Greenhouse Open House

Photo of greenhouse coordinator Joan Lee
Monday, September 24, 2018 - 8:00am
UTM Research Office

The UTM research greenhouse user committee is holding a Greenhouse Open House Wednesday, September 26 from 12 noon to 2 p.m. The research greenhouse opened in June 2016. It is located behind the Hazel McCallion Academic Learning Centre and next to parking lot 9.

“We want to showcase this state-of-the-art facility and get everyone in the university community charged about what’s possible here,” says greenhouse coordinator Joan Lee.

The 201-square-metre glass structure holds six self-contained growth chambers. “Each growth chamber has its own environmental controls necessary for conducting experiments,” says Lee.

The research greenhouse provides the ability to create carefully controlled environments. “We have a computer that runs the greenhouse,” Lee says. “Factors such as temperature, light, day length, carbon dioxide, water, outdoor air exchange and humidity can all be programmed.”

A sophisticated Hortimax control system monitors all these variables in real time and adjusts them constantly to create a precise environment for experiments, says urban ecologist Marc Johnson. “The environmental conditions can mimic environments at any time of year, and can even simulate past, current or future climates.”

The greenhouse is a campus-wide resource and supports several research programs including ones in the Departments of Biology, Anthropology and Geography.

Climate simulation

Plant biologist Katharina Braeutigam studies epigenetics in plants. “More specifically, plant memory,” says Braeutigam. “Kayla Dias, a master’s student in my lab, uses the greenhouse growth chambers to create climate stresses and study how plants maintain a memory of past stress responses.”

Yuhong He, a physical geographer and Department of Geography chair, says that her Ph.D. student Phuong Dao and a number of undergraduate research assistants in her group also benefit from the facility. “They have been using close-range hyperspectral remote sensing to study the effect of drought stress on grasses.”

At the open house, visitors will have the opportunity to meet student researchers, including Dias and Dao, and learn how they study plants in different growth conditions.

“If it’s a nice day, we will have the doors wide open,” says Lee. “We would love to have everyone in the university community out here to see what we do.”