The Department of Biological Sciences and the University of Alabama Arboretum through support from the College of Arts & Science and the Office of Academic Affairs obtained a new research greenhouse in summer 2021. The facility is located on the eastern portion of the UA Arboretum property near the community gardens. The addition of the research greenhouse provides UA scientists with much needed space to maintain plants for various projects ranging from NSF-funded work investigating the genomic changes associated with adaptation in an invasive species to flooding tolerance experiments in maize and its relatives. The 41.5’ x 90’ structure is split into three equally sized bays. These bays are closed off from each other allowing for more diversity in growing conditions through independent lighting and environmental control systems. In fall 2022, we will see the installation of irrigation systems allowing for more controlled experiments and versatility. The facility is maintained by Dr. Michael McKain and members of his laboratory.
Members of the Department of Biological Science took control of the greenhouse in July 2021. Since that time, the facility has become home to a collection of more than 500 accessions of Sorghum halepense (Johnsongrass), various species of grasses related to maize, a collection of agaves and close relatives, and multiple species propagated by the UA Arboretum staff. The greenhouse has supported the dissertations of three Ph.D. students and two master’s students in its first year of operation. The facility will allow more faculty at UA to pursue plant-based research and enable acquisition of funding that was previously difficult to obtain due to a lack of such spaces. Though this facility has already greatly improved the capacity of plant-based research at UA, we see this as the first step to developing a stronger plant research core. As more faculty are attracted to what UA can offer, we hope to see expansion to larger and diverse growth facilities that will allow for even more diverse plant research and allow UA to become a leader in plant biodiversity genomics and physiological ecology research in the South. With this goal in mind the greenhouse facility when turned over to the department was in its first phase of development, with the hopes of expansion in the future.
For those interested in using or touring the facilities or contributing to the facility’s expansion, contact Dr. Michael McKain.