December 11, 2007

Case Western Reserve University and the Holden Arboretum sign affiliation agreement


Agreement will build internationally recognized graduate research programs in plant sciences and ecology

Case Western Reserve University and the Holden Arboretum have entered a three-year renewable affiliation to create a highly competitive national and international graduate research program in plant sciences and ecology. This is the first affiliation agreement for Holden Arboretum.

President Barbara R. Snyder from Case Western Reserve University and Holden Arboretum's interim President and CEO Jack Sherwin Jr. and chair of the board of trustees Jonathan Dick signed the agreement, which influences the strengths of each institution in building these graduate areas.

"This is an exciting time for the Holden Arboretum as we partner with one of the leading higher education institutions in the nation and forge a relationship that will provide students with the tools and skills needed to protect are delicate ecosystem," said Sherwin.

Holden Arboretum is home to 3,500 acres of land, with 25 ponds, more than 17,000 accessioned plants, special collections of trees, gardens and natural areas.

Even though the arboretum has had a research program since 1991, the hiring in recent years of Mary Topa (WRC'75) as the director of science and research in 2004 and three other scientists, has reinvigorated research efforts to build its science staff. The scientists have a program structured on understanding how plants and forests respond to urban-influenced disturbances created by both natural and human-induced stresses.

For its part, Case's biology department has been developing an ecology program with the major themes of plant disturbance and Great Lakes ecology.

"Graduate students are the lifeblood of research at many college campuses," said Topa. "The graduate students will be the bridge between our institutions, and the base for building a strong research program in plant sciences and ecology." The research partnership is similar to ones that the New York Botanical Garden, Missouri Botanical Garden and Chicago Botanic Garden have with universities. Sarah Kyker, a current Case graduate student, has a research base at the arboretum.

According to Joseph Koonce, professor and chair of the biology department, this is "a win-win" agreement for both institutions.

"With the addition of Holden's scientists we now have a critical mass of faculty for a plant sciences and ecology program."

Without the agreement, Koonce said, it would cost millions of dollars to duplicate the resources at each institution. "We are judiciously using our resources by establishing this joint agreement," he added. "Leveraging strengths against strengths, we are building a regionally important research program in ecology and plant sciences."

Topa said the affiliation agreement will break down the isolation barrier for the arboretum's scientists, 25 miles from the Case campus, and build an intellectual community for them through teaching graduate courses, attending seminars and providing access to thousands of scientific journals.

At Case, three biologists have interests that relate to developing graduate programs and collaborations with scientists at Holden. Koonce, who does research on Great Lakes watersheds, will study headwaters to the Chagrin River found among Holden's streams and ponds. Paul Drewa and Robin Snyder, assistant professors of biology, have research related to plant disturbances. Drewa studies growth in some of Ohio's oldest trees and forests and has collaborated with the Holden scientists. Christopher Cullis, a professor of biology, is a board member at the arboretum.

The arboretum scientists will join Case's biology department as adjunct faculty, advising and teaching graduate students. The first course on soil microbial processes by a Holden scientist will be offered in spring 2008. They will have access to a variety of Case library resources, such as online journals, unavailable at the arboretum. The university will provide facilities on campus for its Holden scientists and also will administer federal grants obtained by Holden scientists.

Holden will also provide on-site research facilities, both laboratory and field, at the arboretum for campus biologists and a Case graduate student.

Although, individual Holden scientists have collaborations with researchers from Ohio University, University of Toledo, Kent State, Case Western Reserve, University of Pittsburgh, Baldwin-Wallace College, Michigan State University, University of Michigan, Iowa State University, Ohio State University and the USDA Forest Service Laboratory in Delaware, Ohio, this affiliation is a more formalized, long-standing commitment between institutions.

In addition to the Holden Arboretum, the biology department works closely with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History where for the past several years it has held a Friday afternoon seminar for the museum staff and Case biologists and students. The department also has a collaboration with the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, where three graduate students have research stations and work with zoo curators, who serve as adjunct faculty members in the department.

This newest affiliation expands the university's partnerships with community and cultural arts organizations. Case's College of Arts and Sciences just celebrated the 40th anniversary of its affiliation with the Cleveland Museum of Art for graduate studies in art history and museum studies.

For more information, contact Susan Griffith, 216-368-1004.

Posted by: Kimyette Finley, December 11, 2007 09:05 AM | News Topics: Administration, Collaborations/Partnerships, Collaborations/Partnerships, College of Arts and Sciences, HeadlinesMain, Research

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