Encouraging Native Pollinators at the UW Farm

March 27th, 2015 by Jenelle Clark

University of Washington graduate student Nicolette Neumann Levi is looking for ways to bring more native pollinators to the UW Farm. Nicolette recently obtained a $1,000 UW Campus Sustainability Fund (UWCSF) grant to help support the installation of several new native pollinator plantings at the UW Farm, Center for Urban Horticulture site. Nicolette is embarking on this endeavor as part of her thesis project as a candidate for the Master of Environmental Horticulture degree. Her funding will support the installation of a herbaceous perennial garden with plantings specifically chosen to attract native pollinators, as well as a pollinator hedge that will further provide food and habitat for beneficial pollinator insects.

Nicolette_1

Recently Nicolette had the opportunity to meet with UWBG curation staff and horticulturists to discuss plant choices, especially options that would be easy to grow and maintain while providing the most benefit to the pollinators. Some of the preliminary plant ideas include grasses, violets, trilliums, sunflowers, and irises for the herbaceous perennial gardens, and evergreen huckleberry and grasses for the hedgerow. The concept is to use all local, native plantings in these gardens to lower maintenance needs and avoid the requirement to directly irrigate.

Work on the project will start this spring with the preparation and planting of two patches at the north end of the farm for perennial flowers. Over the summer, Nicolette also plans to install plastic film to solarize the areas at the southern edge of the farm where the pollinator hedge is slated to be planted. This will utilize passive solar heat to remove pests and pathogens prior to planting.

Working with Native Pollinators

By planting exclusively native plants, Nicolette hopes to attract a wide variety of the native pollinators found in the Seattle area. “The idea is to use native plants to attract what would naturally be around the [local] area.” she explains. Some of the local pollinators she is hoping to see more of at the Farm include honey bees, orchard mason bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. While each of these pollinators have specific native plants that they prefer, Nicolette is utilizing a diverse palette of plants with blooming times staggered throughout the growing season to try to consistently attract as many pollinators as possible. “Overall it’s healthier to have a more diverse mix of insect,” she explains.

Nicolette is hoping that by bringing in a diverse mix of pollinators it will have measurable impacts on the Farm’s overall crop yield too. She will be measuring this impact as a part of her thesis work, as well as continuing to do frequent pollinator counts to see if her efforts are making a difference. Nicolette does have high hopes for the impact the perennial gardens and pollinator hedge will have on the UW Farm:

“Many farms will have to bring in on a yearly basis a box of bees. By trying to attract the native pollinators you don’t have to do that and spend all that money every year. You can maintain the populations and have a place for them to overwinter. It saves money.”

Not only will the plants in the garden and hedge provide pollen for the pollinators, they will also be chosen to support these beneficial insects in their various life-stages (i.e. larval, such as a caterpillar) and provide food, habitat, shelter, and hiding for adults. The hope is that these new plantings will also provide over-wintering habitat for the pollinators so that the Farm can start to grow a larger base population of pollinators right where they need them

A Network of Green Spaces

One of the challenges facing pollinators today, especially in urban areas like Seattle, is habitat fragmentation and the loss of green spaces. An exciting possible benefit of this project is its ability to provide a vital patch of habitat, for many types of pollinators, right in the heart of the University District. “The flight range or movement [for pollinators] between different patches is not so big, so you end up with these isolated patches,” Nicolette explains. “You miss out on the opportunity to have pollinators moving through a mosaic of habitat patches. Having one more pollinator garden adds one more place for the population to move to and grow”.

Pollinator Garden

National groups such as the Pollinator Pathway and the Xerces Society are working to bring awareness to the importance of habitat patches and are focused on promoting more urban gardens with plantings tailored towards the needs of native pollinators. Home gardeners can get involved too and help to provide vital habitat patches by fine-tuning their own growing spaces to meet the needs of more pollinators. Nicolette recommends that home gardeners, “try to use plants that would naturally be growing [in our region] and blooms that are in a variety of colors.” She also encourages, “using plants that bloom at different times during the growing season,” to consistently attract pollinators throughout the season. Bee boxes, such as those made for mason bees, could be something a home gardener could use.

The most important thing is to make sure that the plants chosen match up well with the needs of our local pollinators. Starting with native plants is a good place to begin, but Nicolette also recommends checking with your local nursery or gardening outreach program (like the Center for Urban Horticulture) to get more ideas and guidance with setting up your own pollinator garden.

The Elisabeth C. Miller Library has a list of recommended books on Pollinators and Pollination.

