Deferred maintenance, old experiments and growing weeds took a toll on the Greeley Greenhouse over the years. After several months of diligent work and improvements, the greenhouse is not only more aesthetically pleasing, it will also help Yale University achieve its larger sustainability goals.
Greenhouse manager Kristofer Covey explained that for a greenhouse to be fully functional, it must meet certain conditions. “The focus of the greenhouse is research, so we need to approximate real field conditions. In the past, we’ve had trouble with extreme heat in the summer and irregular watering cycles. When students would leave town for the holidays, we’d experience our annual Christmas drought. Obviously, that is no way to maintain the greenhouse with the kind of rigorous science the school is known for.”
To achieve these goals, the first step was clearing the space. Covey, who is a doctoral candidate in forest ecology and an F&ES alumnus, filled 10 dumpsters with outdated equipment, old research supplies, dead plants and overgrown weeds over the course of a semester.
Capital improvements were also necessary. The greenhouse is now equipped with an automatic irrigation system that will ensure each plant is watered a precise amount. The space will soon be outfitted with sensors and controls to maintain proper temperatures and humidity. A mist propagation bench will allow for rooting cuttings. Thinking of researchers, the greenhouse is also home to two new comfortable study spaces. The spaces can be used when monitoring experiments or as a quiet, sunny escape during the cold, dark winter months.
Several researchers moved experiments into the greenhouse and more are looking to join. Alex Felson, director of the urban ecology and design laboratory, and James Axley, a senior research scholar, are using the greenhouse to investigate geothermal wetlands for cooling power plant exhaust.