Letter of Intent
Project Size: 
Large, >$1,000
Estimated Amount to be requested from the CSF: 
$78,051
Letter of Intent: 

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.

Environmental Impact

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.

 

Project Team

Mary-Margaret Greene

mmgreene@uw.edu

 

Courtney Bobsin

cbobsin@uw.edu

Contact Information
Primary Contact First & Last Name: 
Mary-Margaret Greene
E-mail: 
mmgreene@uw.edu
Full Proposal

This will display after the CSF committee has reviewed and approved your LOI, and after you have received the link to edit your application.

Executive Summary: 

Overview:

The SER-UW Native Plant Nursery is a student-run project with a mission of providing native plants and horticulturally focused educational opportunities to the UW community.  We have grown substantially in depth, breadth, and impact over the last academic year due to the hard work of four nursery managers, six interns, a dedicated group of volunteers, faculty and staff support, and the generous CSF grant that we received in 2015. The infrastructure required to support the Nursery is in place; we have laid the groundwork for a thriving university resource.  We now seek to create a sustainable management plan for the SER-UW Native Plant Nursery as well as increase and improve our outreach efforts to UW students and the surrounding community by providing support for two Research Assistantship positions.  We plan to reach a wider network of students from across campus through engaging and interactive workshops and by developing a cohesive nursery management plan to increase our success in growing native species. The Nursery is only beginning to show its potential.  Dedicating the 2016-17 academic year to nursery planning and curriculum development will establish the intellectual infrastructure required for future nursery managers to continue this important work.  

 

Project Goals

  1. Conduct plant production comparisons to identify how to successfully grow more native plant species to be used in on-campus and student based restoration projects

  2. Research and develop a management plan that outlines proper and sustainable fertilizer use, plant development protocols and timelines, and sustainable irrigation practices.

  3. Develop a curriculum for volunteer events and reach out to a more diverse group of UW students.

  4. Write, plan, and host classes every other month, open to students and the public on topics related to native plant production and care.

 

The Need

The SER-UW Native Plant Nursery fills a unique niche on campus, providing native plants for student-run restoration projects as well as hands-on, horticulture learning opportunities.

Growing native plants is different than growing fruits or vegetables in a farm setting; the knowledge base for the hundreds of native species is not as well known or refined. The Plant Production RA would research and develop a detailed plan for the Nursery, including details on species to grow and proper growing techniques. Synergistically, the Education RA would create and lead classes on native plant topics. Most plant nurseries do not have the time to run experiments to determine the best method of growing each of their native species, nor do they have the same imperative to share their research the way an educational and research institute such as UW does. We have the unique opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to the horticulture community at the University of Washington and beyond by testing the effectiveness of our growing methods. The knowledge gained would benefit UW by allowing additional plants to be installed on campus, as well as extending to the greater horticulture community of Puget Sound.

Key Stakeholders

UW Botanic Gardens, UW Grounds Management, ESRM classes, Capstone, Carlson Center Volunteers

Estimated Total Cost: $78,050.16

 
Total amount requested from the CSF: 
$78 051
This funding request is a: 
Grant
Budget: 
ItemCost per ItemQuantityTotal Cost
See Attached File "Budget Proposal 2016-17"
Sustainability Impact: 
Energy Use
Living Systems and Biodiversity
Sustainability Challenge: 

 

The Native Plant Nursery was founded in 2013 to fill a need: on-campus restoration projects like Kincaid Ravine and Whitman Walk needed a place to grow and care for native plants before they were installed at the restoration sites. Over the past few years, the Nursery has begun to expand to fill the needs for those restoration projects as well as provide native plants for restoration classes like ESRM 473, Restoration Capstone, and UW Grounds Management.  With the support of CSF, the Native Plant Nursery has spent the last year engaging students from across campus, expanding our partnerships, successfully growing 75 species of native plants, and constructing our hoop house.

 

Without the Nursery, students must buy plants from nurseries all over the state, and the carbon footprint associated with delivery and pickup can be significant.  The financial cost and hassle are also greater for buying plants from multiple nurseries in various locations.  The SER-UW Nursery provides an on-campus source of plants, cuts the carbon footprint associated with pickup and delivery, does not require Ucars for transportation, and is also often the cheaper option for students.  

