How being president of the Carolina Beekeeping Club has shaped junior Bryn Walker’s Tar Heel journey.
Bryn Walker, a junior from Morrisville, N.C., is president of the Carolina Beekeeping Club. Walker’s experience at Carolina has been shaped by her passion for beekeeping: “Being part of CBC is how I’m changing UNC-Chapel Hill (in a small way) and how being at UNC has changed me (in many big ways),” she said. We recently chatted with Walker about her role as president of the club, her success in getting UNC recognized as a “Bee Campus USA affiliate,” and her own Carolina journey.
Q: What made you interested in beekeeping?
A: I saw the Carolina Beekeeping Club on the student organization list before I arrived at UNC my freshman year, and I thought that joining would be fun for a few reasons: I could gain some skills that I might apply later in life if I ever decide to keep my own bees, and beekeeping as a practice is something that I can enjoy without thinking about my academic work.
Q: I see you are studying anthropology and food studies. How are you combining these two fields with your interest in sustainability activism?
A: There’s a lot of overlap between the food studies and anthropology fields, as well as sustainability. All these fields come together really nicely in what I’m studying, so that, for example, I can consider agriculture in the context of specific cultural situations or practices as well as from a sustainability standpoint and understand that all of these things relate. It’s impossible to view anything from a single perspective and thoroughly understand it, and I’ve taken this concept and applied it to my work with pollinator awareness.
Q: With UNC being named a Bee Campus USA affiliate, what initiatives are in place to educate the UNC population on the importance of bees and what it means to have this important distinction?
A: We are approaching the end of our first year as a Bee Campus USA affiliate (in spring 2020.). So far, we’ve put on a few educational events about pollinators, as well as providing information to the public and coordinating with other groups to enhance pollinator awareness. Some examples include a pollinator talk given by Chris Apple, outreach director of Orange County Beekeepers Association at the North Carolina Botanical Garden, two BioBlitz events in the Battle Grove Restoration site (during which UNC community members can track data on pollinator populations and sightings using the iNaturalist app. This will allow us to gather information about which pollinators are present in the site over time.) We also organized a pollinator display on the first floor of Davis Library which shows many pollinator-related books as tools for learning, and created collaborations with groups like Edible Campus to provide more physical habitat for pollinators on campus.
Q: Have you seen a change in the student environment at UNC around sustainability, bee preservation efforts, etc. after the Bee Campus USA recognition?
A: There’s still a long way to go in raising awareness of pollinators and their importance and plight. However, I have noticed increased membership and involvement in the Carolina Beekeeping Club, as well as the formation of a pollinator committee under the Edible Campus student organization. There’s also general interest on the part of community members both in Chapel Hill and on campus for having beehives and providing habitat for other pollinators.
Q: How has your role as president of the Carolina Beekeeping Club shaped your experience at Carolina?
A: Bees are what I have become known for in my classes and among my friends, and perhaps beyond that it’s become how I define myself. I’m a beekeeper; it’s what I do. My involvement in CBC has changed over time; I’ve gone from a member to the secretary and now to the president, but through all of this I’ve thought of CBC as a guiding force in my life. It was in this club that I made some of my most important friendships, and where I began to shape my own identity and how I operate in the world. It will be something that stays with me for the rest of my life.
As for Walker’s post-graduate life, she said “Getting involved in pollinator conservation is a possibility, but so is plant conservation or sustainable agriculture work. Maybe it’d be fun to work at a bakery for a little while, who knows?”
Interview by Lauren Mobley ’22