Washington Park Arboretum Soil is More Than Dirt

September 26th, 2014 by Kathleen DeMaria, Arboretum Gardener

This past April the Camellia area of the Washington Park Arboretum was paid a scientific visit by UW SEFS professor Dr. Darlene Zabowski and students from her Advanced Soil Genesis and Classification course (SEFS 513). Their goal was to learn how to excavate a soil pit and mine the walls for information about the history of the site, the current state of the soil and potential issues that may need mitigation. The site was chosen by David Zuckerman, Supervisor of Horticulture, as our Camellia collection is in need of a renovation, and he’s a strong proponent of soil analysis prior to any work being done in an area.

As with any good assessment, photos of the site were taken prior to any disturbance:

Camellias before dig

 

This site is located in the south end of the Arboretum just north of the gravel path leading to the newly refurbished lookout in the New Zealand garden. After the leaf litter and duff were cleared, the students started digging, and digging until a 3 foot deep pit was completed (notice the clear separation of ‘horizons’, or layers of soil):

Soil Pit2

In this area 3 feet was needed to ensure that the students got down to the ‘parent material’, or the underlying geological material in which soil horizons form. Soils inherit structure and minerals from their parent material through processes of physical or chemical weathering. This parent material remains the basis of the soil structure as other factors contribute to the soil’s texture (e.g. compaction, amendments, tillage).  According to Dr. Zabowski and her students, our Camellia soil has a parent material in the ‘Alderwood series’, and it shows evidence of compaction and large quantities of amended materials in the upper horizon. There was charcoal found in the middle/upper horizons indicative of a fire in the area (perhaps post-logging) or the charcoal could have come in with amendments added to the soil years ago. The parent material is glacial, composed mostly of ablation till and basal till and the years of amending and alteration can be seen even down into these lower horizons.

Soils layed out

As each horizon was unearthed, Dr. Zabowski (pictured above) had her students lay out a sample of the soil in ascending order to show and feel the difference from one layer to the next. The students were then charged with the task of coding out these samples by color using Munsell Soil Color Charts flip book. Soil color indicates the makeup of the soil within a given geographic area, which can influence the land’s fitness for usage. Samples of each horizon were also brought back to the lab and analyzed for chemical composition, bulk density, base saturation, and Cation exchange capacity (CEC). The Camellia soil was found to have a pH in the slightly acidic region (5.7-6.3), which is good for Camellias, as they like slightly acidic soil. The upper horizons of the soil were found to contain high levels of Ca, suggesting that there had been some CaCO3 added to the soil in the past (the high pH was also indicative of amending with CaCO3). The CEC of the soil was very high in the upper horizons, but this was to be expected at CEC is a measure of the soil’s fertility and nutrient retention capacity and this soil had been amended with organic matter for decades before this assessment (organic matter can have up to 3x the CEC of clay). The bulk density of the soil in the upper horizons suggests that there has been some compaction (likely due to foot traffic as there is a bench near the site) and that remediation of this density should accompany any work done in this area.

The UWBG horticulture staff welcomes and encourages university use of the arboretum for educational purposes as we curate and maintain 230 acres of urban forest as short walk from main campus. Got an idea for research in the arboretum? Contact David Zuckerman at dzman@uw.edu to get your shovels into our soil!

 


2014-2015 Wott Fellowship Recipient Named

September 2nd, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

Eve Rickenbaker, graduate student as well as Hyde Herbarium Collection Manager, is the recipient of the John A. Wott Fellowship in Plant Collection and Curatorship for 2014.

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UW Botanic Gardens Director Sarah Reichard, Director Emeritus John Wott, Fellowship recipient Eve Rickenbaker

Eve’s working thesis title is the UW student perception of the Washington Park Arboretum. She is conducting focus groups with University of Washington students in order to understand their motivations and constraints to visiting the Washington Park Arboretum. She says, “My hope is that if students connect to the Washington Park Arboretum now while attending college they will reap the benefits the Arboretum can offer through recreation, relaxation, and education. My long range goal is that their experience will create a deep-rooted respect and admiration for nature and plants, and perhaps they will even become ardent supporters one day of the Washington Park Arboretum as alumni or as leaders at the University of Washington or at similar public botanic gardens.”

Summer curation internship: getting behind-the-scenes with plant records

August 25th, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

By Nichole Sheehan

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Photo by Nichole Sheehan

Field-testing my classwork and expanding my plant palette as a curation intern

I am wrapping up a fantastic internship experience at the University of Washington Botanic Gardens this week and I’m already scheduling myself to continue as a volunteer. My internship was a wildly fortunate opportunity since I’m not a current student of the University of Washington. Tracy Mehlin of the Elisabeth Miller Library arranged the perfect internship to combine my attention to detail from my Navy service, my research and organizational skills from my MLIS, and my recent horticultural studies at Edmonds Community College.

