Greenhouses provide space for research

Greenhouses provide space for research

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Between the Science and Education Building and the Multipurpose Building are the university’s two greenhouses. These buildings help support different biology classes and different professors as they perform their research.

The greenhouse located on the northern side is the teaching greenhouse, housing all the plants necessary to teach and support the biology classes, while the greenhouse located on the south side is the research greenhouse, dedicated to the work done by professors and graduate students.

Professor Marcelo Serpe, who has been teaching at Boise State for the past 16 years, needs the research greenhouse to conduct some of his studies.

“It’s quite essential for what I do,” Serpe said. “A lot of the experiments I do require controlled conditions.”

Serpe’s research deals with how environmental factors effect plant growth and has been applied practically within public land planning and development.

“Some of that knowledge can have some practical applications, in terms of the management, for instance, of public lands,” Serpe said.

The research greenhouse is shared by several professors, all of whom are doing their own separate work. Their work ranges from studying how different types of plants and fungi affect carbon cycles to studying how algae affects polluted water that comes out of dairy farms.

Reg Pope, laboratory manger in the Biology Department, helps maintain these greenhouses.

“The research greenhouse supports the research work that’s going on here,” Pope said. “The teaching greenhouse provides support for biology teaching labs.”

When walking  into the greenhouse, things look a bit sporadic, but the plants are all organized and placed based on their needs.

“It’s not a conservatory. It’s a work area,” Pope said.

Matt Ashby, the greenhouse supervisor, explained how the plants need to be arranged based upon how much light they each need. Different sides of the greenhouse receive different amounts of sunlight and that plays a factor into deciding where the plants go.

Recently there has been some reorganization and maintenance work done to ensure all plants are growing healthily.

“Something you have to do with these resources every once in a while is go through and clean them up,” Pope said. “There are a lot of mechanical systems out there for humidity and temperature control and they need maintenance.”

Every inch of space in the greenhouse is utilized. Rows of long, narrow tables house most of the plants. Others sit along the walls, in the windowsills and hang from the ceiling. Some have even begun to grow out from the ground. One corner supports water-based plants with barrels of water on the ground; other plants have little ladders built next to them so they can climb skyward.

The most exotic plants are the banana trees, which have fruited in the past, but haven’t done so in some time. The bananas they produce are entirely edible.

Besides the banana trees, there are several other plants that produce food such as a fig tree, black pepper plants and even a coffee bean plant.

“If they could see the types of plants that are in here I think people would be surprised by what can grow in Idaho,” Ashby said.

There are small plotted plants for bringing into classrooms, but some plants are too large to move in which case the classes will come out into the greenhouse to observe them.

The biggest goal of the greenhouse is to keep all the plants inside happy and healthy.