Research Triangle Park (RTP) in Durham and Wake Counties, North Carolina is the largest research park in the United States and a premier global innovation center. Its 7,000 acres house hundreds of companies, including IBM, who arrived in RTP in 1965.
For nearly 20 years, employee volunteers at IBM Research Triangle Park have worked to transform a 579-acre outdoor space into a haven for wildlife including bluebirds, owls, wood ducks, butterflies and reptiles. The conservation program at the facility focuses on employee interest and engagement while also supporting IBM’s long-standing environmental policy and programs . Approximately 350 volunteers oversee a wide range of projects, including nest boxes for avian species, butterfly gardens, stream clean-ups, and a reptile basking platform.
Program volunteers have a long history of engaging with the community. They partnered with Eagle Scouts to build a self-guided, interpretive nature trail with guideposts identifying species encountered on the trail and developed a community garden in an 880-square-foot space between two buildings. The garden provides an opportunity for employees to tend to the garden and harvest fresh vegetables, and enhances biodiversity by providing a food source for pollinators. Employees also worked with the local Boy Scouts to sink approximately 20 employee-donated Christmas trees into the site’s 3-acre pond to improve the fish habitat.
During nesting season, employees help monitor approximately 30 bluebird houses. Stuart Hurwitz, an environmental engineer at IBM Research Triangle Park, says the bluebird boxes monitoring program is the longest running and best supported program at the site.
“It generally involves the greatest number of employees and provides a welcome break to get out of the office and spend some time outside,” said Hurwitz. “There is nothing better than monitoring the boxes and observing the new hatchlings.”
IBM also hosts an annual joint celebration of Earth Day and Take Your Child to Work Day, drawing approximately 300-400 school students and their parents a year, from IBM families as well as some local schools. Activities have highlighted topics such as astronomy, beekeeping, biking, car-pooling, hiking/camping, gardening, farm life, fishing, Scouting, State Parks, well-being and nature. In addition, they have conducted guided nature walks at their site’s recreation center.
The team at IBM RTP are continuously seeking new ways to increase employee engagement, education and community outreach programs. They would also like to increase the number of bird houses on site as well as potentially add a few beehives.
Hurwitz says it’s the employees that volunteer their time and effort that make the program special. “They do it because they are passionate about their support of environmental programs and doing the right thing,” he said. “While each employee has interests in different individual programs, the group as a whole contributes to an overall program rich in environmental conservation diversity.”
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