by Sydney Dawes| PACE Writer Environmental and Plant Biology
Red satin ribbon and ceremonial scissors signified the close of a long effort by the Department of Environmental and Plant Biology as they officially opened the walk-in plant growth chamber in Porter Hall and celebrated the completion of their research infrastructure project in August 2015.
During the ribbon cutting ceremony, Allan Showalter referenced the movie Field of Dreams: “If you build it, we will fill it.” When Gar Rothwell, who was department chair at the time, spoke with President Roderick McDavis in 2006 about including a fourth floor of the Porter Hall addition for the Department of Environmental and Plant Biology, he promised that if given the space, the department would fill it with state-of-the-art equipment.
And the Department did.
Today, the fourth floor addition (completed in 2008) houses the Ohio University Bartley herbarium equipped with a modern compactor cabinet system, microscopes, and computers, funded by a NSF Biological Research Collections grant spearheaded by Harvey Ballard and a high-tech analytical lab with equipment funded by external and internal grants obtained by Ahmed Faik and Allan Showalter.
The final piece was a Conviron walk-in Plant Growth Chamber.
“It takes a village to raise a plant growth chamber,” Allan Showalter said. A village of determined scholars, that is.
Allan Showalter was the PI on a National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation (NSF-MRI) grant. His CoPIs and senior personnel included PBIO faculty Harvey Ballard, Jared DeForest, Ahmed Faik, David Rosenthal and Sarah Wyatt, PBIO Greenhouse Manager Harold Blazier and CHEM/BIOCHEM faculty Marcia Kieliszewski and Michael Held.
In addition to the NSF-MRI grant, funding from an Ohio Board of Regents grant, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Vice President for Research and Creative Activity and Department of Environmental and Plant Biology were utilized to complete the project.
After ordering the chamber, the company needed six months to build, test and disassemble it at their factory. It was trucked from Manitoba, Canada to Athens, Ohio. Installation of the growth chambers began with large, wooden crates being craned to the top of Porter Hall as well as certain equipment being uncrated and carried up the stairs. It took the installers three weeks to reassemble the chamber and get it up and running. In the end, the researchers (faculty, graduate students and undergraduates) have the space and controlled environment for world-class plant biology research.