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City Tech Students Discover Climate Change at Botanical Gardens

Second visits usually reveal so much more, and so it was last Friday when students from City Tech University returned to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens to learn about phenology, sustainability, water conservation, early — very early —  spring blooming, all through the lens of climate change.

Clicking away on their cameras were City Tech students in Professor Robin Michals’ Communication Design Photography Class. They joined students in Professor Blake’s Natural Disaster Class in this second leg of the collaborative project. Student photographs and essays are focusing on impacts from the changing climate on nature. The goal at the end of the semester is to publicly exhibit student photographs and essays.

Magnolia bud last week at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. Photograph by City Tech Student Deandre Barnett


Although it was cold and rainy, students attentively listened to BBG’s Kate Fermoile, Director of Exhibitions and Barbara Kurland, Director of Learning and Partnerships. Fermoile talked about BBG’s sustainably designed Steinberg Visitor Center, an earth sheltered construction built into the side of a hill replete with a living green roof. The building uses energy efficient geothermal for heating and cooling eliminating the need for fossil fuels, one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases and the warming climate.

The sustainable Steinberg Visitor Center at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens


Professor Michals’ students snapped pictures of buds popping out on trees as they listened to Kurland talk about phenology — the leaf-out and bloom times of trees. The photographers will continue to document specific trees throughout the semester. As the climate warms so are the early arrival of leaf buds, cherry blossoms and magnolias. This past January the mild winter surprised many when cherry blossoms to flowered in Central Park.

Barbara Kurland teaches City Tech photography students about phenology

Students learned about BBG’s new water conservation, a multi-year sustainability project that was completed last year. The rainy day seemed apropos as students watched rain water filling garden streams and ponds. The water is collected, filtered and recirculated with groundwater, reducing dependence on freshwater and lessening the amount of water that flows to the combined sewer system. BBG estimates the system will reduce the garden’s freshwater usage from about 22 million gallons to about 900,000 gallons per year and significantly reduce storm-water discharge.

Both classes ended up in the Discovery Garden, the BBG’s famous learning spot where visitors are encouraged to touch, smell and observe plants and animals living in micro versions of meadows, marshes and woodlands.

City Tech Students at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. Photograph by City Tech student Kendra Kuo

By the end of the two hour class the weather had become quite inclement but City Tech students persevered and embraced the study of nature and its newly adaptive growing patterns.

ClimateYou.org will be featuring more photography and accompanying essays by City Tech students in the coming weeks and months.

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