Georgia Southern University staff and students gathered Friday at the college’s Botanical Garden to unveil a new garden they say holds the promise of a more sustainable future.
In an afternoon ribbon-cutting ceremony on the Botanical Garden grounds, school staff officially opened a new bioenergy garden that features an array of crops used in creating alternative energy sources.
The new display is a joint effort between the Georgia Southern Botanical Garden, and the university’s College of Science and Mathematics, Department of Biology and Center for Sustainability.
“One of the major issues of our time has become finding alternatives to fossil fuels for transportation,” said Lissa Leege, the director of the Center for Sustainability, who spoke at the ceremony. “This new garden demonstrates potential bioenergy sources and provides information about their utility.
“This new garden is just the beginning,” she continued. “It will focus on educating Botanical Garden visitors and students engaged in maintaining and developing the garden.”
The small, fenced-in patch of land near the back of the Botanical Garden property contains an assortment of crops, including sugar cane, corn, peanuts, algae, grasses, soy beans and trees.
It will be open and freely viewable to all Botanical Garden visitors during regular operating hours.
Presenting the garden to the crowd gathered at Friday’s ceremony were the Georgia Southern professor and students who worked to make the idea a reality.
Dr. Subhrajit Saha, a biology professor and sustainability fellow with the Center for Sustainability, said he knew for quite some time that he wanted to create a bioenergy garden as part of his work in the field.
After receiving a blessing from Dr. Bret Danilowicz, the dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, and a commitment from his Biology of Plants students to take on the project, Saha and his students began work on the garden in early March.
“This bioenergy garden is a very timely initiative,” Saha said. “The entire nation has taken on a policy of working towards renewable energy.”
“The garden’s significance is in its concept,” he continued. “Many other universities have a bioenergy garden, and now we can be proud that we have our own.”
Saha said the new resource will allow the opportunity for students to learn hands-on about bioenergy and the plants used to produce it.
Eventually, Saha hopes to expand the garden to produce enough stock for increased research opportunities at Georgia Southern University, he said.
The students who toiled in the field say they hope to create more awareness about natural, renewable forms of energy.
“The main thing is, we wanted to create something that would give awareness of the changes that need to be made with energy — using alternative fuels and not something fossil fuel-related,” said Ryan Day, a senior biology student. “Hopefully, people can see this garden and understand that there needs to be a change.”
“This is really an important issue to students and others who take the issue seriously,” said Spencer Braley, a junior biology major. “We worked very hard to get where we are now, and we hope the garden is enjoyed and appreciated.”
Saha said the university plans to maintain the garden “year after year, and continuously use it for educational and research purposes.”
Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.