The University Greenhouse supports many research efforts
Sunlight shimmers through a glass ceiling onto rows of brightly colored flowers. In the summer, tall corn stalks fill a small field. Professors, students and maintenance crews scurry around the site, studying the small details of individual plants. The University of Oregon Greenhouse Facility, which is tucked away by Riverfront Field and the Autzen Footbridge, is home to the UO’s flora.
The greenhouse encompasses 6,000 square feet of space. There are two greenhouses by Riverfront Field and a smaller one on top of the Onyx Bridge. A one-acre field is often filled with corn. All of the plants grown in the facilities are studied by professors and students at the university. Some projects study the biology, evolution or pollination of certain plants. Other projects focus on the microscopic, studying individual cells and their make up.
The projects supported by the greenhouse come from a variety of sources. Professors and students study plants there with work varying from the post-doctorate to undergraduate level. The greenhouse has collaborations with multiple universities across the country, such as Duke University.
“There are a whole bunch of departments and a lot of students who depend on the greenhouse,” said Brian Dykstra, the greenhouse manager.
Dykstra and a team of students do all the maintenance at the facility. They provide advice to project leaders about growth conditions and pest management. Besides Dykstra, the greenhouse is completely run by student workers.
“I’ve learned a lot about plant care, pollination, and overall greenhouse maintenance,” said Noah Stuart, a greenhouse employee.
“My favorite part is being able to participate in the science research that is being done at the university,” said Tobias Earley, another employee.
Surrounded by an eight-foot chain-link fence and bordered on one side by an impenetrable field of blackberry bushes, the greenhouse is kept very secure.
In the past, the greenhouse was vandalized by people attributed to eco-terrorist groups. The most common form is throwing rocks at the greenhouse’s glass windows. The attacks are believed to come from a misunderstanding about the practices at the greenhouse. There are no genetically modified organisms at the greenhouse and associates of the greenhouse stress the fact that the experiments at the greenhouse are just basic research, not genetic manipulation.
The funding for the greenhouse comes from user fees, research grants and the university. User fees range from less than a dollar for a square foot of space to hundreds of dollars for field space or an entire soil bed.
Most of the funding comes from research grants provided by organizations like the National Institute of Health and the National Science Foundation. Grants have been awarded for over $1 million. Whenever a grant is received, a portion of the proceeds are given to the university to pay for infrastructure needs, like washing windows and mowing lawns. When the university subsidizes the greenhouses, they use money from this fund.
None of the greenhouse’s funding comes from student tuition.
For over 50 years, the university greenhouse has supported the research and teaching mission of professors and students. There will be important scientific discoveries coming from the greenhouse for many years.
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