Greenhouse job a dream

Oct 03, 2002, vol. 25, no. 3
By Annemarie Templeman-Kluit

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When Leslie Dodd (left) moved to Vancouver from Ontario six years ago she doubted she would find her dream job.

“I wanted to work in a non-commercial greenhouse, and I couldn't imagine where I'd find one within the city,” she says. But that's exactly what happened when she became the greenhouse technician for biological sciences at SFU three years ago.

Dodd works in a secluded corner of campus where a research greenhouse, a teaching greenhouse and an outdoor compound are tucked away.

The research greenhouse hosts an ever-changing mix of projects from genetic research on tomatoes to growing grass to feed insects. In the past it's been used for bee pollination experiments and in the future the geography department plans to use it for earth compaction experiments. Next to the greenhouses is the outdoor compound, which has been cleared of all vegetation so researchers can grow plants without competition.

Dodd helps with the research greenhouse when needed, but her true kingdom is the teaching greenhouse where she grows plants used for 300- and 400-level courses in plant biology and ecology. The collection of plants is “environmentally important, but not necessarily pretty to look at,” and is ever growing, often culled from other universities' collections. Exotic orchids, guava, avocado, mango and a banana tree also grow under Dodd's care, along with the less sweet voodoo lily and carrion flower, known for their rotting-meat smell. She uses a pesticide free soap that prevents bug infestation instead of insecticides to protect her plants from the mealybugs and thrips that also thrive in the greenhouse environment.

Dodd finds it “really difficult to throw things away, so I just stick it in the ground.” The offshoots of her labours make their way to SFU's annual plant sale.

A second teaching greenhouse, easily accessible to graduate students, is perched atop the biology building.

Dodd has big plans for SFU's greenery including improving the plant collection to make it “more useful”, and creating a herbarium to “record the history of things that have grown on the mountain.”

Finally she feels it's important to keep a record of the “exotic and interesting” plants that have been planted at SFU. “I'm pretty sure I have the best job I could ever ask for,” Dodd declares.

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