Student research plays role in greenhouse operations

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Photo by Kimberly Bojorquez

Hidden on the top floor of the Science Building, one place stands like none other on campus: the UVU Greenhouse.

Comprised of three rooms, each with its respective climate and purpose, this house of horticulture is home to various research projects and over 300 specimens of plants.

Constructed in 2012, the 2,600 square feet facility was built to provide a platform for students to gain hands-on experience working with plants. Over the years, the greenhouse has been a frequent meeting place for both the Botany Club and Horticulture Club, as well as various UVU classes.

The greenhouse contains specimens that thrive in three distinct environments: arid, temperate and tropical. The arid house is dry, while the tropical and temperate houses are humid and contain tender and hardy plants, respectively. 

UVU instructor Nick Read is the greenhouse manager. Read said that his tight-knit team is comprised of two federal work-study students who assist in the day-to-day operations of the greenhouse.

“I, along with two federal work-study students, manage the day-to-day operations of the greenhouse,” Read said. “Our foci are pest, nutrient and environmental management.”

Read, who also teaches horticulture, says that all his classes utilize the greenhouse: Introduction to Horticulture, Horticulture in the 21st Century and Vegetable Crop Production.

Emphasizing the importance that student involvement plays in the greenhouse’s operations, Read expressed his pride in the accomplishments of his students.

“Students just completed projects with Venus flytraps, caffeine effects on mustard plants, and how diet affects worm castings in growing radishes,” Read said. “There is also a project where students are testing how to remove cyanobacteria from Utah Lake.”

Botany Club president and Horticulture Club vice president Whitney Weinberg, who works alongside Read, spoke on one of the many purposes the greenhouse serves.

“We use the greenhouse in different ways to learn cool things about plants,” Weinberg said. She also said that they have begun growing plants for the upcoming UVU Garden project.

Aside from being a facility for various club operations, the greenhouse also homes multiple student-led research projects.

Summer Roberts, is a senior botany major who has worked at the greenhouse for over a year. She has been working alongside Weinberg on various research projects this past year. 

“Whitney Weinberg and I have been awarded with two grants for research in the greenhouse,” Roberts said. “Both [projects] are still ongoing, one having to do with vermicomposting and the other about container comparisons.”

In addition to these two ongoing projects, Roberts says they have recently constructed an epiphyte wall and a misting system in the greenhouse as well.

While serious research is conducted in the space, the staff encourages and welcomes visitors or anyone interested in the greenhouse. 

Bryce Brunetti, another botany student who also works at the greenhouse, has extensive knowledge on the varieties of plant specimens grown there.

Brunetti says that while there are many things he likes about the UVU greenhouse, what he has access to within its walls is his favorite.

“The thing that I love the most about the greenhouse is that I have so much access to so many different research opportunities,” Brunetti said. “Just the fact that it’s so accessible makes it my favorite thing.” 

In addition to learning opportunities, Brunetti also says that visiting the greenhouse can be therapeutic, and a great way for students to learn more about plants.

“Come on up,” Brunetti said. “Finals are coming, so walk up here, look at some plants and just relax. The collection is really for everyone to enjoy.”

The greenhouse staff believes that the utilization of the greenhouse will play a big role in expanding the influence of the horticulture program at UVU. This, in turn, they hope will lead to internship opportunities for students with companies like Young Living and Olson’s Greenhouse.