Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Conservation counts: USI students build a rain garden at Mesker Zoo
Contact for more information:
Wendy Knipe Bredhold
Media Relations Specialist, News & Information Services
Rain gardens are conservation tools used to soak up the rainwater from surfaces like driveways, roofs, compact lawns, and parking lots. To be effective, a rain garden should be planted with native plants so it will adjust to the climate and soil conditions of the area this also will lessen maintenance for the first year. The plants create an obstruction by using their roots to prevent an overflow of water into sewer systems.
Dr. Brandon Field, assistant professor of engineering in the Pott College, provided a hands-on model of a working rain garden for the zoo. Field built the model to help students understand the concept of rain gardens and the differentiations between the surfaces affected by the rain water.
"Rain gardens reduce the runoff that goes into the storm drain, but they also return nutrients from the rain back to the soil instead of the sewage treatment plant, and serve as a filter to cleanse the rain of pollutants," he said. Field is in the process of working with zoo educational staff to develop signage that will be on display with the rain garden.
The USI student volunteers who planted the garden are the first class of the Pott College of Science and Engineering's SwISTEM Early Undergraduate Research Program. Prior to the planting, they listened as Misty Minar, grounds maintenance for the zoo, and Mary Ann Cisneros, zoo keeper, spoke about the paths that led them to careers at the zoo.
Dr. Shelly Blunt, associate dean of Pott College, said, "The Early Undergraduate Research Program is designed to engage students majoring in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) in hands-on research early in their college careers. The planting of the rain garden gives students an opportunity to have a hands-on experience while using the lessons they have learned in the classroom."
The rain garden was funded through a Backyard Conservation Grant from the Vanderburgh County Soil and Water Conservation District.
Paul Bouseman, botanical curator at the zoo and a 1999 USI graduate, designed the rain garden and selected the plants and plant materials that were used in the garden. He oversaw the growth of the plants in the Alcoa greenhouses as well as choosing the strategic placement of each plant in the rain garden prior to the planting. Bouseman said, "I would like to extend a special thanks to the USI students, faculty, and staff who came out in the heat to help us make the plan a reality."
USI′s Center for Applied Research (CAR) helped to bring together the lead organizations: USI, Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden, the Evansville Zoological Society, and the Vanderburgh County Soil and Water Conservation District. For more information, contact Elissa Bakke, CAR project coordinator, at 812/454-8946.
Kara L. Waggoner, communications intern
Center for Applied Research
812/461-5442 or firstname.lastname@example.org