Message From the Director


Director’s Message

The UCF Arboretum celebrated the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22 by reflecting on how much has changed since the beginning of the semester when we first planned our Earth Week activities. As we adjust to the difficult changes brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, our primary concern is for the continued health and well-being of the students and community we serve.  Our hearts go out to all those who have suffered losses due to the pandemic, whether it be losing a job, falling ill, or, more tragically, losing a loved one to the COVID-19 virus.  We hope that all our friends and supporters are well, and we look forward to the time when we can be together again.

The changes brought about by the pandemic have been particularly hard on our students.  They have had to adapt to online classes, adjust their living circumstances, and have lost access to the hands-on experiences and face-to-face camaraderie that are central to the high-quality experiences and training provided by the Arboretum and the university.  The Arboretum thrives on those human connections and our focus during this difficult time has been on continuing to provide our student leaders with opportunities to contribute to our programs.

One of the things that has been difficult for our student leaders is that many of them were planning signature projects that they have had to postpone.  These projects involved designing new garden features that we were planning to plant at special events during the last few weeks of the semester, as part of Earth Month 2020.  The students leading these projects were part of our first cohort of student leaders in our highly successful Learning by Leading™ program, which we launched in the fall 2019 semester.

As detailed in this Spring 2020 issue of our newsletter, our student leaders have not let the shutdown diminish their enthusiasm for their signature projects, or stop them from helping us run our base operations.  Our Bee Campus co-coordinators, Madison Schmidt and Rachel Gunter, are continuing to work with their interns to refine plans for the “Oasis,” our next major campus pollinator garden.  Nicole Prieto and James Bardo, our Arboretum Gardens co-coordinators, are still working with their interns on final plans for the second phase of our gateway gardens to Whittier’s walk, and a new camellia garden.  Our greenhouse and community gardens teams have continued to keep our base operation going in those areas, including harvesting fresh produce for the Knights Helping Knights Pantry and other food community pantries.  It’s uplifting to witness our student’s grit and determination to continue to keep our program moving forward during this difficult time.

Another great development this semester has been the work our Natural Resources team has done to upgrade our campus trail system.  They have put up new kiosks with updated trail maps, installed trail markers with geo-location and safety information at all trail intersections, and created an online trail map that can be accessed on your phone through a QR code.  During the current campus shutdown, there is not much chance to enjoy these trails now, but we hope you will come visit when things have opened back up to explore the 13.5 miles of nature trails we have on campus!

We hope you were able to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in your own way during this difficult time.  Connecting with nature provides an excellent way to overcome some of the stress associated with being cooped up during social distancing and stay-at-home orders, so get outside if you are able, and help make every day Earth Day!

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