SER-UW Nursery Expansion
The University of Washington’s Society for Ecology Restoration student guild (SER-UW) native plant nursery was established at the Center for Urban Horticulture in the spring of 2013. The SER-UW nursery maintains an inventory of 1000-1500 containerized plants native to the Puget Sound and used in planting efforts at two CSF funded restoration sites: Whitman Walk and Kincaid Ravine. The nursery also delivers educational benefits to students studying horticulture and ecological restoration at UW by providing experiential learning through volunteer activities. On average, 30 students per quarter participate in nursery work parties that focus on basic horticultural practices. The work that SER-UW conducts is an applied complement to the curricula of the Master of Environmental Horticulture program (MEH) and the ESRM Restoration Ecology concentration. Although often overlooked, horticulture is an important facet of ecological restoration; understanding proper growing techniques and identifying or growing high quality nursery stock is imperative to successfully achieving restoration project goals.
Storing and caring for our plants is a considerable task, and we have vastly exceeded the available space. We request funding for the creation of a hoophouse devoted entirely to the SER-UW nursery, to be constructed at the Center for Urban Horticulture. The expansion would provide more space for our plants and better resources for our educational programming. Our project goals are twofold:
To further provide hands on learning opportunities in the propagation and production of native plants to University of Washington students.
To provide an economical and local source of native plant materials to UW undergraduate and graduate students, UW Grounds, the Arboretum, and the greater community.
The goal is for the nursery to exist in perpetuity, but only the first two years are within the scope of this proposal. These initial phases are described below.
Phase I: In addition to the programing that SER-UW already provides, infrasture upgrades will be made in order to increase plant production capacity and quality of care for our plants. This includes building a hoophouse exclusively for the SER-UW Nursery with storage, a potting bench, growing tables, an irrigation system, and a pot-washing station. Co-managers will be funded to work 15 hours a week to construct everything but the hoophouse. Our first crop of natives will be planted, and will be ready to sell in the fall of 2016. Co-managers will initiate discussions to find permanent funding sources for a full-time manager position.
Phase II: A new set of co-managers will focus on increasing the clientele of the nursery in order to grow more plants for campus and UWBG Arboretum planting projects, in addition to providing a suite of commonly used plants for capstone and MEH projects. They will also focus on obtaining a long term funding source for a permanent full-time position.
Phase III: The nursery will transition into a campus recharge unit or self-sustaining center. A single full-time manager will be in charge of plant production, education, and sales.
To accomplish our mission, we request $77,000 for two years.
Students are the heart of SER-UW. It is a completely student-run organization with a mixture of undergraduate and graduate students as officers and members. At the nursery, students are encouraged to participate in work parties where we pot up, irrigate, and organize our plants. With a CSF grant, we intend to increase the number, variety, and consistency of work parties with more of an emphasis on propagation from seeds and cuttings. The nursery also provides opportunities for nursery management and production research. For example, current ESRM 412 students are helping with designing the irrigation system and determining the sun/shade and irrigation requirements of each species we grow in order to help us efficiently organize the greenhouse.
The nursery already successfully involves roughly 30 student volunteers at an average of four volunteer events each quarter. By holding ten work parties per quarter, at a consistent time each week, we expect to increase our volunteer numbers to at least 80 students per quarter and 300 students per year.
The SER-UW nursery has existing partnerships with three ESRM courses, including ESRM 100: Introduction to Environmental Science, ESRM 362: Introduction to Restoration Ecology, and ESRM 412: Native Plant Production. These courses encourage students to volunteer with SER-UW for class credit. We do our best to accommodate and utilize volunteers from these courses, but finding the time to do so is often difficult. Increasing our hours in the nursery will greatly increase our availability for these students.
We also recruite volunteers through our website, http://students.washington.edu/seruw/, our listserv, the hortgrads list serve, our Facebook page, and with help from the SEFS communications manager Karl Wirsing. Another strength in our volunteer recruitment is our ability to network with volunteers through our own organization. Students referred from our on-campus restoration projects and native plant salvage events get to see the crucial role the nursery plays in the success of the salvage and restoration processes. We also intend to increase student involvement with the help of a communications intern who will increase our web presence.
