American University of Beirut

Buildings for bugs? AUBotanic event celebrates biodiversity

Sari Mounzer​ - Office of Communications​​​​​

The AUB Botanic Garden Committee, known as AUBotanic​, announced the winners of the Ladybug Hotel Competition in its annual spring event on May 21, 2019. The “AUB Home to the Smallest" event was a real treat for those inclined to know more about the importance of beneficial insects, as well as the AUB campus as a botanic garden. The purpose of the Ladybug Hotel Competition was to engage artists, designers, ecologists, entomologists, and members of the community in designing hotels for ladybugs to be installed around the AUB campus and to support ecological diversity within a densely concrete urban environment. A School Ladybug Hotel Competition was also held in parallel for school students to participate in.

Habitat hotels, such as a ladybug hotel, are designed to create ideal nesting sites for insects and other small creatures. “Insects are integral to our survival as human beings. People take what insects do for granted and sometimes are not aware of the massive ecological role they fill or the solutions they can provide," said AUBotanic Coordinator Ranim Abi Ali.

At the event, Monika Fabian, instructor at the Department of Landscape Design and Ecosystem Management (LDEM) and member of the AUBotanic committee, welcomed the attendees. An eye-opening speech was first given by Professor Ammar Olabi, associate dean of the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, about the relevance of this initiative in today's world where insect populations are facing a major decline.

A talk followed by Professor Salma Talhouk, founding chairperson of AUBotanic. Talhouk announced the names of recent inductees into AUBotanic's Docent Program. Docents are trained volunteers who guide visitors, contribute in the planning of botanical related activities, or help in the management of the garden. ​

The event included a presentation ​about how insects are an essential constituent of a healthy ecosystem. A letter to the participants of the competition was also read on behalf of Dr. Beata Dreksler, one of the organizers of the competition, and LDEM visiting assistant professor. Finally, the winning competitors were announced.

The third prize went to AUB alumnus and landscape architect Raya Rizk, who was awarded a check in the amount of $1000. According to the jury, Raya's project was the most practical as it was functional and easy to duplicate. It was also praised for its aesthetic.

The second prize, which was in the amount of $1500 went to the team of Yasmeena Farajallah, Yara Sleem, Lujain Maddah, and Aya Khoury. These aspiring second-year AUB students of landscape architecture presented a functional, aesthetically pleasing, and easily reproducible design. Their design stood out as it allows for observation of the inhabiting insects and fits into the AUB campus environment.

The first prize went to the team of Aya Hamze, Rania Bou Said, and Farah Bou Ghanem, all of whom were landscape architects in their final year of study. A check worth $2,000 was awarded to them for their original design. Their proposal turned out to be the most beneficial for ladybugs and displayed great balance between being aesthetically pleasing and being practical.​

A People's Choice Award was presented to a group of students from Education Above All- ROTA Majdal Anjar Ghata School. The school provides education for refugee children in portable classrooms constructed within their tented settlements, as part of the Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service's GHATA Project, in partnership with Kayany Foundation. This student-designed ladybug hotel had previously won first place in the school competition.​

“We have been astonished by the number of participants for this Ladybug Competition and the number of attendees in this annual event, and we are looking forward to making next year's spring event just as exciting if not more," commented Abi Ali on behalf of AUBotanic.

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