City and campus communities reflect on last year at UC Botanical Garden

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UC Berkeley’s Graduate School Professor of Plant and Microbial Biology, John Taylor, attended the UC Botanical Garden with his wife during the COVID-19 pandemic. For Taylor, the garden was one of the few places they could visit that was open at the time.

“It’s a beautiful place; if you didn’t know anything about plants, it’s still a beautiful place,” Taylor said. “As an undergrad student I think I’ve been there a few times, but I missed everything, I should have gone more.

Although Taylor, who has worked on campus for over 40 years and sits on the Garden Faculty Advisory Committee, regretting that he had not visited the garden more often during his undergraduate years, he encouraged the students to take advantage of the “incredible resource”.

The Botanical Garden temporarily closed its doors in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The garden fully reopened in July 2020, resuming in-person services, including tours and summer camps, while continuing its online programs.

While the garden serves as a space for community members to explore, professors and researchers on campus have also used it to examine and teach nature.

Taylor recalls teaching mushroom biology with Professor Emeritus Tom Bruns in the fall of 2016. Their course offered several field trips, including a Lichen BioBlitz at the Botanical Garden, where faculty and students spent the day. identify different species of lichens in the garden.

The reopening of the garden means that classes can once again visit and observe the region’s wildlife, according to Lewis Feldman, executive director of the garden and professor of plant biology on campus.

For researchers, the temporary closure restricted access to many facilities and plant materials, stopping some projects. As the garden reopened, Feldman noted that he had seen more students and faculty come in and conduct research.

Campus doctoral student Nina Maryn uses the Botanical Garden to collect samples of different plant species as part of her research on plant photoprotection. While Maryn was still able to get in and retrieve clippings with the help of a lab technician during the public garden shutdown, she mostly took a break from her research during this time.

Instead, Maryn had used the garden’s plant database to plan future experiments while working on her doctorate. Since the garden reopened, she has continued her work and has found that the break “has not hindered (her) research too much”.

For campus integrative biology associate professor Cindy Looy, the garden and its conifers are an integral part of her research. According to Looy, she and her colleagues would examine the evergreens and their pollen cones for deformities.

“(The garden) is a fabulous resource,” Looy said in an email. “It is a library of living things with an astonishing diversity of representatives of many plant families from around the world.”

Educators and researchers aren’t the only ones drawn to the garden, with community members admiring its biodiversity as well.

Berkeley resident Madeleine Dreyfus recalled spending part of her childhood at the botanical garden and coming back to adulthood during the pandemic.

“It was really after I had my son that I started going back more to exhibit him and also to bring my husband,” said Dreyfus. We can see native plants from my husband’s house that my son couldn’t see and it’s exciting for him.

Junior rising campus Arina Caliman is employed at the Botanical Garden. In her free time, she enjoys taking a walk in the garden, as admission is free for students. One of Caliman’s favorite memories was spending his break at the Japanese pool, which is full of newts that come to mate in the pond every year, she said.

Like many others who indulged in new hobbies during the pandemic, town resident Cara Kreit began photographing and took part in “iPhoneography with Yoni Mayeri,” a virtual program hosted by the garden, in November 2020. Frequenting the garden throughout the past year, Kriet uses his talents as a photographer to capture memories of his children.

“We were there when the ash seeds fell from the trees, when the magnolia petals floated along the streams, and to see the newts hatch and then grow,” Kreit said. “They got to see and experience it all rather than being cut off from nature. They were part of it. “

Kriet expressed how grateful she is to see how the garden has changed between each visit and to be able to do so with her children.

Dreyfus echoed the sentiment, adding that she and her family enjoyed searching for clusters of newt eggs and witnessing the life cycles of the wildlife around them.

“The best memories are how gardens affect people in very different ways,” said Feldman. “It gives them a bit of fun and contentment in their life.”

Annie Lin is the chair of the diversity, equity and inclusion committee. Contact her at [email protected].


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