Student-faculty research begins in new greenhouse

June 15, 2015

Eckerd’s first greenhouse is now up and running, with two summer research projects underway.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held in September at the site behind the James Center for Molecular and Life Sciences. The cooling system is an example of the College’s commitment to sustainability: It recycles cooling water from the James Center that would otherwise go to waste to maintain the proper temperature in the greenhouse.

In addition, all soil and plant material will go through the Eckerd Composting Program.

The greenhouse is intended for research projects for students and faculty and is not open to the public. The plants will change as research projects come and go.

“It’s a really exciting addition to natural sciences at Eckerd, and the final piece to the James Center,” Assistant Professor of Biology Liza Conrad, Ph.D., who spearheaded the project, told The Current.

Conrad is working with biology major Sarah White ‘17 of Nashville on a research project to develop disease-resistant melons, mainly cantaloupe, honeydew and charentais. This project is in collaboration with Jason Cavatorta, Ph.D., the founder of EarthWork Seeds, seeking to develop a new variety of melon seed through cross-pollination that will produce high-yield, flavorful fruit that is resistant to certain fungal diseases.

Marine science student Stefan Kapczynski ’16 of Berkeley California is working with Conrad on a project investigating the genetic regulation of flower development in rice. This research has been ongoing in Conrad’s lab for two years but this is the first opportunity to grow rice plants on a large scale.

Both projects are funded with grants from the Eckerd College Natural Sciences Summer Research Program.

“The hands-on opportunities for growing plants in the greenhouse has taken student engagement in my research to an exciting new level” Conrad says.