This coming Sunday, September 15, UNC Greensboro marks the opening of a new state-of the-art research facility that serves as a home to some of the most crucial research ‒ and community education ‒ that relates to pollinators, plants, and our global food supply.
The UNC Greensboro Plant and Pollinator Center is located at Gateway Research Park North, just outside of Greensboro in Browns Summit, on a large, partly forested area that was once the campus of the North Carolina School for the Deaf.
The center is unique in that it is the first in the nation to focus on both plants and pollinators, giving researchers a way to carry out their related research efficiently and examine a vast array of factors in pollinator health.
All campus and community members are invited to an opening ceremony at 4 p.m., with remarks by Provost Dana Dunn, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences John Kiss, chair of the Department of Biology Malcolm Schug, and David Tarpy, professor in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at NC State and North Carolina extension apiculturist.
Attendees will be able to catch a glimpse of the facilities, which include a molecular research laboratory space, a field lab space, a community engagement room for classroom instruction and meetings, and the field station, which is made up of the apiary, pollinator-friendly green space, and an experimental planting area.
UNCG faculty members’ diverse areas of research are driving forces in the mission, and four researchers from UNCG serve as co-directors of the Center: Dr. Olav Rueppell, who investigates viruses affecting the honey bee population and mites that vector the viruses; Dr. Kasie Raymann, whose work focuses on the microbes that live inside the gut (the gut microbiome) of honey bees, which are very important for honey bee health; and Dr. Ayalew Ligaba-Osena and Dr. Sally Koerner, who conduct environmental research on plant health and productivity.
All of their work pays regard to the fact that the human diet depends on plants and pollinators, which also depend on each other. More than 75 percent of major food crops require pollination by bees, which means that honey bee health is a crucial factor in our food supply.
There are plans for the new Plant and Pollinator Center to serve not only students and faculty, but the community at large through programs for students, beekeepers, and master gardeners, among other groups.
“It’s a beautiful, unique place,” says Raymann, about the new center. “Plants and pollinators are both important to each other. And by having this center together, it really opens a bridge to collaboration where we can try to understand the interaction between the two and come up with new ideas for future research.”
The Plant and Pollinator Center is located at 5900 Summit Ave., in Browns Summit, North Carolina.
The opening event will feature vision boards for possible expansions of the outdoor apiary space, planting spaces, and greenhouse, as well as a set of 21 donated photographs by Dr. Alex Wild, curator of entomology at the University of Texas at Austin and professional insect photographer.
Story by Susan Kirby-Smith, University Communications
Photography by Jiyoung Park, University Communications