The hoop house project has allowed us to provide a home for our plants so we can successfully grow them to fill the needs of student-run restoration projects--but now we face the challenge of running the nursery as sustainably and efficiently as we can.  Plants require water, fertilizer, growing media, plastic containers, and many other resources when grown in a nursery setting.  The Plant Production RA will work on developing best practice guidelines on fertilizer use, irrigation requirements, and plant care so that we can use water and fertilizer responsibly and locally source as many of our supplies as we can.  The Plant Production RA will compare different fertilizer types, research and compare different irrigation systems, and create plant protocols for 15 new species to determine the best practices for the nursery.   All of our efforts will work towards growing plants that will go into the landscape to restore ecosystem functions.  We believe that it is important to have this source of native plants for student projects on campus, closing the loop of plant production, care, and installation.  On-campus native plant production increases our sustainability as a whole and involves students at every step of the process.  

 
Explain how the impacts will be measured: 

Having a Plant Production Research Assistant position dedicated to designing and implementing comparison experiments to determine what methods of growing, fertilizing, and irrigating are best will drastically improve the quality and quantity of native species produced. By refining our system, we will be able to grow more plants using fewer resources and provide additional plants to student based projects on campus. Instead of classes and students reaching out to nurseries from across the state, they will be able to use our native species that were grown on campus for them, forging the missing link.

 

We will measure our success in several ways, the main one being how many native plants we are able to source out to student-run projects, UW Botanic Gardens, and UW Grounds Management.  So far this school year, the Nursery has provided 800 plants for on-campus and student based restoration projects. The more plants we sell to on-campus projects, the lower the carbon footprint will be for each restoration or planting project as plants would be provided here at the University rather than from nurseries throughout the state.  Our success will also be in the management plan itself:  the completion of the management plan, with irrigation recommendations, timelines on plant production, and specific plant protocols for at least 15 species will allow future nursery managers to use the plan strategically. We will also work on being able to rely on organic fertilizer rather than conventional fertilizer and incorporate our fertilization methods into the management plan.

Each year, new student managers will become involved with the nursery. These students, although surely highly qualified to perform some aspects of the job, likely won’t have the full set of skills required to successfully manage a nursery. These students will have to teach themselves how to operate the nursery and care for the variety of native species every year.  Providing this learning experience fulfills an important part of our mission.  However, as it stands now, the nursery’s productivity, sustainability, and the quality of the plants themselves will be at the mercy of each students’ skills and experience.  

A detailed management plan would improve continuity and consistency of knowledge from year to year, allowing us to increase the number of plants produced as well as ensure their health and high quality.  A continuous supply of healthy plants will lead to more partnerships with UW students, classes, and groups, increasing the overall sustainability of our campus landscape and community.

 
Education & Outreach: 

Education & Outreach:

 

More and more, Seattle residents are becoming aware of the consequences of planting and gardening with non-native or invasive species.  However, there are few opportunities for students or local community members to take classes that teach topics on native plant care, what native species to grow, and what benefit native plants can bring to the ecosystem.  

The nursery currently provides informal opportunities for learning during our regular weekly work parties.  Our Education RA’s work would create more formalized, 10-15 minute lessons on native plant production for each of these weekly work parties, where volunteers would participate in a mini-lesson on a pertinent topic before beginning the volunteer work, improving the education quality for students at the work parties.  

At weekly work parties, we often simply show the students what we’re doing and how to do it, whether it’s washing pots for later use or sowing seeds for germination.  We do not have a formal plan for how to run these work parties, and part of the Education RA’s job will be to write up 10-15 minute lesson plans on pertinent topics.  At each volunteer work party, we will teach the short lesson and then continue on to the volunteer activity; students volunteering with us will gain valuable knowledge as a part of their volunteer experience, increasing the education potential of these volunteer events.

Possible Weekly Work Party Class Topics for Student Volunteers*



Class Topic

Associated Volunteer Activity(ies)

Pathogens & Pests: How they function in a nursery setting

Pot Washing

Growth Needs of Plants: Water, Sun, Food, and Space

Up-potting  (re-potting plants that are growing too big for their current pots)

Seed Anatomy:  Parts of a seed & how it grows

Seed Sowing

Plant Maintenance: What goes into caring for a large number of plants

Weeding/Watering

*Classes will be subject to change as we gain feedback from volunteers on what they would like to learn from these experiences.

