Bringing an Eco-Friendly Message to the Green Mountain State

It may not come as a surprise that the “Green Mountain State” of Vermont is considered one of America’s greenest regions, in terms of its carbon footprint, energy efficiency, and air quality.  If our Research On The Road trip to Vermont earlier this month is any barometer, let’s add bees to the list of things that matter deeply to Vermonters.


Maryann and Jim Frazier—Penn State’s powerhouse couple of pollinator research—traveled with me  to Burlington, Vermont to be the featured speakers at two Research On The Road events: the first on October 2nd was a public talk held at the wonderful ECHO Lake Aquarium & Science Center right on the Lake Champlain waterfront.


Jim and Maryann Frazier at the ECHO center, with a Lake Champlain sunset behind them.

I had planned this event in collaboration with the folks from the Vermont chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association, and they did a great job of spreading the word and coming out with their friends and family on the evening of October 2nd. A special shout-out to chapter president Karen Edwards! We had a great crowd for this event—over 100 attendees and standing-room only!


The healthy turnout was helped by the interview the Fraziers gave on Vermont Public Radio’s popular “Vermont Edition” radio program. ( I hope you’ll give it a listen!)

The Fraziers are both incredibly knowledgeable and eloquent scientist spokespeople, passionately dedicated to research and outreach regarding sustainable agriculture and the restoration of healthy pollinator populations. They shared the great work happening at Penn State’s Center for Pollinator Research and Department of Entomology, and educated and inspired many Vermonters during this trip.

They also made some Penn State Vermonters pretty happy too.  As chapter president Karen Edwards wrote after the event, “Speaking as a PSU alum, I know that we love to go back to PSU, but it isn’t very often that PSU comes to us up here in Vermont.  And then to have it be such prestigious researchers like the Fraziers made it even sweeter.  I can honestly say that I haven’t been this proud of my alma mater in quite a while.”   Of course, that’s music to our ears!

Another very satisfying surprise at this event was the diverse mix of people who attended. There were academics, beekeepers, business people, farmers—and there were also some kids in the audience, which especially delighted me to see!


A standing-room only crowd in a Davis Student Center conference room

The next day we headed to the campus of the University of Vermont where the Fraziers spoke to another packed house of students and professors. The question and answer session was especially lively and fascinating. Not surprisingly, the UVM community is keenly interested in a wide array of Environmental Studies subjects and really know their stuff!

Jim Frazier addresses the UVM audience.
Jim Frazier addresses the UVM audience.

Of course, it would be a crime to find one’s self in Vermont in October and not take in the beauty of the local scenery, such as Ben & Jerry’s.

Honey bees pollinate one-third of all the foods we eat, including many of the ingredients used to make ice cream, so my delicious pilgrimage to Ben & Jerry’s store in downtown Burlington was in keeping with the trip’s theme. (Yeah, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch but I do like thematic tie-ins!) What’s not a stretch is that ice cream makers Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s have a genuine Penn State connection! As some readers may know, they are 1978  alumni of the Penn State Creamery correspondence course in ice cream-making, Agriculture 5150, which teaches manufacturers the basics of ice cream production.

All in all, I’d call “Research On The Road in Vermont” a resoundingly productive and sweet experience, as is befitting for a honeybee-centered event!

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