partnership among several departments on campus, a native plant, wildlife and pollinator garden was born. 

Talk about cross-pollination – the project was a passion for Sandra Matsusaka from Maintenance and Operations, Matt Haberkorn and Elena Ortiz in Biosciences, Joe Drosendahl in Physical Sciences, Cathy Wise from Arizona Audubon's Plants for Birds program and Natalie Melkonoff at the Desert Botanical Garden's Great Milkweed Grow Out project. 

The "living laboratory" project allows students and faculty to use the college grounds as a learning center to practice their skills. This type of real, hands-on learning gives students experiences they’ll remember and connect with their campus and community. 

“We are excited to start our living lab journey and to incorporate this valuable teaching tool into our curriculum,” said Ortiz.

As the garden grows, students will be involved in all stages of the project, from research to implementation, to monitoring and adaptive management – learning to understand and anticipate changes in plants, animals and our ecosystem. 

“They will learn valuable skills while providing a service to their community. They will also learn about and add to the research in the fields of wildlife habitat restoration, green infrastructure/storm water management, and the link between human welfare and the urban environment,” said Ortiz.

Several of the Maricopa Community College have similar projects that focus on educating their communities about native wildlife or plants. PC’s project will highlight plants, pollinators and other urban wildlife. It’s one of only two habitat restoration projects in the center of the city. PC’s project will create habitats for multiple wildlife species and pollinators and will add to a growing body of knowledge about improving urban areas. 

“There is only one public wildlife habitat restoration project in the center of the Phoenix metro area, the Rio Salado Habitat Restoration project managed by the City of Phoenix Parks Department in partnership with the Arizona Audubon Rio Salado Audubon Center. Our project will complement Rio Salado’s center and add to pollinator habitat projects in the area,” said Ortiz.

Currently, the bee and butterfly oasis is slated to be on the north side of PC’s art building. The bugs and blooming beauty’s space will take up about an eighth of an acre with hopes to expand. Eventually, benches and signage will welcome guests and teach them about Arizona’s native species such as desert marigold (Baileya multiradiata), Ironwood (Olneya tesota), desert lavender (Hyptis emoryii), sacred datura (Datura wrightii), superstition mallow (Abutilon palmeri), rainbow hedgehog (Echinocereus rigidissimus) and more.

For more information, to see our progress or get involved, visit or contact Elena Ortiz at

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