Student-led Sustainability Action at the FIRS Botanical Grounds

by | Feb 5, 2024 | Environmental Sustainability (ES), Guest Authors, Student blogs on ES | 0 comments

By Lottie Goodman, Secretary of the Botany Society, Undergraduate in Plant Science and Tegan Rickwood, Project Leader of MFP, Undergraduate in Biology with IE.

FIRS Botanical Grounds is the hidden gem of The University of Manchester. Tucked into the corner of Fallowfield campus, it houses; a greenhouse with plants from five different biomes, vegetable plots, a moss house, and state-of-the-art experimental equipment for environmental and meteorological studies.

While the FIRS was threatened with being demolished in favour of a car park, this sanctuary for nature and botanical studies has been maintained with the building of the environmental labs. FIRS now provides a space for multiple student-led action groups to participate in sustainability efforts on campus.

The Botany Society has been involved with FIRS for many years and has gathered volunteers for various projects, including; growing and harvesting veg, weeding and planting the rockery, and doing the starting work for a cold frame.

Most recently, volunteers from the Botany Society started a project to help repair and restore the large pond near the FIRS entrance, which is home to many plant and animal species, including newts. BotSoc volunteers moved the existing pond plants and newts into large tanks and pumped out the water. Next we removed debris and decomposing material and laid down a new soft inner liner and rubber liner. We then waited for the pond to fill up from the Manchester rains – which as you can imagine didn’t take long!

Future work on the pond involves making topological changes to the pond scape to provide a greater diversity of habitats, particularly to add shallower areas. Sloping sides to the pond allows more space for marginal plants, which keeps the pond oxygenated. However, some depth must be maintained to prevent extreme temperature fluctuations.

Another student action group currently working at the FIRS are the Manchester Food Partners: Commit to Community project (MFP C2C). The MFP team are rather new to the game, but we are a rally of dedicated student volunteers who come together weekly to sow and grow vegetables sustainably.

We are currently growing lots of lettuce, broad beans, onions and strawberries which when ripe we will distribute to different local food banks and community schemes, such as the Oldham Foodbank. We are very lucky to be working with The Firs, who have provided an amazing hub with a dedicated space in the greenhouse, polytunnel and vegetable plots for us to build our community-driven, sustainable food initiative within the local area.

If you wish to get involved in the voluntary work of Botany Society or MFP, get in touch via our Instagram! @mcr.botanists and @mfp_commit2community

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