Tasmanian Times

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Insect Hotels For Biodiversity

insect hotel sculpture
a sculptural insect hotel being fixed in place; image courtesy Ecological Society of Aus

Generations have teamed up to make beautiful ‘insect hotels’ for some of Australia’s most endangered species, according to Dr Louise Wallis at the University of Tasmania.

Running for three years as a first-year architectural design program, each year, over 60 first-year architecture and design students, a primary school class (grade ones and twos), restorative ecologists, PhD researchers in endangered species and design staff come together to design each insect hotel. Even shortly after being erected some are already being inhabited.

The ‘insect hotels’ represent some of the key attributes that native wildlife need to live and thrive in a rich and diverse landscape. They are designed in a way that will attract insects into the nesting boxes. This acts as a form of room service for birds, bats and other mammals. The hotels thus play their part in supporting wildlife biodiversity.

Dr Wallis says having many generations involved means the group communicates, imagines, and possibly even creates better. It also allows members of the group to learn from each-other. In particular, the primary school students are enthusiastic and ‘unashamedly’ ask experts and researchers questions. The experts and researchers must practice communicating both with the primary school students and with the architecture and design students.

The programs begin by bringing everyone together at the local community hall, where primary school and PhD students work with experts and researchers to understand the endangered animal, designs and make models. Some sculptural installations have been the culmination of work by more than 100 designers, artists, scientists and school children engaged in the design and building process. A notable set of insect hotel sculptures were recently installed into their forever home in the Tasmanian Midlands.

The next workshop event will be in early April 2020 with year 9 students from across the state.

Dr Wallis teaches in design studio and communications, and researches design pedagogy and architectural education. She is particularly interested in how students may learn design thinking skills and processes through different teaching approaches and curriculum design.

insect hotel under construction

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