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Bellevue University sustainability lab starts to put down roots

Bellevue University sustainability lab starts to put down roots

Bellevue University’s sustainability lab is fully operational and ready to serve the university and community.

Located behind the R. Joe Dennis Learning Labs on Bruin Boulevard, the 7,000-square foot lab will have many ways for students to research and study.

John Kyndt, associate professor of microbiology, nutrition and sustainability, said he is most interested in looking at what the research students will be able to do with the algae pool, a subject area he is familiar with.

“It teaches them (students) the whole process of microbiology through the production of biomass to bio diesel production in the end,” Kyndt said.

Included in the outdoor lab will be a greenhouse, algae pond for renewable energy, wind and solar generation stations and a garden for native plants.

The lab was initially going to be much smaller but after Kyndt asked BU’S permission to begin the project, the vision for what the lab could be became much larger.

“We started thinking, what can build in an outdoor lab that brings biology sustainability and chemistry altogether in one place?” Kyndt said.

He said the project is in its second year, with the first year being the planning phase. The construction of the greenhouse started last year.

Some of the remaining features left to be installed include solar panels on the roof of the greenhouse, some raised beds that will be installed around the lab and setting up a biofuel reactor.

The sustainability lab project was made possible through grant funding received by the Council of Independent Colleges Foundation to help establish the lab.

Grant funds were received by CINCF from the Nebraska Environmental Trust. Bellevue University also received significant funding from its partners and donors.

“We appreciate the partnership between CINCF, the Nebraska Environmental Trust and Bellevue University in bringing this project to life,” Bellevue University President Mary Hawkins said. “The continued support of Nebraska Environmental Trust and CINCF will help ensure that students learn the skills needed to help preserve Nebraska’s valuable natural resources and, at the same time, strengthen the state’s workforce.”

Bellevue University science students will not be the only ones to benefit from the sustainability lab.

In fact, students and faculty from several different departments will be involved with the lab.

Scott Pinkerton, program director of biology, said it’s important for the university to have these connections across departments and the community.

“If you think about what a university is supposed to be, they are supposed to be that sort of interaction between people with diverse ideas,” Pinkerton said.

Tyler Moore, associate professor of biology, said he likes the ability the greenhouse has to grow plants to get out into the community.

“We can get more people seeing more insects and I think having more biological experiences gets more people excited about science,” Moore said.

Moore said he likes the idea of teaching classes in a more personable way.

“We have a cool spot out here that is like a little ecosystem, where you can come out and do some cool projects,” Moore said.

Kyndt said the lab will be a place for students to set up experiments that could fail.

“If you read from a textbook it looks like everything goes perfect and if you follow the protocol it works, but putting everything in real life in an outdoor situation, things will fail,” Kyndt said.

The greenhouse itself is split in two sides, one where its plants are native to Nebraska and the other, more of a tropical climate with succulents, bananas and the potential for a coconut palm tree.

Bellevue University is currently working with Milkweed Matters and Green Bellevue on utilizing the sustainability lab and hopes to partner with more organizations in the future.

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