I had two tasks; assist in the on-going plant inventory in the Arboretum, and help clean-up data for the interactive map (see the post, “Where in the Arboretum . . .”). Keith Ferguson provided me with excellent training for both BG Base and field inventory and Ryan Garrison helped me with the basics of the Arc GIS program. I amended scientific names, solved discrepancies with accession numbers, and linked mapped plants to the BG Base plant database for the arboretum. While I couldn’t solve all the problems, I did evaluate each of the more than 16,500 mapped plants and came up with a short-list of plants that need field checks. In the last program update, my work linked 1,436 mapped plants to the database so proper information can be displayed.

I really enjoyed the behind-the-scenes aspects such as reading historical plant condition notes and evaluating plants for health and maintenance using my pests and diseases classwork. The five plant identification courses I had proved extremely helpful for inventorying, and my database work introduced me to hundreds of fantastic cultivars to consider using in the future. My experience here has really helped reinforce my coursework for ornamental landscaping and nursery and greenhouse production.

All of the staff and volunteers I met and worked with helped to make me feel comfortable and part of the team. They are truly the reason I want to stay on and continue helping with the field inventory. I’m grateful for everyone’s help and proud of my work. I strongly recommend others take advantage of this great opportunity to learn in the field and make a difference at the UW Botanic Gardens.

iSchool Capstone: Improving the visitor experience with an app

June 20th, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

By Sarai Dominguez

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Information School graduate students, Anna Sgarlato, Sarai Dominguez and Loryn Lestz, presenting their Capstone poster 6/5/2014.

It has been a great pleasure to work in partnership with the University of Washington Botanic Gardens and Information School to design the future Arboretum mobile app. My team and I had a blast!

After four quarters of information science courses, we were all eager to practice our learning’s in a real-world scenario. Throughout our first meetings with UWBG staff, we learned about the exciting digitization projects at hand. However, we still realized the information need of Arboretum visitors who wanted map and plant information while wandering the park, and not just at home on a desktop computer. We started our project with a research phase (which allowed us to meet and interview volunteers and staff throughout the organization), sketched our ideas, built an interactive prototype and tested our design with Arboretum enthusiasts; it was a hit!

My favorite part of the project was meeting volunteers and staff and noticing how invested in the Arboretum this group is. They truly believe in the Arboretum as a place for retreat, exploration, learning and building valuable friendships. These principles were the inspiration for our mobile app design and we hope that current and future park visitors will experience this in the information tool we have placed in their hands.

Thank you, UWBG, for an incredible capstone experience!

Interactive map of the Arboretum (optimized for desktop computers)

Sketching out the app user experience.

Sketching out the app user experience.

A design comp of the app home screen

A design comp of the app home screen

iSchool Capstone: Designing an app for Arboretum visitors

June 19th, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

By Loryn Lestz

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Information School graduate students, Anna Sgarlato, Sarai Dominguez and Loryn Lestz, presenting their Capstone poster 6/5/2014.

Working with the staff and volunteers of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens to design a mobile app for Arboretum visitors has been a wonderful way to bring my graduate school experience to a close. Everyone my team came in contact with during the design process was not only enthusiastic and supportive of our project but also eager to contribute ideas and provide feedback on the app itself. A number of the usability tests we conducted to confirm our design choices were done with volunteers and the passion they expressed for the Arboretum in my interactions with them was truly inspiring. It was truly encouraging to hear them talk about the ways in which they felt the app would be able to help them and the visitors they interact with to enjoy the Arboretum even more than they already do.

Perhaps the most rewarding part of this project for me as a designer was getting to negotiate a balance between enriching Arboretum visitors’ experience with new technologies and keeping that experience focused on the natural beauty of the Arboretum. As someone who loves coming to the Arboretum and forgetting that I am in the middle of the city for a few hours, I knew this was something we would need to be mindful of as we worked. My team and I were successful at keeping this among our top priorities throughout the design process, and couldn’t be happier with the resulting design. I am looking forward to seeing the app move into the development phase and can’t wait to see (and use!) the final product.

Interactive Map of the Arboretum (optimized for desktop computers)

Sketching out the app user experience.

Sketching out the app user experience.

A design comp of the app home screen

A design comp of the app home screen.

Student Poster Exhibit 2014

May 7th, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

posterExhibit_Kim2008Wonder what goes on in the labs of Merrill Hall or in the study plots sprinkled throughout Union Bay Natural Area? Find out at the annual UW Botanic Gardens graduate student research review May 9 to June 13 in the Library.

Want to meet the researchers? Then join us for the public reception Friday, May 9 from 5 to 7pm. Light refreshments will be served. The public is invited to this free event.

