The outside of the R. Joe Dennis Learning Center will house the new sustainability lab coming to Bellevue University in the next two years.

Bellevue University is constructing a lab that will assist in sustainability learning, while also involving the community.

The Nebraska Environmental Trust awarded BU a $200,000 grant to increase sustainability learning with a lab at the university. The grant will be available to BU over the next three years.

Located behind the R. Joe Dennis Learning Labs on Bruin Boulevard, the 7,000-square foot lab will have many ways for students to research and study.

John Kyndt, associate professor of microbiology, nutrition and sustainability, said the first year of providing grant funds will be the biggest development.

Included in the outdoor lab will be a greenhouse, algae pond for renewable energy, wind and solar generation stations and a garden for native plants.

Kyndt said he’s excited for the algae pond, which he is most familiar.

“The algae pond is something in my background — I studied biofuels from algae, so I make bio diesel from these algae,” he said. “There are lots of small research projects with this algae pond. We’ll try to make it a pleasant pond for people to see, and practical for research for us.”

Something else Kyndt said he’s excited for is the space being available to the community.

“We want to open it up for people to come and enjoy the space and work with us in the space,” he said. “We’re opening it up for people to plant their own plants if they want to as long as it’s native.”

Kyndt said the lab will benefit biology and sustainability management students the most.

“We have mainly online courses in the sustainability management program,” he said. “What I want to do is demonstrations for students, because we talk about this wind and solar energy, and there are online videos, but it’s going to be different if we record ourselves, we set up experiments and show the class this is how we run it.

“We’re open to ideas from students, as well. In the program, students have to come up with their own sustainability idea and that’s their project they work on throughout the whole program. In the end, they have to develop a plan for this idea. Some of these small scale plans, we can test for them, and now we have the space to test it.”

The university is also planning on working with community partners such as the Boy Scouts and Green Bellevue.

Sharon Rea, president of Green Bellevue and assistant dean in the College of Business, said she’s excited for the community to see the lab.

“What we’re doing here at Bellevue University really speaks to the mission of Green Bellevue because we’re all about building and coming together for a greener, cleaner, more pleasing environment and fostering sustainability,” she said.

Kyndt said the most important aspect of the lab is having “science on display.”

“It’s to show people what we can do with science,” he said. “We don’t do science in an isolated tower — we want to do it with the community, with the students and show people that science can be fun.”

Kyndt said the lab will be completed within two years. The native plants have been ordered and will be planted in the fall and the greenhouse is scheduled to be completed next spring.

“From then on, it’s building out some of the sustainability components like the solar and wind,” he said. “By this time next summer, we’ll have about two-thirds of the project done, and then another year to finish up.”

There will also be a formal groundbreaking in August or September.

Rea said anyone and everyone will benefit from the lab.

“We’re excited about bringing the community in and having community involvement,” she said. “Every business needs to learn about sustainability. It’s everywhere.”

Email: cheyenne.alexis@bellevueleader.com Phone: 402-505-3617

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