Photo courtesy of Greg Smith and Northern State University
Northern State University has been abuzz with excitement over a greenhouse, the newest addition to the campus. Having a greenhouse on campus opens up several opportunities for classes such as botany and biotechnology as well as opportunities for the community as a whole. Before the addition of the greenhouse, plants were grown on shelves in classrooms, which made it difficult to maintain space and conditions conducive to the study of botany. The process of constructing a greenhouse at Northern began a few years ago when Dr. Jon Mitchell, Assistant Professor of Biology, along with Karen Marchant, Director of Grants and Sponsored Research, and Dr. Jodie Ramsay, Professor of Biology, submitted a proposal setting forth the various ways in which having a greenhouse on campus would greatly benefit not only the students but the Aberdeen community as well. Such a building would enable the science professors to teach with greater depth, allow students to have better research potential, and provide the university with a possible source of revenue. The greenhouse would also open the option of collaborating with local schools and businesses. It is hoped that the greenhouse can broaden teaching at all levels through kindergarten to twelfth grade outreach programs. The school got behind the proposal, and with the support of James Smith, President of Northern State University, Veronica Paulsen, Vice President of Finance, Tom Hawley, then NSU Provost, Tino Mendez, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and many more, it was taken to the legislature and approved by the South Dakota Board of Regents and the Governor of South Dakota. Construction began in May of 2015 and finished at the start of fall semester.
The greenhouse holds more than just plants. “We wanted a big room for growing different types of plants for classes,” Dr. Mitchell shared. “We also wanted two smaller bio-tech rooms.” The two biotechnology rooms within the greenhouse are BL2 approved containment rooms. Bio-tech rooms will allow for experiments to be performed with genetically modified organisms as well as the opportunity to experiment with various types of pathogens, without fear of contamination from outside plants. “It’s exciting, no question!” said Dr. Mitchell. There are a total of four zones in the greenhouse: the entrance hall, a small teaching room, and the two bio-tech rooms. “The greenhouse is smaller, but extremely high tech,” said Dr. Julie Schroer, NSU Greenhouse Manager. Temperatures, air conditions, and amount of light received can all be independently controlled in each room within the greenhouse. The greenhouse is a twofold plan. Through it, plants can be available year-round for labs, and it can also supply an overall general diversity of plants. The greenhouse is available for tours by appointment. If you would like a tour of the greenhouse, contact Dr. Julie Schroer at (605) 626-3430.