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Educational Green Roof Brings New Life to Botany Class

biology-138With the addition of Belmont’s largest building, the Wedgewood Academic Center, students in the University’s College of Sciences and Mathematics have the opportunity to learn in state-of-the-art science labs, including Belmont’s first educationally purposed green roof.

Professor and Chair of the Biology Department Dr. Darlene Panvini teaches courses in botany and ecology, among others, and last semester, her botany class was the first to use the new space. With a green roof assignment spanning the length of the course, Dr. Panvini’s students designed projects that would answer botanical questions including how canopy density is affected by distance and how a sedum’s natural ability to cool soil would affect growth.

Through the design and implementation of these projects, the educational green roof was given new life, and for the next 10 years, students will be asking scientific questions and using the green roof as their research lab. Since the roof is self-irrigating and self-sufficient, it can endure harsh temperature changes and limited interaction. Dr. Panvini’s botany classes are scheduled biennially, so students will not be tending to the roof in the off years. With that in mind, students specifically chose plants that would be able to withstand those conditions.

biology-113Although the original plan for the green roof was to be used solely in biennial courses, Dr. Panvini said students are already asking how the green roof can be used more frequently. With the success of the green roof this semester, Panvini  is working through ways to incorporate it into additional courses, including this semester’s ecology course.

“I would love to see more professors utilize the Belmont green roofs in their courses,” Panvini said. “Besides studying the plants and animals on the green roofs, I can envision students writing about the plants and animals and/or their experiences on a green roof, asking mathematical and statistical questions, examining the physics of the space, conducting psychology studies, exploring the sociology and history of green roofs – the ideas are endless.”

Junior and Belmont ecology major Lindsay Millward said the opportunity to experience a green roof firsthand was an invaluable learning opportunity. “I am a hands-on learner, so being able to participate and observe the anatomy, physiology and ecology of plants has been very beneficial to my success as a botany student.”

With Belmont’s commitment to sustainability and conservation, the green roof is one way that the University is inviting students to take part in these initiatives. “The action is a declaration of Belmont’s seriousness towards sustainability. By creating a space for science majors to explore and build skills that are extremely applicable in current environmental solutions, especially post graduate, Belmont is investing in our futures and pushing itself into the forefront as a University who supports environmental research,” Millward said.

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