Greenhouse gives space to breath, study, research

Lily Merriam, Staff Writer

UVM wouldn’t be a college of the green mountains if it didn’t have a greenhouse.

In fact, UVM has three greenhouses.

The largest facility is located behind the Aiken Center and is the only one open regularly to the public, according to the UVM Greenhouse Facilities website.

The central campus facility was completed in 1991, the website states.

It includes an outdoor nursery and 8,000 square feet of indoor space, which is broken into 11 adjoining compartments.

The main campus greenhouse facility is used for research by faculty, affiliates and students.

“In the spring especially, almost every room, even the corridor in the middle is being used for classes and research,” greenhouse director Colleen Armstrong said.

Sophomore Allison Mattox is working with assistant professor Eric Bishop-Von Wettberg, a researcher from Miami planting and collecting seeds from different legumes, she said.

Mattox gained this opportunity when a research assistant visited her ecological agriculture class and asked if students were interested.

“We have weekly lab meetings to talk about current literature on the topic and check in with how we’re all doing. It’s really fantastic to work with someone so passionate,” Mattox said. “He frequently checks that we are doing things that interest us as well.”

Bishop-Von Wettberg’s research group is not the only one making use of the greenhouse at the moment.

The greenhouse is also used for teaching, Lathrop said.

“There is usually some student research being conducted by BCOR students for a lab they do involving watering plants with salt in it and just regular water,” he said.

Lathrop visits the greenhouse often, not just for his teaching position, but for relaxing too, he said.

Upon walking into the greenhouse, the temperature shifts from the 35 degrees of a Vermont winter day to a balmy 75 degrees.

Glass sliding doors separate rooms in order to properly provide plants with the necessary climate.

“We’re really excited for some new technology with LED lights,” Armstrong said. “We’re not sure about the longevity of these lights and they aren’t great for light-intensive plants, but they would save the greenhouse a lot of money.”

With its warmth and abundance of flora, the greenhouse is not just for learning plant biology, but also a space where students can be productive in other school work.

“It’s a really nice quiet place where the air is fresher and warmer and you can smell flowers and relax and focus,” Lathrop said.

On the other hand, Lathrop notes that not a lot of students recognize it as a study spot and its lack of charging outlets is a downside.

“If you had asked me five years ago, I would have said the greenhouse is an underused resource, but we’ve been doing a lot to integrate with classes and keep it open to the public,” Armstrong said.

Most rooms in the greenhouse have benches or the occasional chair where students can sit and pull out their homework, she said.

“Even if not for studying, it’s a great place to meditate or relax and decompress from school stress,” Lathrop said.

Nearby plant life was shown by a September 2014 University of Exeter study to increase productivity by 15 percent.

Along with increased productivity, plant life can help students experience less stress and more focus, according to a 1996 Washington State University study.

“I just want people to know that the greenhouse is there and open to all the people,” Lathrop said. “They have a collection of some really cool plants and you can just walk in whenever.”

The UVM Greenhouse Facilities are  accessible to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.