A time-lapse photo of a flower in the Bellevue University sustainability lab next to the R. Joe Dennis Learning Center.

Bellevue University is showing off its new greenhouse construction in a unique way.

The university was awarded a $200,000, three-year grant by the Nebraska Environmental Trust last summer to expand its sustainability program.

The new outdoor lab is located behind the R. Joe Dennis Learning Labs on Bruin Boulevard.

Though the construction for the greenhouse won’t be completed until November, Tyler Moore, assistant professor of biology at BU, said the science labs created a time-lapse to show how the construction has been going.

“We have a time-lapse camera set on top of the hill watching it,” Moore said. “We take about one photo every 30 minutes, so we’re compressing them down in a course of several months.”

The greenhouse will house different plants from different climate areas, ranging from temperate to tropical.

“It’s going to be our system for supplying specimens for research,” Moore said.

The sustainability lab was made with student research in mind; however, Moore said he hopes it allows for some community outreach as well.

With the greenhouse, Moore hopes to have plant giveaways and allow community members to garden and grow their own plants as well.

Along with the community aspect of the sustainability lab and greenhouse, Moore said with the iNaturalist app, people will be able to win contests for doing their own research.

“(With the app), people can take photos of things and it uses machine learning to determine what species you’re looking at,” Moore said. “Then there’s a lot of actual biologists, ecologists of different specialists that can curate all this data and confirm things.”

Moore said using iNaturalists, the departments wants to collect data on biodiversity on the hillside where the lab is set up, and provide prizes for people who help out.

“Whoever’s logging the most species will win a $100 gift certificate to Midwest Natives Nursery, which is a native plant nursery for Lincoln and Omaha,” he said. “People can download the app and if you take photos in that app in that area, it’s going to automatically log them into that project.

“The more (species) you get, the more likely they are to win. This version of the contest will end in the summer — another next year to conduct research.”

Moore said he’s looking forward to the research for students and community members to conduct when the greenhouse and labs are finished.

“I’m most excited to take a piece of area that was really not used before and watch it grow into somewhere that’s just a beaming with ecological interactions,” he said. “I’m also excited to have a spot where students can go out and really right out our back door, observe ecology and get their feet dirty and hands dirty while actually doing some ecology research right on campus.”

Commenting is limited to Omaha World-Herald subscribers. To sign up, click here.

If you're already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.