Meet alumna Stephanie Lucas

designing with tulips
Alumna Stephanie Lucas designs tulip plantings for Madison Square Park.

This plant science and landscape architecture graduate thought she might be working in a more rural setting after getting her degree. But instead, Stephanie Lucas describes herself as the maintainer of New York City’s backyard. Being in Manhattan gives her other perks, as well. For one, she trained as a fire breather with the Coney Island Circus!

What was your major in the College? When did you graduate? With what degree? I had a double major in horticulture and turfgrass science with a minor in landscape design. I graduated in 2010.

Please describe your current job. I am the deputy director of operations and horticulture for Madison Square Park in Manhattan. I manage 14 employees and perform park operations for the six-acre park. It is a big job, but it is worthwhile.

I make sure that perennial beds are maintained, and the snow is plowed. In addition, I oversee the setup of events and seasonal displays. Right now, we are working on a strategic plan for our perennial collections. We want to provide education by including information, such as plant names, origins and uses, for people who don’t have access to their own personal green space. Continue reading

Molecular geneticist seeks to improve industrial hemp cultivation

Hemp research plot, summer 2017.
Hemp research plot, summer 2017.

Enthusiastic by nature, Gerry Berkowitz, professor in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, is bursting with even more excitement than usual about his latest area of research and teaching. For decades, Berkowitz has done groundbreaking work, applying molecular genetics in seeking to understand aspects of plant biology. He has now turned his attention to the cultivation of industrial hemp.

Hemp, a strain of the Cannabis plant low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the well-known cannabinoid that produces psychoactive effects, produces another cannabinoid called cannabidiol (CBD), which has no psychoactive effects but does have great potential for medical use. Berkowitz has nearly two acres of the unimpressive-looking plant growing in Storrs and a green light to do all he and his students can to unlock the potential for a pharmaceutical breakthrough.

Berkowitz’s excitement stems from the potential he sees in the plant, the interest his students can barely contain and the possibilities for additional funding and patenting of products that may help people suffering from a variety of maladies, including epilepsy.

The path to this research has been long and convoluted. For more than sixty years it was illegal to grow hemp in Connecticut. Then, in 2014, Connecticut passed a law that legalized the cultivation of hemp with less than 0.3 percent THC content. Two years earlier, in 2012, the Cannabis genome was sequenced, paving the way for scientists to gain some insight into the genes encoding every enzyme in the plant.

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CAHNR in the news

newsprintUConn Today included a sidebar about UConn’s research into the effects of road salt and ways to combat its overuse. The researchers listed were Assistant Extension Educator Michael Dietz, Department of Natural Resources and the Environment Professor Gary Robbins and graduate student Lukas McNaboe.

UConn Magazine reported that many community members watched the solar eclipse on August 21 in the Horsebarn Hill area of UConn.

The magazine also spotlighted the character and career of UConn Police Chief Hans Rhynhart, a 1993 alumnus of CAHNR.

Captioned photos taken by CAHNR student Brian Martel in New Zealand were posted, as well. Martel was an intern in New Zealand for part of the summer to study an endangered lizard, the tuatara.

By Patsy Evans