 

 

Participating students and research topics

Crescent Calimpong Elwha Revegetation 2013: A Plant Performance Study
Natalie Footen How do parasites affect prairie plant communities?
Nate Haan Interactions between hemiparasites, hosts, and herbivores
Alex Harwell The Restoration of Sweetgrass (Schoenoplectus pungens) in the Nisqually Delta: An Ethnobotanical Restoration Effort
Kathryn Hill Effects of prescribed fire on the spatial structure of butterfly habitat in South Puget Sound prairies
Eve Rickenbaker UW Student Perception of the Washington Park Arboretum
Kathleen Walter Amphibian Use of Union Bay Natural Area
Christopher Wong The Sisyrinchium Common Garden Study

UW Student Reflection

January 9th, 2014 by Arboretum Education Supervisor, Patrick Mulligan

My experience as a volunteer at the UW Arboretum…

It was the first quarter of my freshman year at the University of Washington. I was enrolled in an environmental studies class, and we, the students, were given an option between doing a book report and volunteering for “service learning.” Man, was I glad I chose to volunteer, because my time at the arboretum was great.

The arboretum is an escape from the city without leaving the city. There you are, standing in a metropolis, but you’re surrounded by tall trees, whistling birds, and sweet silence; it’s oxymoronic. I was living in a dormitory at the time, and the constant shuffle of neighbors, or the bumping music of the guys four doors down, kept me on-edge, not relaxed. But, once in the arboretum, all that white noise was gone. Even though I was there to volunteer and to work, I found myself energized upon leaving.

Philip & his fellow volunteers worked to give our Pollination Garden some much needed love during fall quarter.

Phillip & his fellow volunteers worked to give our Pollination Garden some much needed love during fall quarter.

My time at the arboretum was mostly spent in the vegetable garden and in the pollination garden. Some days I would pull weeds, till soil, and flip compost, others I would dig up cobblestones and carry gravel. But everything I did was not strenuous. It was simply a light task. Other volunteers had similarly stress-free work. Some were assigned to lead field trips and tours around the park and others researched plant species that would suit the habitat.

I have not been to a place with more polite people than the arboretum. Everyone from the lady at the front desk to Patrick, my supervisor, greeted me with a smile each time I came by. If you happen to see Patrick when you’re there, ask him about his travels in South America; he’s got some cool stories.

If you’re thinking about volunteering, I highly encourage you to do so. My experience at the arboretum was exactly what I was looking for: chill, soothing and stress-free.  

-Phillip Janecek

Academic opportunities at the Botanic Gardens

September 20th, 2013 by UWBG Communication Staff
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Make connections, gain experience, have fun: get involved at the UW Botanic Gardens!

Welcome UW Students! Make time in your busy schedule to get involved at the Botanic Gardens*. You won’t regret the investment because not only will you gain experience but you will also make connections with professionals and fellow students.

Ways to get involved:

What we do:

  • environmental horticulture
  • restoration ecology
  • public garden management
  • collection development
  • information management
  • communication & social networking
  • marketing
  • curriculum design
  • archives
  • curation
  • arboriculture
  • urban ecology
  • environmental education
  • integrated pest management
  • rare plant conservation
  • continuing education
  • visitor experience & interpretation
  • inventory ground-truthing & GIS mapping
  • surveying

*UW Botanic Gardens has two sites: the Washington Park Arboretum and the Center for Urban Horticulture and includes the Miller Library and Hyde Herbarium. Programs include continuing education for adults, outdoor programs for children plus conservation and restoration projects.

How would you use an interactive map in the Arboretum?

August 20th, 2013 by Tech Librarian, Tracy Mehlin

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Georeferenced Database Project Update

After a year of surveying Washington Park Arboretum grid points and digitizing paper maps we have made substantial progress on our georeferenced database project. The first few hundred points were relatively easy to survey. Now remain the most difficult points to find or see with a clear line of sight from a control point. Ground nesting bees and wasps also make getting close to a point challenging to say the least.

We need volunteers! Contact Tracy Mehlin.

UW Botanic Gardens Director, Sarah Reichard, talks with UWTV about her vision for an interactive Arboretum map in this video.

How would you use an interactive map in the Arboretum? What do you want to know about the collections? Leave a comment to let us know.

Click to see photo close-ups

Project accomplishments by the numbers

  • Migrated 20,000 records from the Otis Douglas Hyde Herbarium database into the BG-Base database
  • 25% of Herbarium database records post migration validated against physical specimens
  • 85% of grid points surveyed
  • 40% of paper grid maps digitized in ArcMap (geodatabase)
  • 6006 out of 18,094 plant specimens have been entered into the geodatabase

Historic Records to be made accessible

The Arboretum Foundation has agreed to give $15,000 to digitize historic paper records from the Curation office. These historic records provide critical clues about the identification and origin of trees and woody plants in the collection. By digitizing the records staff can access the old handwritten note cards and ledgers from their desk and once integration is complete the records will be accessible to everyone. UW Libraries staff will digitize the records and record basic information about each file.

An accession card from 1948.

An accession card from 1948.

This project is funded by a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services.