With a 525–acre campus featuring vast expanses of forest and grassland, the Fidelity Investments Corporate Office in Smithfield, RI lends itself to a multitude of conservation efforts — the site’s Certified Gold program features ten qualifying projects. Maintaining this many projects across such a vast property requires careful coordination and an active, empowered base of volunteers. The Fidelity team has accomplished this feat through proactive monitoring and robust employee outreach, efforts that helped them earn the WHC Gold Program of the Year Award in 2020.
The property features 400 acres of contiguous forest, 20 acres of grasslands and an acre of pollinator garden habitat, which is maintained through comprehensive invasive species control. This land is home to animals like the eastern wild turkey, monarch butterfly, eastern bluebirds and tree swallows, and serves as a backdrop to three education projects centered on these species.
Due to their scope, some of the projects require contractor maintenance and monitoring. Over 3,500 on-site trees (including red maple, eastern red cedar, common sassafras, scarlet oak and eastern white pine) have been tagged and logged into ArborScope software. Bartlett Tree Experts performs most of the tree maintenance (pruning, pest treatments, root invigoration, and removal of dead or damaged trees) and monitoring is performed by Brightview Landscaping Services.
Because the large pollinator garden, which includes native plants like butterfly weed, swamp milkweed, goldenrod and purple coneflower alongside basking areas and water sources, receives daily maintenance, contractors likewise perform much of this work. The Fidelity team, however, has still found creative ways to keep employees engaged with this habitat. Food scraps from three campus kitchens are collected and composted for use in the garden, providing all staff with a low-effort way of contributing to soil health. During the summer, volunteer days are held one to three times a month, in which employees assist with plantings, transplants and the removal of invasive species like mugwort, multiflora rose, oriental bittersweet and burning bush. Engaging volunteers in the hand-pulling of these species allows for greater staff participation, while also eliminating the use of chemical herbicides. Fidelity also obtained a monitoring protocol from WHC in 2017, and since then, employees have collected butterfly data every few weeks throughout the spring, summer and early fall. Business units will frequently sign up for monitoring duties together, creating opportunities for teambuilding. Since 2017, employees have observed 107 butterflies representing 11 different species including monarchs, whose numbers have doubled.
Central to Fidelity’s employee engagement practices is a dedication to proactively recruiting volunteers at tabling events and through internal communication outlets. Measures are taken to ensure that new volunteers are equipped with the resources they need to make meaningful contributions. Monitoring of the site’s 12 nest boxes was originally organized by one employee who was able to lead the task without a set protocol. When a new set of volunteers took charge of monitoring 2018, to make the process more accessible, the team developed monitoring logs that clearly delineated the type of data needed. By the following year, staff had access to a comprehensive monitoring log that aligned with NestWatch protocols, so that the data could be submitted to the citizen science group.
Employees also have the chance to attend educational events throughout the year, like guided walks between the nest boxes, lessons on the local history of wild turkeys, and information sessions about the garden and how to get involved. Event attendees are quizzed on their ability to perform tasks like identifying the sex of a turkey, to ensure that volunteers will be able to capture useful brood data, which is submitted to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management for use in statewide analyses of the turkey population. The quality of submitted monitoring data is also reviewed throughout the year to determine how well employees are applying lessons to fieldwork.
The Fidelity Smithfield team continually looks for ways to improve their employee engagement, as well as the youth-oriented pollinator events they host each year. Plans for the near future include logging more of the site’s trees into ArborScope and developing best practices for deterring house wrens, which are native but known to destroy bluebird nests, from the nest boxes. With their commitment to recruiting volunteers and setting them up for success, the team is well-positioned to keep the already-sizable program growing.
|Site Name:||Fidelity Investments, Smithfield, Rhode Island|
|Categories:||Education & Awareness, Habitat, Invasive Species - Coordinated Approaches, Species Management|
|Company Name:||Fidelity Investments|
|Site Location:||Smithfield, Rhode Island|
|Partners:||Bartlett Tree Experts, Brightview Landscape Services, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management|
|Project Types:||Avian, Awareness and Engagement, Forests, Grasslands, Invasive Species Coordinated Approaches, Landscaped, Pollinators|
|Certification Level:||Gold Certified|
|WHC Index Link:||Learn more about this program|