Lexi Gomez is knee-deep in a pond when I first see her in the U. of I. Plant Biology Greenhouse and Conservatory. A fifth-year senior who will graduate this semester, Gomez dips a net in the dark water to clear the pond of debris fallen from the lush jungle of tropical plants that looms above. She attacks the work with gusto.

As a greenhouse assistant, Gomez is involved in many of the activities that allow these hothouse plants to thrive in a very untropical Midwestern climate. She cuts back aggressive saplings, prunes away dead tissue from leaves and stems, and attends to the varied watering regimes of plants in the different collection rooms and the conservatory.

“I water the plants. I fertilize plants. I’ve learned how to create the mixture that is needed for the fertilizers. I’ve also released biological controls with Heather,” she says.

Heather is Heather Lash, the plant biology greenhouse coordinator who oversees the conservatory and research rooms. One of Lash’s areas of expertise is the use of beneficial insects to control the sap-sucking pests that can quickly overwhelm a greenhouse community. Such controls have allowed her to cut down on the use of insecticides in the conservatory.

Read the full article at the Illinois News Bureau