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Plant Club students dig the outdoors while helping the Athens community

Members of the Ohio Botanical Club come from multiple colleges and majors, but they have one thing in common; They are interested in engaging with our natural resources in hiking, conservation, gardening, crafting and learning about plants.

In two recent outdoor activities, members cleaned up the food garden at the Baker University Center and volunteered with the Athena Conservation and Buckeye Trail Society on the John Knouse Trail. Students from the College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Biology and Plants, Ross College of Engineering and Technology, and the College of Education with honors participated in these events.

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Paula Muñoz Gamboa explains the work involved in the food garden at the Baker University Center.

The Food Garden project at the Baker University Center was started by Benjamin Schunk ’18 and continued under the leadership of Paula Muñoz Gamboa when she was a graduate student in the Master’s Program in Environmental Studies and a resident of the OHIO Ecohouse. Despite her graduation, Muñoz volunteered her time on October 10 to help the Botanical Club learn about the garden and contribute to keeping it healthy.

In a Baker’s garden grow loofah, tomatillo, red onion, fennel, long-leaved coriander, pumpkin and peppers. The Plant Club has helped maintain Baker Park in previous years and will continue to help manage it. Susan Calhoun, OHIO landscape coordinator, provided resources for the effort.

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Removing weeds around loofah, peppers, tomatillos and onions in the food garden at the Baker University Center. The loofah plant has yellow flowers.
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Some members of the group stand with their instruments and loofahs. Pictured here is Ridge Cook, Lily Osterday (front), Ashby Marsh, Emily Sudnick, and Sarah Marks. After drying, the loofah will be cut and sold by the Plant Club to raise funds for future activities.

Ridge Cook, who will live in the Ecohouse next year and major in field ecology, joined in on a track-building day with the Athena Conservancy, as well as a volunteer day in food garden maintenance at the Baker University Center.

“Studying sustainable and environmental solutions at school has made me so eager to get involved in frontline work that will make a difference that I can see and be proud of,” said Cook. “The past year has made me realize the power of communities coming together and accomplish something for the common belief – that we can contribute to the future. Which we all want to see. For me, this is a future where food and access to nature are more accessible and common. Public walkways and public food gardens are a step in that direction.”

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Sarah Maracz (far left) talks to John Kunes (right) at National Public Land Day in 2017. Marcus is now president of the Plant Club and has participated in Action Day on the Road.

Delaney Gibbs, who has a master’s degree in environmental and plant biology and is a member of the Athena Conservancy, called on the Plant Club to help the preserve and the Buckeye Trail Society work on a new hiking trail dedicated to the late John Knouse.

Plant Club members walked to the trail on a beautiful September day to raise the Pulaskis and break ground on part of the new trail. Some of the Plant Club members had worked on other conservation projects with Knouse, a conservation activist, a few years earlier, so this work was particularly helpful.

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Botanical Club members help with John Treasures Boardwalk construction work day on September 26, 2021.

Students met other members of the local community, learned about the preserve, explored a beautiful area, and helped create this new trail that will connect Strouds Run and Baker Preserve. (See more information on the John Knouse Trail.)

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Sarah Marks, Ashby Marsh, and Fiona Davis listen to instructions for trail building from Jan Vandervaert, Buckeye Trail Association.

The Botanical Club also got together to learn about indoor plants, share best practices for growing, share tips on what to start indoors, and present samples to members at their October meeting. They communicate between meetings using GroupMe to share photos of their favorite plants and ask for advice on watering and other concerns.

“I have found happiness in taking care of houseplants, and being able to expand my horizons with the Plant Club has been amazing,” said Plant Club Officer Emily Sudnick. “Working with a team and warming my hands has been so rewarding, and I love being part of projects like this.”

The Plant Club also carved pumpkins on October 27 and visited the outdoor museum at The Ridges in early November to see the Pollinator Garden, the bat house, and learn about the local flora and fauna.

Those interested in the Plant Club can follow them on Instagram at ohiouplantclub, find them on Bobcat Connect, or contact faculty advisor Kim Thompson at thompsk3@ohio.edu for more information.

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