Environmental Sciences Graduate Grateful for ‘Life-Changing Conversation’ 

December 5, 2023 | Graduate News, News, UToday, Alumni, Natural Sciences and Mathematics
By Kirk Baird

Olivia Onago’s time on the UToledo campus is drawing to a natural and happy conclusion, with the environmental sciences senior graduating Saturday, Dec. 16.

As with so many graduating Rockets, The University of Toledo has profoundly changed her in ways she could not have predicted as a freshman.

Graduation Cap

CELEBRATING SUCCESS: UToledo recognizes the Class of 2023 with a series of stories featuring students receiving their degrees at fall commencement.

“I have met some amazing people, both students and faculty alike,” Onago said. “It is these relationships that have helped me to not only discover my true passion in life but have guided me towards forging my own career: a nursery focusing solely on growing native plants from locally collected, native genotypic (locally genetic) seed.”

Liv’s Native Nursery LLC, located in Milan, Michigan — Onago’s hometown — has more than 60 species of natives growing, flourishing and available for purchase. And its genesis was in an introductory environmental science course with Dr. Todd Crail, a Distinguished University Lecturer in the Department of Environmental Sciences.

“During my first years at UToledo, while attending introductory environmental science courses with Dr. Todd Crail, I came to truly love and appreciate native plants,” she said. “I have slowly worked to implement natives into my own garden, watching as a whole new world was created where bumblebees, monarchs and birds thrived; however, I soon discovered that there are not many local, permanent native plant growers/sellers in my area (southeast Michigan) or the Toledo area.

“Later, it was this fact that spurred a life-changing conversation between Todd and myself, with the conclusion being that I should be the one to create the very change that I want to see in the world—thus, Liv’s Native Nursery LLC was born.”

Crail was one of several UToledo faculty who inspired, mentored and supported Onago, including Wendy Jaquillard, laboratory coordinator in the Department of Environmental Sciences; Dr. David Krantz, an associate professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences; Dr. Henry Streby, a professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences; and Dr. Jonathan Bossenbroek, chair of the UToledo Department of Environmental Sciences and professor of ecology.

Olivia Onago standing in front of her Liv's Native Nursery.

Through her experiences in the Department of Environmental Sciences, Olivia Onago forged a new career with Liv’s Native Nursery LLC, which has 60-plus species of native plants.

“Additionally, the entire Department of Environmental Sciences at UToledo was a critical resource that contributed to finding my passion and allowed me to gain the courage to create my own path in the world by starting my own business,” she said.

As a sophomore, Onago worked as an intern at the Cooperative Weed Management Area at The Nature Conservancy and later served on the board of Student Green Fund, participating as the secretary for roughly two years and recently being elected as student manager.

Earlier this year, Onago was recognized by The University of Toledo Office of Competitive Fellowships at the Awards Reception and Breakfast honoring faculty and students who were either recently nominated for or have received nationally competitive scholarships and fellowships.

“Olivia became immediately involved despite the challenges the COVID environment created,” Crail said. “She was the driving force on a Student Green Fund (SGF) proposal that provided funds to create the rock work around Edwards Garden/Lot 10 rain garden, which is now an outdoor classroom for multiple courses.

“She continued to be involved as a board member of the SGF and facilitated the disbursement of funds into many sustainability projects. She has been a pleasure to work with on her directed research questions focused on urban agriculture. Many structural and social issues arose in her research, yet she was unstoppable. I have really valued the time that I’ve been allowed to work with Olivia.”

With her graduation goal mere weeks away, Onago offered an exultant appraisal of her four years as a Rocket — and what that promises for her future.

“I am proud to say that I have found my lifelong career while at UToledo — something that is meaningful not only to myself, but to the entire planet and its environment,” she said. “I will be forever grateful for the people who have helped to make my dreams come true and to the experiences that have guided me to where I am and to who I’ve become today.

“I am a strong believer in everything happening for a reason, and I believe I chose UToledo for a reason — one which is making itself clear now as I look towards a bright future.”




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