A proposal for a $750,000 greenhouse that would boost Northern State University’s science programs was given an initial approval Wednesday by the South Dakota Board of Regents.

Jodie Ramsay, chair of the department of biology, chemistry and physics and mathematics, said faculty members are excited about the planned 960-square-foot greenhouse that would be located adjacent to the MeWaldt-Jensen building or a standalone structure that could eventually be attached to a new science building. The facility would be used for experiments with plants for studies in plant systematics, environmental science and conservation and general biology.

“A greenhouse with designated space for use with transgenic crop plants is critical to NSU’s ability to play an active role in support of the state’s emphasis in the areas of biotechnology, including research and preparing students for advanced degrees in plant and animal bioscience, as well as value-added agriculture,” said NSU President Jim Smith in a statement.

According to a news release, the number of students majoring in biology and environmental studies has increased by 66 percent since 2008.

Plants are kept on carts or laboratory prep areas. Ramsay, a botanist, said plants fill every available surface in her lab. Moving to a more large-scale environment such as a greenhouse is preferable, she said.

“We really did need a greenhouse and have been talking about it for the last four years or so, but it was a pie-in-the-sky idea,” she said. “In the last year is when we’ve gotten down to planning what we’d actually want in a real building.”

The project costs will come from an allocation from the South Dakota Higher Education Facilities Fund. A grant application has been submitted to a program that could pay for the cost of larger equipment.

A photo example of a greenhouse structure attached to a building that was included in the facility program plan submitted to the South Dakota Board of Regents. Courtesy photo aberdeennews.com