Pollinators and Poplar Progress

MSU Pollinator Symposium 2019

MSU Pollinator Symposium 2019

Spring semester Professor Jennifer Britton and I advised four independent study students working with MSU Pollinator Health Center and Grounds & Facilities to design a pollinator-focused garden in the heart of campus. Their work is part of a larger initiative to be certified a Bee Campus USA, the only one in the middle-Rockies ecoregion. Through their efforts and energy, I’ve learned new things about pollinators and am inspired to continue scholarship that integrates disciplines across our broad Plant Sciences & Plant Pathology department. Thanks J, J, R, & S!

Site axon by Johnny Dohner

Site axon by Johnny Dohner

My research on greening a former gas station site in Poplar, MT has also continued. I look forward to collaborating with Fort Peck on planting design and hardscape details next!

Service-Learning for Silos

Matt Deane site plan line work


This fall my HORT 432 studio worked with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) and a Citizens Action Group on master planning for Silos Recreation Area (Silos), a 250 acre campground on Canyon Ferry Lake reservoir in Townsend, Montana. The site is 45 minutes south of Helena and a statewide destination for water recreation enthusiasts, offering a marina, numerous boat launches, and amazing waterfront views to the Big Belt Mountains. Building off a recently completed Framework Plan by Robert Peccia & Associates, the students were tasked with envisioning master plan ideas.

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The student’s schematic master plan called for six distinct districts based on land use, programming, management scenarios, and water and land recreation nodes. For the final review, students further developed site design ideas for each district. The students presented their final work to design professionals, County Commissioners, and other community leaders – an audience with whom not many undergraduates have had the opportunity to interface! I was so proud of their professionalism.

Overall, our work provided concepts and visuals for ongoing discussions among stakeholders regarding site potentials as they progress toward applying for further funding, and ultimately, an approved site plan and construction. I feel lucky to be part of these service-learning projects – the applied context energizes students and I am continually energized by engaged citizens and their compassion for improving Montana landscapes.

Matt Deane rendering site plan

Park(ing) Day 2018

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My landscape design students in HORT 432 Advanced Landscape Design designed, constructed, and installed one pop-up park on College Street as part of an international event, Park(ing) Day (parkinday.org) on Friday, September 21. We could not have asked for a more beautiful fall day. Their project was the only one installed in Montana!

For one day, the tiny park successfully challenged people’s every-day perceptions of public space. The objectives for this class project were to develop a shared site design, work within budget and time constraints, assess material sourcing and disposal strategies, learn construction techniques, develop communication and media relation strategies, and analyze user engagement with the space.

We collaborated with the Division of Agricultural Education, which amped up the student learning, design options, and construction quality. A huge thank you to Dr. Dustin Perry and his graduate student, Jondie Rianda, who helped make this project a reality! Also, thank you to David Baumbauer, John Van Delinder - City of Bozeman’s Street, Sign, and Signal Superintendent, Greenspace, Gallatin Valley Sod Farm, and all who stopped by.

Green Infrastructure Galore


Yesterday was an exciting day! It started off with the 2018 Montana Stormwater Conference....Diana Hammer (EPA Region 8), Ashleigh Weeks (Fort Peck Tribes), and I presented on utilizing green infrastructure to transform blighted properties and create community amenity in Poplar, Montana. As part of the talk, I shared the revised site design for the new Poplar Plaza, which wouldn't have been possible without Andrew Davis and Hailey Neutgens (a shout out to these MSU landscape design graduates who volunteered their time and vision!). In addition, I presented with Amy Murdick, a landscape architect and engineer with Tetra Tech, on the aesthetics of plant-heavy green infrastructure strategies. We discussed the value of aesthetics and maintenance, appearance, and community integration tips to for long-term success of green infrastructure performance. Finally, I traveled to Butte with HORT 440 students for their project review on BA&P Hill trail futures. Their team posters are on display at the Butte-Silverbow City-County Courthouse. A day filled with conversations on stormwater, plants, Superfund regeneration, and people experiencing landscape is a lucky day.

Parks in Poplar


This fall, my HORT 432 Advanced Landscape Design studio is working with the Fort Peck Tribe’s Office of Environmental Protection and the U.S. EPA on site designs for two public parks in Poplar, Montana. The partners’ goals are to utilize landscape design for redeveloping vacant, under-performing properties and to demonstrate how to mimic natural systems to treat stormwater while being drought resilient.


Mid-October we traveled to Poplar (whew – my longest trip with undergrads!) to meet with project partners and facilitate a community design workshop. We toured the town, listened to presentations from Tribe’s Office of Environmental Protection, learned about Souix American Indian cultural uses of plants from an elder, Louis Red Elk, walked along the Poplar River, and visited the project sites. On the sites students measured elements like slopes, dimensions, vegetation species and structure, utility locations, and site lines.


Students facilitated a design workshop for nearly 40 participants. The students organized and created the material and activities that were presented, and I was so proud of their professionalism and communication skills. The Tribes prepared an Indian taco feast following the workshop, which felt especially celebratory after the students’ hard work.

That night students summarized findings from the community workshop and developed initial drawings to discuss park design goals at a morning meeting before heading back to Bozeman. We toured the Fort Peck Interpretive Center and the dam powerhouse before the beautiful drive home through Glasgow, Upper Missouri River Breaks, and Harlowtown.

Students have been hard at work in the studio developing site design ideas that meet stakeholder needs and landscape performance targets. If you’re interested in seeing their final design proposals, please join us for the final review on Monday, December 4, noon-3:00 PM in Animal Bioscience Building 145.

