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Rhode Island: Plant Environmental Center's rooftop oasis "conserves precious green space"

At the Plant Environmental Center, located on the rooftop of the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, plants ranging from a bonsai tree over 25 years old to a collection of cycads - a prehistoric plant - find a space to grow and bloom. The Center consists of six computer-controlled greenhouses spanning a total of 5,000 square feet as well as a 1,800 square foot conservatory, creating a tranquil seating area amidst dozens of lush plants. 

Before the Center was created, there was a ground-level facility in the place of today’s grassy walkway leading into Ruth J. Simmons Quadrangle for nearly 50 years, said Mark Johnson, associate professor of biology. Johnson started conducting research in Brown’s greenhouses in 2004. 

“There were a lot of really nice things about the old greenhouse,” Johnson said. “One advantage was it was very public-facing,” and people would walk in and visit often.

Fred Jackson PhD’17, former director of the greenhouses, started working at the University in 1992 and also served as a lecturer in ecology and evolutionary biology before retiring. “They hired me because they needed somebody to run the greenhouses, and that’s what I did for my whole career,” in addition to “teaching horticulture and everything else with plants and botany,” he said.

The old spaces were torn down and the Plant Environmental Center “rooftop oasis” opened in 2014 to “conserve precious green space” on campus and support botanical research and teaching on biology, ecology, and environmental sciences, Johnson said. 

In addition to the computer-controlled greenhouses on the rooftop, the Plant Environmental Center also has other “support spaces” in the basement, including the headhouse, growth chambers, and laboratory classrooms for plant-related courses, Johnson said. 

Read the complete article at browndailyherald.com.


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