FIRS Environmental Research Centre gets £2m makeover
Fallowfield’s best-kept secret has recently reopened for research and teaching after a remarkable £2 million installation. The money has been used to create a new greenhouse structure that has modernised the way plants can be grown there.
Unlike your *insert leading brand of greenhouse here*, this greenhouse allows for complete control of the climate inside. It can transform one room into a rainforest for humidity-loving plants while, at the same time, another can be in a permanent state of winter.
From ten–feet-tall cacti to genetically modified rice, the FIRS greenhouses are home to plants from nearly every continent. This enables leading research right from the centre of Manchester.
Responding to stress
This breadth of plant life is invaluable in offering researchers the opportunity to conduct experiments in real-world scenarios. Giles Johnson, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, oversaw some of the new construction on-site:
“My research looks at a plant’s response to stress. We know that plants undergo stress for a variety of factors and unfortunately, with climate change and food security challenges, this is only going to increase. By understanding how a plant responds to stress and in turn how we can increase the positive responses to stress, we may be able to really address some of the biggest problems of the 21st century.”
Hear more from Professor Johnson – and take a closer look at the new greenhouse – in our video
Exploring other uses
Plant research isn’t the only scientific investigation that takes place there. Atmospheric scientists have recently moved in and have set up monitoring stations that look at air pollution and cloud coverage to determine how safe and healthy the air is in Manchester. The work is important and furthers the site’s aim to be a place for green research.
The gardens aren’t just a place for research, though, and often they are used as a space for teaching and public engagement. The team there hopes the site will be used for a swathe of wellbeing activities – and that staff and students alike will use the greenspace and plants as a way to de-stress and unwind at the end of a long day.
If they can make Manchester a tropical rainforest or a Miami Beach, we’re sure it’ll be very popular!
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Words: Kory Stout
Video: Kory Stout
Images: Kory Stout