Project Title: SER-UW Nursery Improvements
Summary of project proposal:
The SER-UW Nursery has worked for the past year to expand our reach from a holding space for native species to a fully functioning native plant nursery, providing plants for student-run projects and increasing our capacity to be an educational hub for horticulture and botany on campus. We have had many successes over the last year including constructing a hoop house to expand our production capacity, hosting two public plant sales, and creating relationships and partnerships with on campus groups and classes. Looking ahead, we are eager to perfect our system, increase our presence and partnerships on campus, and provide more native plants for student projects.
We provide plants for two classes on campus: Restoration of North American Ecosystems (ESRM 473) and Senior Restoration Capstone (ESRM 462-464). Collectively, we supply approximately one thousand native plants to these courses. Plants grown on campus by students are sold or given to student-based projects, increasing overall campus sustainability. We have developed a relationship with the UW Grounds team with the long term goal of fulfilling the majority of their native plant needs.
In order to meet our goals for next year, we see two areas for improvement that will increase the effectiveness of the Nursery: curriculum development and plant propagation expertise development. We would like to fund two Research Assistant (RA) positions which will allow us fill these gaps by providing tangible curriculum and results to be used in future years to create a more sustainable program. These two positions will create more opportunities to engage students and increase the amount of plants we provide to on-campus projects.
To better provide interactive and engaging horticulture-based education, we would like to fund a RA position to develop curriculum and activities that are tailored to this topic. At the Nursery we host weekly work parties where students can learn how to propagate, transplant, and care for native species. By writing a formalized educational plan and curriculum, we can make these weekly opportunities more refined, structured, and effective for participating students. This position will also be responsible for facilitating work parties and engaging the UW community with this new curriculum, allowing students to increase their knowledge and skill set. Having an RA position focus on this will further the educational mission of the Nursery and help us to reach out to more students.
The second RA will be working on experimental design and implementation on plant propagation topics. Through experiments, this person will determine sustainable methods for fertilizing and irrigating the nursery plants, increasing our commitment to environmentally friendly practices. With these techniques in place, this RA will be able to successfully grow more plants to be used for student led and on-campus restoration projects, leading to a more sustainable campus and increased student involvement. Based on information gathered, this person would create a year long plant propagation and growth timeline for the Nursery with information on when and how to grow each species. The two RA positions are interconnected, with one providing curriculum and facilitation of horticulture activities for students on campus, while the second will develop methods of sustainably growing plants to be used for on-campus projects.
The SER-UW Nursery provides approximately one thousand plants to campus based projects, adding valuable biodiversity to our campus. Instead of plants being supplied by nurseries tens or hundreds of miles away, plants can be taken from the Nursery and used for campus projects, closing the loop on native plant production and installation. With the long-term goal of providing the majority of native plants on campus, we as a University could reduce our carbon footprint while increasing biodiversity and campus partnerships.
Student Leadership & Involvement
The SER-UW Nursery is an entirely student led project with 2-3 graduate students serving as Nursery Managers and two undergraduate interns per quarter. Graduate students manage and provide leadership to this nursery while interns build skills and experience in the environmental field. This core team works together to host weekly work parties that engage interested students in horticulture-based activities ranging from sowing seeds to salvaging native plants. Students of all backgrounds, majors, and interests can come experience this field.
Education, Outreach, & Behavior Change
The SER-UW Nursery strives to involve volunteers in every aspect of the work that we do. We conduct weekly work parties where we prepare potting materials, plant native species, and salvage plants from lands designated for development. Over the past year, we have connected with 236 volunteers, culminating in 866 volunteer hours. Our first RA position will write curriculum to provide consistent, intentional learning opportunities. We will make the curriculum accessible to others, including UW teachers and students, other universities, and to other local environmental non-profits to further our outreach to the wider Seattle community.
Feasibility, Accountability, & Sustainability:
The Nursery is dedicated to helping UW with its goals of sustainability and ecological accountability. Our second RA position will focus on streamlining our fertilization and irrigation systems to become a more sustainable program. Our promise to share our knowledge and curriculum with others will hold us accountable to our peers and partners. The nursery’s overall mission is to be a source of native plants for UW students as they work on projects for classes and for research, providing a sustainable resource for them as they improve UW’s natural areas.