Each quarter the nursery managers will coordinate an internship for two undergraduate students looking to get more involved in nursery management and plant production. Throughout the year there will be a total of six interns who will be expected to work 8 to 10 hours per week, assisting the managers with watering, weeding, and weekly plant propagation tasks. Individual learning objectives will be created for each student depending on their interests and the current needs of the nursery. For fall quarter, a student will be selected for his or her carpentry skills to facilitate the building of potting benches and plant production tables. For winter quarter, one intern will focus on communications, i.e. website design, branding, and social media, to promote plant sales and outreach. The interns for spring quarter will focus on plant propagation and fulfilling orders. Each intern will receive ESRM 499: Undergraduate Research or the equivalent from their home department.
In phase I, the project will be coordinated by two part-time managers with complementary roles. Anna will function as the Education and Outreach Coordinator, focusing on the recruitment of volunteers, the development of internship positions, administration, and budget management. Kelly will function as the Nursery Coordinator, heading up the construction of the hoop house and associated building projects, coordinating plant sales, and developing the nursery’s planting plan. Both managers will share the tasks of running weekly work parties and overseeing the care of our plants. For phase II, a new pair of nursery managers will concentrate on plant propagation, establishing relationships with UW customers, and fulfilling orders.
Although the long-term goal is to support one full-time paid nursery manager, the initial phases of the project will require two part-time co-managers. During phase I and II, we will be building our hoophouse, writing a business plan, developing a planting plan and researching our propagation protocols, in addition to caring for our plants. These diverse tasks will be best accomplished by two managers with different skillsets. Also, because we are both full-time students, neither of us can devote 30 hours a week to this project. By dividing the work-load between us and drawing on our respective strengths, we will be ensuring the highest likelihood of project success.
Increasing the the quantity and quality of activities at the SER-UW nursery does not necessarily require building a new hoop house or getting paid, but as volunteer managers and full-time students, working to help pay for school and focusing on our coursework must take priority. We cannot currently devote the time or energy required to improve our volunteer outreach, or provide the attention and consistency of care that our plants really need. Funding two part-time positions would allow us to prioritize our time in the nursery and help us to achieve these goals.
Education & Outreach:
Beyond our normal means of communication described in the volunteer recruitment section, we would seek additional forms of communication for increased publicity. The UW Farm has already offered to highlight the expansion project in their newsletter. We would also collaborate with the SEFS newsletter, Offshoots, to do a piece on us to promote the new hoop house, volunteer events and projects the interns are working on. Advertising our public plant sales on the HUB digital display will attract students, faculty, and staff that are not reached through other means, and will help us attract new customers and engage new volunteers from other campus departments.
Internally, we would develop a quarterly newsletter to update people on our listserv. We will continue to post pictures and events announcements to Facebook. We usually receive high response rates, 100-900 views and 1 or 2 new page likes, for pictures from work parties with students tagged in them.
OUTREACH & EDUCATIONAL GOALS
Our outreach is completely centered around the the student involvement described above with three different levels of educational goals: volunteers, interns, and nursery managers.
Weekly work parties will be advertised to the entire UW community as open events where anyone can drop in to learn about current nursery projects and lend a hand. These informal work parties will allow us to engage students, faculty, and staff that wouldn’t be interested in a long term internship position, but might still enjoy getting their hands dirty for a few hours.
With increased frequency, these work parties would significantly augment horticulturally focused learning opportunities on campus, where formal learning opportunities are limited. The two plant production courses are only offered in spring quarter and scheduling conflicts and limited class sizes reduce the accessibility of these courses for students. The SER nursery currently provides occasional opportunities for learning; by increasing our growing program and available hours, we would significantly increase the opportunities for students to engage in native plant production throughout the academic year.
