We Are the Change: UNT Ecology Major Creates Sustainability-Minded Artscape on Campus | College of Science
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June 9, 2021

We Are the Change: UNT Ecology Major Creates Sustainability-Minded Artscape on Campus

Savannah Thomas is an Ecology for Environmental Science major, minoring in Geography with a focus on GIS, and a budding artist, too. Earlier this year, she submitted a design for the Scrappy Storm Drain Artscapes Competition through the UNT We Mean Green Fund and was selected as a muralist for her piece, "We Are the Change." She recently completed the mural, which can be found over the storm drain on Union Circle.

Storm drains are essential units of city infrastructure that drain excess rainwater off of paved areas into natural bodies of water to prevent flooding. Like many cities, Denton's municipal separate storm sewer system drains directly from city streets, parking lots, and sidewalks to Lewisville Lake, a primary source of drinking water for the DFW metroplex.

As a part of the UNT We Mean Green Fund's many initiatives, the storm drain murals from the Artscapes project are meant to bring awareness to the adverse impact litter has on our waterways while promoting campus "Mean Green" pride. In her mural design, Savannah wanted the viewer to see both the stream and UNT, illustrating how they are connected.

"I wanted to show that though we may not be immersed in the stream ecosystem on campus, it is close by, and our actions here impact those vital ecosystems," she said. "I was initially inspired by textbook images of ecosystems where you can see into the water and the surface. I've always been fascinated by these illustrations because they show a holistic and balanced view of nature."

Savannah's design was one of three chosen by the We Mean Green Fund, which strives to put students at the lead of campus environmental stewardship efforts.

"The three student murals installed this spring, including Savannah's, have received such high praise from students and employees on campus," said We Mean Green Fund Coordinator Emily Bilcik. "One of my colleagues told me she passes Savannah's mural on her way into work every day and it brightens her day with the pop of color it brings to the pavement. The message 'Let's Keep Our Streams Clean' is a good constant reminder for passersby that we all have a hand in making that happen."

To incorporate the UNT Mean Green spirit in her design, Savannah chose to include the Hurley Administration Building. "Whether you have passed it every day to get to class, or seen it glow green, this building has been a part of everyone's UNT experience."

Savannah plans to graduate in Fall 2021 and hopes to pursue her Master's in Geography at UNT or Texas State.

"I really enjoy learning. So many different things interest me," she said. "I love to find ways to connect multiple interests to see new things. We often do not think of Science and Art as similar, but they can be used together to see new perspectives and answer questions about our world."

The We Mean Green Fund is a campus initiative made possible by the student body via the Environmental Service Fee. The WMGF empowers UNT students, faculty, and staff to improve our institution through campus projects that embody passion and spirit for environmental sustainability.

"UNT is full of amazing staff, faculty, and students who truly care about the environment and the sustainability of our campus. I love how I am able to contribute to that by educating the UNT community about stream health with my design," said Savannah.

Have an idea that could make UNT's campus even greener? Learn more about the We Mean Green Fund and how to submit a proposal for an environmental improvement project on campus.