The most significant and notable change is the emptiness. The greenhouse used to be buzzing with people… faculty, staff, postdocs, grad students and undergrads. They would all talk about their research projects, sharing ideas and information as they met with greenhouse staff, planted seeds, trimmed plants and recorded results.
Greenhouse assistant Hammy Sorkin says “The thing that stands out the most is that it’s so lonely!” Before, when people would talk in person about their research, there was a better understanding of what they wanted to do with the plants and why.
The potting room/head house, once a busy hub is now empty and quiet with an occasional visit from someone essential by appointment only. Between mid-March and June 1, no one was allowed in the room while greenhouse staff was there. Now as we head into “return to work phase 2”, people are slowly trickling back in, dipping their toes in the water, with masks on at all times of course! Gone are the days of eating lunch together or congregating over coffee to talk plants.
Plant numbers went down as ongoing research projects wrapped up and new ones were put on hold. One good outcome is that it gave greenhouse staff the chance to work on other projects such as correctly identifying the succulents and other plants in their collection. Now that research is ramping up again, they will be doing more prep work for research staff in order to limit the amount of time/contact. This could be filling trays with dirt, harvesting seeds, and other time saving tasks. Limiting the number of people and the amount of time they spend in shared spaces, along with wearing masks and cleaning surfaces twice daily is a challenge, but greenhouse staff wants to try to make everyone’s life easier and assure safety, while also reassuring worried research staff that their plants are still in good hands.
For the time being, visits to the greenhouse are still by appointment only, with masks required. People who need access to the greenhouse can email firstname.lastname@example.org. The message should include what space they need to use, i.e chambers or greenhouse 1, how much time they need, when they are available, what they need staff to help with ahead of time, such as filling pots with dirt, and a little bit about the project, such as what they are planting. A greenhouse staff member will get back to them as soon as possible.