Volunteer learning objectives include the benefits of using native plants in landscaping, plant care, and basic plant production methods. Yessler Swamp, UBNA, a rain garden, and the UW Farm pollinator project are all within short walking distance of the SER nursery, and will be used often to demonstrate the potential applications of native plants. Our hope is to engage the public in a conversation about the benefits of native plants and their many applications in our urban landscape.
Nursery managers will work with the interns to develop specific learning objectives. Experience for all interns will include plant production, propagation skills like scarification and stratification, plant ID, irrigation, and weeding. During the first phase of the project, interns will also make a significant contribution to the establishment of the nursery through constructing our physical structures, crafting our web presence, or helping us draft a business plan. Just as importantly, interns will practice skills that are more broadly applicable to all jobs such as working independently as well as in a team, attention to detail, communication, and time management.
Even as the nursery transitions into Phases II and III, internships will continue to be an important component of the program. Intern responsibilities will be focused on plant propagation and production, but other new and diverse learning opportunities are sure to become available. Researching, designing, and installing a rainwater catchment system on the roof of the hoop house is just one potential opportunity. Through these positions, we will continue to provide more intensive learning opportunities to students, supporting our mission of increasing the horticultural learning opportunities on campus.
The educational goals of the nursery managers and upper level horticulture students are centered around the skills necessary to set up a native plant nursery and educational resource center. In particular the nursery managers will learn how to put together a business plan to eventually make the nursery a “recharge center” or “self-sustaining” unit within the university. This will ensure the financial sustainability of the operation. The managers will learn how to interact with contractors to successfully build a hoop house on a budget and in a timely manner.
Plant production and propagation skills to be practiced are seed collection, cleaning, scarification, and stratification. The managers would also develop efficient systems for material and equipment purchases, soil orders, pot washing, record keeping, and plant sales. Bridget McNassar, the Nursery and Restoration Manager for Oxbow Farm and Education Center, a local non-profit native plant nursery, will serve as our plant propagation advisor.
The nursery co-managers will practice their volunteer and employee management skills through weekly work parties and overseeing quarterly interns. We anticipate that a valuable mentor-mentee relationship would be fostered between the quarterly interns and the nursery managers.
In addition to the restoration projects managed by SER-UW, our nursery has the inventory to supply plants to project-based restoration courses. These courses are the foundation of the ESRM and MEH programs and require the procurement of native plant materials. This is a considerable hurdle for professors and students because it is time consuming and difficult to deal with many different nurseries to source the plants. Since its first sale in March, the nursery has already supplied ESRM 473: Restoration of North America, two UW-REN capstone groups, and the Washington Park Arboretum with native plants, suggesting that there is a substantial demand for native plants beyond our own projects.
For phases II and III, plants will be produced to facilitate new projects with the Arboretum, campus grounds, and graduate projects from students of SEFS, College of the Built Environment and the biology department. By expanding the SER nursery as outlined in this proposal, many of these plant needs can be met right here on campus, eliminating the need and associated carbon costs of sourcing and picking up plants from off-campus nurseries. These projects will in turn be financially supporting the nursery, enabling us to grow the next round of native species and closing the native plant loop in a way that benefits everyone.
- Living Systems and Biodiversity
During the first two years, the nursery will be co-managed by two MEH graduate students. In addition to their nursery management duties, the phase I managers will be responsible for the recruitment of future co-managers for phase II. Finding replacements should not be difficult since the infrastructure will be in place for a fully functioning native plant nursery, it ties directly to the MEH program, and there will be funding for labor- a rarity in the MEH program. During phase I, Kelly and Anna will also initiate the discussion to find permanent funding for a full time staff person to manage the nursery for phase III. Because of the broad applicability of the native plant nursery there are many potential departments who could partially fund a position through cost-sharing modeled after the UW Farm manager position, which is funded by Campus Housing, Health Services, and the College of the Environment. Potential partners the SER-UW nursery are campus grounds, the planning office, College of the Environment, UWBG, College of the Built Environment, and the Biology department. Funding through the Services and Activities Fee will also be investigated. The co-managers for phase II will be responsible for following through with securing funding for the full-time nursery manager position based upon the recommendations of the phase I managers. In phase III, the nursery will transition into a recharge unit or self-sustaining unit depending on the makeup of the clientele, i.e. mostly on-campus versus off-campus clients. Wendy Star, SEFS administrator, will help us develop a business plan that allows us to best achieve our goals of functioning as a not-for-profit entity, where the nursery is able to support as many if its own expenses as possible.
