Alma native combats invasive plant species with ASMSA

Ty Thompson
Press Argus-Courier
Terrance Meinardus of Alma, a senior at the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts in Hot Springs, is part of a group combatting invasive plants in Arkansas. The group recently won a grant from the Smithsonian Institution.

The Smithsonian Institution has awarded $500 to Mid-America Science Museum to support its work with a group of students from the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts. Alma native Terrance Meinardus is among the group that has been awarded.

The museum has been collaborating with Dr. Lindsey Waddell, a geoscience instructor at the school, for several months to develop a teen-designed and led project addressing the environmental impact of invasive plants. 

On Jan. 26, 2021, the teens presented their plan to help combat the issue of invasive plants in Hot Springs National Park by cultivating a garden comprised of native flora to support and attract pollinating insects.

"We focused on only using native plants to Arkansas that way we could get some of our native pollinators to come around more, mostly bees and butterflies," said Meinardus. "When we started planting in fall, this project got more interesting and active."

Meinardus says there are many invasive species that people don't even know they have. One that is probably in their yards in Nandina, also known as Heavenly Bamboo. Nandina is a toxic species that displaces non-toxic plants that birds tend to thrive on. 

"We were so impressed with the thoughtfulness and thoroughness of the students' action plan," said Jennifer Brundage and Brian Coyle, the project's directors at the Smithsonian Institution in a press release. "Their research and proposal revealed a deep understanding not only of their physical environment but of their community needs as well."

Meinardus says their plans with the grant include getting plants for the spring, merchandise that will help spread awareness about invasive species in Arkansas, supplies to maintain their garden, and butterfly weed that will attract Monarch butterflies, which Meinardus says are currently endangered.