The Education RA would also write and lead monthly public classes that would be open to both students and members of the public, providing a source of information for any interested individual to learn basic knowledge about native plants, increasing environmental awareness through education. These classes would focus on topics related to native plants and would be held every other month (October-May), providing an opportunity for students and community members to attend a class on a topic related to growing native plants.  The topics will be presented in 1.5 hour-long classes open to UW students and the general public, held at the Center for Urban Horticulture and supported by UW Botanic Gardens public education staff.  Classes will be held on weekday evenings and will be offered free of charge with a suggested donation. depending on the topic.  Curriculum would be written, put into practice, and then modified based on feedback from participants and the RA’s experience.  We will be working with the UW Botanic Gardens education staff to create classes that are relevant and unique to native plant care and production.   

The goal for these classes is to provide a free source of information for people to use and enjoy.  The classes will work to inform students and the public about why the use of native species is important and how we can improve our ecosystem even within the city limits by incorporating native plants into our landscape.  


Possible Public Class Topics*

Native Plants: Replacing Invasives & Non-Natives

 

Native Plant Identification

Understory species to finish a restoration project

Resilient and low-input gardens: Using native plants in the landscape

Spring ephemerals and native understory plants

Art and Nature: Seedling Development and Watercolors

Attracting Native Pollinators and Pollinator Pathways

Native Plants with Edible Fruit

*Class subjects subject to change based on feedback from participants and UWBG

 
Student Involvement: 

Student Leadership & Involvement:

The SER-UW Nursery is an entirely student led project with 2 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.

 

We rely heavily on the volunteers who attend our work parties to help us complete many of our propagation tasks.  Many of those volunteers show up to our work parties to fulfill a class requirement, such as ESRM 100 and ESRM 412; the Native Plant Nursery is an on-campus organization where those students can volunteer with to fulfill their class requirement.  Volunteers also come to work parties simply out of their own interest when they see our announcements through our email lists or our Facebook page.

 

Every task associated with growing plants at the Nursery is done by a student.  In the past year, we went from about 20 individual volunteers per quarter to 50, with each volunteer working about 3.5 hours on average.  From Fall quarter 2015 through Winter 2016, we had 24 work parties that culminated in about 900 volunteer hours.  One of our biggest  partnerships was working with the Construction Management honors society, Sigma Lamda Chi, who lead our volunteers in the construction of our hoop house at five separate events.

We have also recently partnered with the Carlson Leadership and Public Service Center, hosting service-learning students in Winter and Spring quarters of 2016, providing volunteer opportunities at the Nursery for a wide variety of students.

Throughout this school year, the Nursery has supported six interns, two per quarter. Every quarter, we determine what our needs will be for the next few months and advertise for interns with skills to complement those tasks.  Interns go through an application and interview process, and they are able to receive class credit for ESRM 399 for their work at the Nursery if they are accepted.  During the internship, interns build knowledge of nursery management, plant propagation, communications, teamwork, and leadership.  We rely on our interns to take an active role in care for the plants, including regular watering of the plants, leading volunteer work parties, helping to manage large projects like plant sales, and a myriad of tasks that help the Nursery run smoothly.  

In the next year, we want to further expand our ability to provide opportunities for student leadership and involvement by diversifying the students we reach.  We have primarily worked with students in the ESRM major or related majors, as they are the students who have a natural interest in native plant production and care. We would like to improve our relationship with the Carlson Center by increasing the number of volunteers we can take on per quarter, as those students come from a wide variety of backgrounds and interests.  We believe we can provide a unique experience for volunteers, as we have a hands-on learning component to our work parties that feeds into ecological awareness of native plant production and care.

As we work on our education efforts, we will reach out to the education department for interns in the Fall quarter of 2016 and Winter quarter of 2017.  Reaching out to students from different departments and creating a diverse network of skills and knowledge will promote a cross-pollination of ideas that will benefit the students involved as well as the Nursery as a whole, strengthening our ability to further reach out and fill the needs of more UW students.  Our weekly work parties are a place where volunteers from all parts of the campus can come and meet each other.  The work parties are not only a place where students put in volunteer hours--they’re also social, allowing people to meet students from other departments and with different interests and backgrounds.  At every work party, students are active, engaged, and learning new skills--we have the opportunity at the Nursery to reach out to a wider community of students to spread awareness of the need for native plants and the importance of growing native species for use in restoration projects.  

With our curriculum, we hope to even further spread knowledge and stewardship of native species to a wide set of students with varying backgrounds in ecology and restoration work.