Wildlife habitat fragmentation and degradation, shoreline resilience, stormwater filtration, and loss of pollinator habitat are all problems that the practice of restoration ecology is capable of addressing. The need for restoration within the city of Seattle has been described in Green Seattle Partnership’s 20 Year Strategic Plan (2005) and City of Seattle’s Urban Forest Management Plan (2007). Examples of projects addressing these problems exist right here on campus, including the Union Bay Natural Area, Kincaid Ravine, and Whitman Walk. The key to success for each of these projects is the availability of high quality native plant stock that is highly adapted to the local environment.
The landscaping on UW campus is world-renowned and a point of community pride, yet most of the plants are non-native ornamental species. Ornamental landscape plants typically demand more water than native species, and provide fewer benefits to wildlife. Research from CUH’s own director, Sarah Reichard (BioOne 1997), found that landscaping with nonnative species is a serious vector for the introduction of invasive species. The University of Washington has shown a commitment to sustainability, and already has many native plantings on campus. By continuing to install native species wherever appropriate, UW will be reducing the resources required to maintain these landscape features, increasing the benefits to wildlife on campus, and providing a highly visible example of native plant use in landscaping.
As a native plant nursery focused on educating the next crop of restoration practitioners, we have a responsibility to teach students sustainable best management practices (BMPs). In the nursery setting this includes choosing sustainable rooting media that is not comprised of moss collected from peat bogs in Canada, a practice which destroys valuable habitat in an ecosystem that recovers very slowly. Other BMPs include efficient irrigation systems that recycle rainwater, careful application of organic fertilizers to limit runoff, and integrated pest management strategies to reduce the use of pesticides. The SER-UW nursery will eventually be able to expose students to all of these practices in an experiential learning setting. Graduate students interested in researching these methods and their application in the nursery, will be encouraged to collaborate.
Explain how the impacts will be measured:
The educational impact of the nursery expansion will be measured by the quantity and quality of hands-on learning experiences we are able to provide to our volunteers and interns. This will be measured by tracking attendance at weekly volunteer work parties through sign-in sheets. We will also follow-up with volunteers each quarter by sending out a survey, asking how we can improve our work parties. Internships will be measured both by their successful completion and by the accomplishment of the agreed-upon learning objectives. Managers will sit down with interns at the end of the quarter for an evaluation session, where both managers and interns will evaluate each other’s performance.
Our goal of increasing the supply of native plants to campus projects will be measured by the number of plants sold and number of projects supported. All plant sales will be tracked by species, and total numbers will be calculated at the end of each quarter and each academic year. The number of student projects and campus entities that purchase plants will also be tracked. During Phase I, we will only have the plants that are currently in stock available to sell to capstone groups and MEH projects. In Phase II, our first crop of purpose-grown natives will become available. As we increase our stock and tailor our crops to the needs of our customers, we hope to increase the number of plant supplied and the number of projects we are able to support. Every project that we supply with plants will in turn be financially supporting the next crop of plants at the nursery.
Ecological impacts are notoriously hard to quantify. Although the simplest method is to quantify the number of plants delivered and the number of customers reached, the environmental impacts of our nursery will be much further reaching. It would be interesting, after the nursery has become established, to have a student perform a life cycle assessment of our plants and to compare them to plants purchased from other area nurseries. We expect that this assessment would take many factors into account, including the reduced carbon cost of sourcing plants from far away, using peat-free potting media, avoiding synthetic fertilizers, and the water-saving impacts of the rainwater catchment system we would eventually like to install.
This funding request is a: Grant
If this is a loan, what is the estimated payback period?:
|Item||Cost per Item||Quantity||Total Cost|
|Please see attached Budget document.|
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|Please see attached Timeline document.|