Trident Peregrine Trail Opening


This weekend we celebrated several years of hard work with the official ribbon cutting ceremony for Phase 1 of the Trident Peregrine Trail at Missouri Headwaters State Park. What an amazing resource to experience bird diversity and habitat! I feel honored to have worked on this project with amazing collaborators at Sacajawea Audubon Society, MT Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, and CRH-US. My students and I helped with the trail master plan, interpretive signage design, and landscape and bird drawings - a fabulous learning opportunity for budding landscape designers.

Presenting + Representing Landscape Performance


Congrats to senior landscape design students, who successfully presented their final team work on Landscape Design Scenarios for Water Conservation in the Middle Rockies! Their work was the most data-driven to date, and really drove home the quantity and quality of benefits that result from different design choices.

Since then, Erin Barker received a grant to continue research and refinements for a design booklet for the City of Bozeman on alternatives for residential planting design that saves on outdoor watering. Did you know that around 1/3 of all potable water the City treats is used for outdoor water use?! Single-family properties are responsible for the majority of this outdoor water use. Finally, the course has also spurred a research project on learning and teaching landscape performance with two other Universities.

Water Week


Last week in studio we covered the WATER theme and focused on local water resource resiliency. First, a guest lecture from Lain Leoniak and Jessica Ahlstrom with the City of Bozeman Water Conservation Division. Students learned about connections between design and water quantity challenges. Next, we learned from examples in the field that related to regenerating healthy water quality. The tour was led by Troy Scherer, Principal of Design5, who also shared great insights on how communication and collaboration ensure installation, management, and ultimately project success. Thank you Lain, Jessica, and Troy for spending time with us! (We also had some time to test out playground equipment.)

Starting September with Sages & Sagebrush


Off and running! On the second day of the semester we already hit the field to visit Westscape Wholesale Nursery, where we learned about the challenges and opportunities of designing native plant communities in the urban context. Later this week the sage of sage, Dr. Matthew Lavin, will guest lecture on MT ecosystems from valleys to mountains and principles for managing healthy native plant communities. This is part of a series of studio activities to discover and critically analyze the life cycle and ecology of designing landscapes. This week's theme is vegetation and soil. Following themes will cover water, materials and energy, and human health & well-being.

This fall, the Advanced Landscape Design studio will be part of an national initiative to integrate landscape performance principles into landscape architectural education, thanks to a Landscape Architecture Foundation education grant.

We are working with City of Bozeman Water Conservation Division on designing and demonstrating landscape alternatives that contribute to water resource resiliency, among many other benefits. Currently, about one third of Bozeman’s treated water goes toward irrigation. To compare conventional and sustainable landscape scenarios, students will be calculating landscape performance functions related to irrigation, stormwater, carbon sequestration, floristic quality, biodiversity, maintenance and construction costs, and human well-being. This will be the first service-learning project that directly incorporates landscape performance principles and metrics to show partners and stakeholders the potential value of sustainable features.

Farms and Flights

First, thank you to all who completed the survey in April and May! Congrats to the drawing winners – Elaine, Maura, Kate, Laura, Sadie, Macall, Rose, Jeremy, Tiffany, and JoHannah. Second, I’m currently in route home to the mountains after 5 amazing visits to student farms. A few more farms remain on my list, but this trip included: Oregon State University, University of Oregon, Rutgers University, University of Georgia, and University of Kentucky. While one of my research goals is to examine shared patterns of farm design and placemaking, each farm had so many unique stories and strategies that were each as inspiring as the next. One of my favorite events was attending a pop-up lunch program in Athens, GA using food produced at UGArden – all the food and service was done by middle school students, even down to one boy singing a song to give thanks before digging in. That day’s menu is shown in the picture. Who doesn’t love homemade honey ice cream?!  I feel so much gratitude for the time and hospitality that each farm extended on my visit – a special thank you to: James, Harper, Arianna, David, and Mark.

How do you design the best student farm space?

Calling all student farm managers, program directors, students, and volunteers!

We are now seeking your input to build a better understanding of the physical site elements important for new student farms to be successful as they develop master plans and construct their spaces.

You are invited to take this 20 minute survey focused on student farm layout, functions, experience, and aesthetics (click here for link).

Survey participants can enter a drawing to win one of ten $50 Johnny's Selected Seeds or Amazon gift certificates. The survey is open until May 13, 2016.

(The survey is part of the Student Farm Design Project.)

Students share landscape design solutions at Gallatin County Fairgrounds Board meeting

Kyle Anderson's illustration of an infiltration basin designed to treat neighborhood stormwater before enterring Bozeman Creek and create a community amenity.

Kyle Anderson's illustration of an infiltration basin designed to treat neighborhood stormwater before enterring Bozeman Creek and create a community amenity.

Back in November 2015, my students working with the City of Bozeman Stormwater Program and Gallatin County Fairgrounds, presented their site designs for sustainable stormwater management in an urban watershed. Toting along their gavel, recording equipment, and American flag, the Fairgrounds hosted their monthly board meeting at MSU, in which the students' presentations where the primary agenda item - a first in the fairgrounds history. the meeting drew folks from diverse disciplines who challenged the students with some complex questions! I'm so proud of the students who made this project possible - they performed with exceptional professionalism and developed exciting, plausible ideas for the site.  Their dedication and creativity has already led to new dialog among additional partners for future implementation of the project. A student illustration by Kyle Anderson has even been chosen as the cover image for a City of Bozeman annual publication! A special thank you to Kyle Mehrens, Frank Greenhill, Lori Cox, and Dennis Voehler for collaborating - I feel super lucky to be part of this work that has potential to regenerate Bozeman's urban ecosystem through green infrastructure design.