Letter of Intent
Project Title: SER-UW Native Plant Nursery - Future Growth
Summary of Project Proposal:
Over the past two years, the SER-UW Native Plant Nursery has continued to provide a sustainable and immediate source of plant material, as well as the opportunity for students to gain valuable hands-on experience in horticulture. The Nursery has strengthened lasting relationships with UW and now supplies the majority of plant material used in ESRM courses. Collectively, we supplied over two thousand native plants to these courses in 2018 alone. The Nursery continues to provide resources for graduate student projects, many opportunities for volunteers, and valuable internship opportunities for undergraduate students throughout the year. All plants grown on campus are subsequently used in campus projects, reducing reliance on outside sources and contributing to the UW Sustainability Mission.
While working with community partners and UW organizations to secure long-term support, the Nursery seeks gap funding to continue our mission of horticultural education and the production of quality plant material for student projects. We seek funding for two Research Associate (RA) positions which would contribute jointly to improving nursery production tasks, the education program, and outreach. These positions would continue to enhance our programs while facilitating the transition of the Nursery to a permanently funded entity on campus.
In order to keep up with student interest, we wish to provide more internship opportunities and projects as components of these internships. The RA positions would direct the creation of a program where native seed could be sustainably harvested from the wild and grown on-site for use in restoration projects. A seed harvesting project will provide interns with an abundance of opportunities to learn new skills, such as field techniques and navigation, data collection, plant identification, and seed harvesting. There is also the possibility to form partnerships with local organizations with similar missions and foster a greater investment in the ecological restoration community of the region.
The RA positions would also be responsible for the design and implementation of a fern propagation and rhizome bed production program to fill critical gaps in plant sourcing needed for student restoration projects in Yesler Swamp and Union Bay Natural Area, as well as across campus. This would also provide interns and volunteers opportunities to learn a variety of different production methods and greatly reduce the need for outside sourcing of plant material, increasing the long-term sustainability of the Nursery.
Student Leadership and Involvement:
The SER-UW Nursery continues to be an entirely student-run organization, providing valuable experience for graduate students in project management and leadership, as well as many opportunities for interns and other undergraduate and graduate student volunteers. We have strengthened our relationship with the Carlson Center, a leadership and community service organization on campus, with 24 service learning volunteers providing 20 hours each per quarter since 2016. We continue to host weekly volunteer work parties throughout each quarter to provide experiential learning credit for students in ESRM classes and other programs. Since 2016, the Nursery has involved roughly 885 student volunteers, culminating in over 3,000 volunteer hours contributed by students across many majors and departments. Developing programs for seed collection, fern propagation, and rhizome beds will greatly increase the number of unique opportunities available for student volunteers and interns beyond the scope of our current offerings and allow us to keep up with student interest.
Education, Outreach, and Behavior Change:
The SER-UW Nursery continues to involve volunteers in every aspect of our work, conducting weekly work parties open to students. The Nursery also provides an ideal outdoor laboratory for ESRM 412, a course focused on native plant production and nursery management. Having these facilities on-campus limits the need for outside materials and spaces for UW-based coursework. Since 2016 the Nursery has hosted five public plant sales to provide an opportunity for members of the greater community to purchase sustainable, student-grown plant material. Sales and attendance of these plant sales have increased since the start of the program, expanding our community involvement and connections. Funds from the plant sale are reinvested directly into the Nursery to fund seed sources, volunteer opportunities, and necessary planting materials.
For the seed collection program to maximize its potential, it will require the involvement of a network of participants beyond the Nursery. This program will help to foster relationships with other native plant nurseries and related community organizations. Construction of fern propagation and rhizome beds will also allow us to exchange knowledge and collaborate with partner organizations.
The SER-UW Nursery has facilitated the installation of planting projects throughout campus by providing high quality, local and affordable plant materials. Growing plants in-house has reduced the carbon emissions and other costs associated with plant acquisition. During our time of growth, we have been conscious of our footprint and are committed to remaining environmentally sustainable. In Winter quarter of 2018, a Community and Environmental Planning major and nursery intern conducted an abbreviated sustainability life cycle assessment for the Nursery to evaluate its successes and areas for improvement in terms of environmental impact. Fertilizer and pesticide use, recycling, and other practices were assessed in order to set goals for continuing to lessen our environmental impact as we continue to grow.
Looking forward, the development of a monitoring and seed collection program will help to close the loop between nursery production and restoration at UW. A seed collection program will enhance the overall sustainability of nursery operations by reducing reliance on outside seed sources and provide material that is more genetically appropriate for our region. The fern propagation and rhizome beds will also drastically reduce the need for off-site sourcing of necessary species, further cutting down on carbon emissions related to travel and shipping of plant materials.
Feasibility, Accountability, & Sustainability:
The SER-UW Nursery is dedicated to contributing the UW goals of sustainability and environmental accountability. Projects will continue to be overseen by two part-time managers and a faculty advisor. The Production Manager will secure plant contracts and will be primarily responsible for the day-to-day growing of materials, as well as initiating the installation of a fern propagation and rhizome bed systems. The Education and Outreach Manager will be primarily responsible for managing volunteers and will be the point person for interns. In addition, both managers will work together to write curriculum and protocols, as well as establish relationships to create a seed collection program.
Over the past year, the Nursery has made considerable strides in its ongoing push to become a permanent and self-sustaining entity at the University of Washington. Our partnership with the UW Botanic Gardens has opened up further opportunities for student leadership and education within the field of ecological restoration, as well as provided for the growing need for native plant materials on campus and within the Greater Seattle region. There is a strong desire within UWBG to continue to build upon this partnership by funding the Nursery in the long term. A grant award from the CSF will allow the Nursery to continue to contribute to UW’s Sustainability Mission while discussions of funding are finalized over the course of the next academic year.