The tops of UCSC’s science buildings have three high-tech greenhouses that make them a botanist’s paradise in the sky. All three facilities are computer-controlled to enable staff to fine-tune the internal climate.
In just one of the facilities, there are currently 700 species of plants. A portion of them is housed indoors within three different microclimates, and the rest are outside, surrounding the two outdoor classrooms. Faculty and graduate students use the research facilities to study plant pathology, genetic modification, the effects of climate change on ecosystem restoration, and more. Consequently, the UCSC greenhouses play a big role in restoration efforts here in Santa Cruz, California.
There are usually between 20 and 30 different experiments being conducted at any time. They investigate questions such as how quickly invasive weeds such as periwinkle and fennel can crowd out native grasses and flowers. Some of the plants grown in the facilities are endangered and are used in a coastal prairie restoration project near the Seymour Marine Center. They germinate native grass seedlings and transplant them to Younger Lagoon Reserve to restore the native ecosystem.
Students and faculty from the greenhouse facilities also manage protected lands through the UC Natural Reserve System. Together with other UC branches, they maintain more than 30 different protected areas throughout California. They perform a variety of vital services for the state’s native flora, such as removing invasive weeds like periwinkle, ice plant, scotch broom, and poison hemlock.
The work and research done in the greenhouse facilities help ensure that the native flora of Santa Cruz remain as pristine and undisturbed as possible for everyone to enjoy.
This post was written by Antonio Lamb, a Mobile Ranger intern at the time of writing, and Julia Gaudinski.
- Personal communication with Jim Velzy, UCSC Greenhouse manager, March 5, 2014.
- Personal communication with Katie Monsen, University of California Lecturer in Environmental Studies, March 4, 2014.