 
Timeline: 
TaskTimeframeEstimated Completion Date
Create propagation protocols for 15 new species 9 MonthsJune 2017
Conduct experiments on the growth of 10 species using varying soils, fertilizers, and irrigation techniques4 MonthsJanuary 2017
Write management plan4 MonthsJune 2017
Finalization of public class topics2 MonthsJune 2016 (UWBG requires a 3-month advance notice of class topic and plan)
Writing Public Class Curriculum & Volunteer Work Party Curriculum5 MonthsFebruary 2017
Incorporating participant feedback and editing curriculum into a manual for future use by the Nursery and UWBG education staff5 MonthsJune 2017
Year Tag: 
Amount Awarded: 
$67,967
Potential Funding Reductions: 
With a 5% funding reduction, we would attempt to re-work our budget to lower supply costs. With a 10-20% cut to our funding request, we would need to reduce the supplies we purchase, limiting our ability to complete our stated goals. Jessica Farmer, UW Botanic Gardens adult education supervisor, helped us to determine that each class would incur about $150 cost. With large funding cuts, we would reduce the number of classes and cut either irrigation or fertilizer comparisons to reduce the cost of our plan. A 20% or more reduction would also cut into the salary budget, which would decrease the amount of time we could dedicate to the nursery. Plant care, managing our interns, and running weekly work parties for students takes time. As nursery managers,we dedicate several hours every week to meet and work with our interns to help them build their skill sets and set them up for success when they lead work parties or work on their own; a large salary reduction of 20% or more would force us to make tough choices of where to allocate our time and efforts, and we would have to sacrifice either running the nursery or the time we dedicate with our interns and our outreach events. With RA positions, we can allocate 20 hours each--a full 40 hours between two positions--per week. The CSF committee asked, in response to our Letter of Intent, that if RA tuition is not funded, how would that affect our proposal. Both of our nursery managers are financially unsupported graduate students. Funding tuition would allow us to focus all of our energy towards improving the nursery’s management plan and education outreach; otherwise, we would be unable to turn down an offer for the opportunity of a fully-funded Teaching or Research Assistantship elsewhere. The nursery would suffer without anyone to run it, and would decrease the quality of plants available to students and our partners. Many people and organizations support and rely on our ability to grow native plants, from professors to students to the UW Grounds Management team. We have made tremendous progress in the last year by constructing our hoop house, engaging nearly 100 student volunteers, and providing 800 plants to on-campus projects. Courtney Bobsin will be taking over as the Plant Production RA; she has worked at SER-UW’s Native Plant Nursery for both Winter and Spring quarters of 2016 and has built many of the skills required to research and complete a management plan. The Education RA position will be filled by Mary-Margaret Greene, who has worked as a nursery manager at the Nursery for Spring quarter of 2016. Mary-Margaret has also written and taught environmental education and has a certificate in Environmental Education from Teton Science Schools. Both Courtney and Mary-Margaret will work together as a cohesive team and lend support to each other in both projects, as both have experience in running the Nursery and in education and curriculum design.
Project Longevity: 

The Nursery is actively seeking funding for its long-term operation and has done extensive research on other sources of funding. We are organizing and participating in a planning retreat with SER-UW (Society for Ecological Restoration, UW chapter) on May 9th to determine future long-term funding options for the SER-UW organization as a whole. We are also working towards finding funding that will support a staff position at the Nursery. In the future, education courses to the public could be used as a source of income to help support the nursery; currently, we wish to offer classes for free or donation to determine interest in the community as well as solicit feedback for the classes. Currently, the Nursery makes some revenue from contract-grown plants and public plant sales, which is then held in the SER-UW RSO account and helps us to partially self-fund supplies for the nursery.

We have also had meetings with UW Botanic Gardens and the UW College of the Environment Advancement Department to determine the best approach for future funding. These groups advised us that finding private donors, non-UW based grants, or unallocated departmental funds was unlikely. They advised that the best possible way for funding the Nursery next year would be through on-campus grants, such as the CSF program.

The specific goals of this grant proposal--writing a management plan for the Nursery as well as writing curriculum for volunteer work parties and evening classes--will be completed within the 2016-2017 academic year. These projects are meant to be resources for future Nursery managers, and are specifically intended to support the long-term success and impact of the Native Plant Nursery.

We are already operating a functioning native plant nursery entirely through student leadership and volunteer work--the new RA positions will only strengthen and improve how we function.

Project status: 
In progress, accepting volunteers