Editor’s Note: This piece submitted by a student in the UNM Geography & Environmental Studies Department is part of our project to help connect the Daily Lobo audience to more members of our community.

A new partnership at the University of New Mexico’s Lobo Gardens is enhancing opportunities for the UNM and Albuquerque communities to learn how the health of our urban communities and natural worlds are connected.

The new collaboration among the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, AmeriCorps VISTA, UNM’s STEAMLabs, the Community Engaged Learning and Research Office and the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies increases the resources and enhances the focus of Lobo Gardens, which was first established in 2010.

“From the start, Lobo Gardens has been dedicated to creating spaces for learning, reflection and collaborative action around sustainability, food equity, community and environmental diversity and human and planetary health,” said Tema Milstein, one of the founders of Lobo Gardens and associate professor in the Geography & Environmental Studies Department. “This new multi-party partnership builds on Lobo Gardens’ past successes and creates infrastructure and new regenerative relationships with the land, our communities and other species to foster social and environmental transformation.”

In August, the partnership provided funding support to hire Lobo Gardens’ first paid coordinator, Christina Hoberg, as well as an assistant coordinator, Noel Mollinedo. As the garden coordinator, Hoberg oversees and grows the three Lobo Gardens sites; coordinates any UNM courses and campus and community groups that want to use the gardens; and does community educational outreach. She is also working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and garden volunteers to enhance pollinator and wildlife habitats on campus.

With guidance from U.S. Fish and Wildlife scientists, Hoberg is making plans to create monarch butterfly migration way stations in the gardens and is enhancing efforts already begun by Lobo Gardens students to build and plant a wild pollinator habitat. In an urban environment like Albuquerque where wildlife seek refuge and food among the rhythms of city life, this type of project is important, because it provides wildlife with access to necessary food and shelter. In the coming weeks, Hoberg will share her knowledge with a local Girl Scout troop visiting Lobo Gardens to learn about wild pollinators and how to create habitats in their own home gardens.

“Our long-term goals are to scale up this effort and to see Lobo Gardens and UNM become an herbicide-free zone, wildlife habitat certified and part of a wildlife habitat corridor across the city,” Hoberg said. “For now, we are excited to share our knowledge about the small steps all can take to improve wildlife’s chances for survival in the city center.”

Lobo Gardens’ new partnerships also are providing new avenues for UNM students and faculty to take their learning out of the classroom and into the wider world. Monica Kowal, director of UNM’s CELR, and Andrea Polli, director of UNM’s STEAMLabs, are two of the partners who are bringing new resources to the project and to students.

“For years, Tema Milstein and PhD student Maggie Seibert have been providing UNM students with experiential learning courses at Lobo Gardens,” Kowal said. “Building on their ongoing efforts, we are establishing relationships with new community partners, which will enable students and faculty to collaborate with local organizations on community-based research efforts.”

Polli, for example, oversees 15 AmeriCorps VISTA fellows across New Mexico. Some are now working with Lobo Gardens.

Noel Mollinedo, for example, is using his artistic expertise to document projects at Lobo Gardens. This month, Mollinedo will open a Lobo Gardens Gallery Walk at UNM’s Center for Advanced Research and Computing. The walk will feature Lobo Gardens photographs, plaster molds of plant materials created in the gardens by students and community members and other artistic representations of Lobo Gardens’ projects. The gallery walk will illustrate intersections among science, technology, engineering, art and math, one of the primary objectives of UNM’s STEAMLabs.

In another community partnership, Lobo Gardens is working with Satellite Coffee and UNM’s Food Justice Initiative student group to create compost from Satellite’s coffee grounds. The UNM Biology Department also has joined as a partner and analyzes the compost for micronutrients. The compost will be used in Lobo Gardens to provide essential nutrients to plants.

Confronting a world of social, economic, political and environmental volatility, the new Lobo Gardens’ partnership is committed to building collaborative relationships to generate and foster sustainable, resilient communities in the heart of Albuquerque.

“While these new partnerships are just beginning, we are building on more than seven years of experience at Lobo Gardens,” Kowal said. “Our partners are illustrating that Lobo Gardens and UNM can become a living learning laboratory on campus — a hub of innovation — where UNM and Albuquerque community members can share their knowledge about the connections between environmental and community health and strive to create a brighter future for all Albuquerque and UNM communities.”

To get involved at Lobo Gardens, contact Christina Hoberg at choberg@unm.edu. Faculty or graduate teaching assistants interested in integrating Lobo Gardens into classes they teach also can contact Hoberg. Those wanting to take Lobo Gardens classes can find courses offered through Geography & Environmental Studies starting Fall 2018 and, presently, courses offered through CELR.

Hanes Motsinger is a graduate student in the UNM Geography & Environmental Studies Department. She can be contacted at hanesmotsinger@unm.edu or on Twitter