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Being a Native Plant Intern

May 31, 2024

Margaret Rocchio
Major: Sociology
Class of 2027

During this past semester I participated in one of the newly created sustainability internships. Specifically, I was a Native Plant Garden intern. My responsibilities included taking care of the plants as they developed and other academic work regarding plant research. When starting the internship I had made the assumption that most of our work would be done outside. I jumped to this conclusion since I thought native plants would easily develop outside without any additional help. However, we actually started the stratification process indoors. Not only did this experience break some of my assumptions about plants, but the hands-on work allowed me to further increase my knowledge.

Like I said, we started the stratification process indoors. We placed seeds in watered dirt and put them in thermoregulated refrigerators. As well as controlling temperature, these refrigerators can adjust humidity in order to precisely simulate winter or summer. This was helpful given that not all of our seeds required the same conditions. Also, since we are working within the confinements of an academic school year, utilizing this technology to achieve germination within our schedule is extremely helpful. After sprouting occurs, we remove the plants and they stay in a sun exposed room to further develop. Another benefit this provides is allowing the plants a protected place to grow without interference. Specifically, a problem the Native Plant Garden has faced in the past is wild animals such as deer or bunnies getting to the plants. Thus, by implementing the described technique, optimal conditions are created to allow earlier-stage plants to be protected and continue to flourish before they are placed outside. The progress from this technique has definitely been seen. The grow room is currently filled to the brim with multiple thriving plants. Many of which are almost ready to be placed outside.

I learned a lot more than I thought I would from this experience. I did not think I would gain the understanding about the growing process that I did - especially given the fact that I am a Sociology major. I would definitely recommend this internship to anyone of any major. You truly do not need any experience other than an interest to work and learn. Also, the collaboration of students from majors fosters a more interdisciplinary and creative environment that ends up benefiting everyone involved.