UCF’s Arboretum will build a new greenhouse later this year for research, plant propagation and other projects near a former glass-enclosed structure damaged by hurricanes a few years ago.
The new greenhouse will stand on the east side of campus near Physical Sciences and will provide the Arboretum and the Department of Landscape and Natural Resources with a place for research and year round plant propagation.
Programming will also include flexible multipurpose space for students and teachers to use for projects and plant storage that also will benefit the different volunteer and outreach programs offered by the Arboretum.
“The Arboretum has a tremendous impact on UCF,” said Patrick Bohlen, director for the Arboretum and Department of Landscape and Natural Resources. “It supports thousands of student volunteer hours and provides a platform for student research and independent study projects. Through its close association with the Department of Landscape and Natural Resources, it helps create our beautiful campus environment, and provides many opportunities for people to interact with and increase their understanding of nature.”
The Arboretum was established in 1983 by then UCF President Trevor Colbourn. The 12-acre plot has expanded to 82 acres with more than three miles of hiking trails and a community garden.
As part of its education initiative, there are independent study opportunities in which students can conduct hands-on research.
One current project involves the irrigation system at UCF. Angelica Cabrales, an environmental studies senior, is helping to prevent water waste while still maintaining healthy plant life by researching different ways the irrigation software at UCF can monitor ground water levels on campus.
Another project in development is a plant database that will map all the plant species on UCF’s 1,415 acres of campus in order to help locate them more efficiently.
“A lot of biology and science classes deal with these species, but students are not instructed on where to find them. Hopefully this will make it easier for students to locate them,” said Alexis Acernese, a senior majoring in biology who is working on the database.
The database will include a picture of the plant, where to find it on campus and basic facts about each plant species. The end goal is to have a Google map or smartphone app that will guide users to each plant.
With more than 3,000 volunteers annually and about 4,000 volunteer hours donated, there are many ways for students of all majors to get involved with the Arboretum. Two of the biggest programs are the community garden and the Adopt-A-Pond/Road Program.
The one-acre community garden harvests fruits, vegetables and herbs, and is mainly managed by student volunteers, where they learn about soil and compost and the best practices on how to grow their own food.
“I didn’t think it was so easy and feasible to grow your own food, and it’s so healthy for me, too,” said Eliezer Perez, a sophomore volunteer. The Arboretum also donates some of the food from the garden to the Knights Pantry, a campus program that provides free food and essentials to UCF students who may be in financial hardship.
The Adopt-A-Pond/Road Program was designed for student groups to adopt a designated road or retention pond on campus. The organization becomes responsible for cleaning the vicinity of the adopted area, which results in collecting hundreds of pounds of trash yearly. After three months of maintenance, the group is given the opportunity to have its name posted on a sign in their area.
For more information about the Arboretum and its different programs, visit www.arboretum.ucf.edu/.