November 22, 2021 Students, Faculty Collaborate across Colleges and Engage Community to Steward Third Creek

To learn something, sometimes you have to get your feet wet. Students in Mike Ross’s class, however, are totally immersed, and they are learning more than lessons found in a curriculum.

Ross, who teaches jointly in the Herbert College of Agriculture and the School of Landscape Architecture in the College of Architecture and Design, is teaching his students about not only living systems and urban ecology, but they also are learning the value of collaboration and community engagement.

Ross chairs the transdisciplinary UT faculty and staff working group focused on the quality of the Third Creek Greenway from Tyson Park to the UT Gardens. He is including his Landscape Architecture and Plant Sciences students in his work and collaborating with Andrea Ludwig, associate professor and Extension specialist, UT Institute of Agriculture Biosystems Engineering & Soil Science Department.

The partnership of Landscape Architecture and Plant Sciences benefits both the students and the local environment. “We have been working with watershed issues, raingarden design and implementation, as well as community outreach and Extension efforts that bring the focus of Landscape Architecture to partner with Biosystems Engineering,” Ross said. “We further engage UT Landscape Architecture students in a wide range of projects including Extension publications, interpretive signage and general interest articles.”

Through these multi-level collaborations, students are participating in and leading community events focused on the health of Third Creek, including Meet the Creek Week in October. Inviting the campus as well as members of the public, students hosted the week that included screening Hidden Rivers of Appalachia; daily kayak tours of Third Creek led by Garrett Ferry, UT’s stormwater coordinator; BioBlitz activities to gain data on ecological conditions in the greenway; and a launch of three floating treatment wetlands.

people working with small floating wetlands

Floating wetlands enhance biodiversity and contribute to water-cleaning efforts within the watershed. The collaboration on this project is far-reaching. Landscape Architecture students are engaged with discrete site scale design emphasizing living systems, urban ecology, planting and experiential quality. Students in Plant Sciences’s Advanced Landscape Construction: Green Infrastructure Theory and Application are focused on designing and building the floating wetlands and will continue the project through spring 2022.

“Our collaborative work is focused on design proposals for the larger Third Creek Initiative,” Ross said. “This is a transformative project that captures our innovative approaches in design, research, Extension, outreach and education. The project builds on our university’s land-grant mission and capitalizes on our unique location as an urban riverfront campus.”

The next step for the multi-disciplinary group is developing planning strategies and documents that will propose a design vision for consideration by officials at the university and the city of Knoxville.

Photo credit: Andrea Ludwig, associate professor and Extension specialist, UTIA Biosystems Engineering & Soil Science Department

Learn more!

Learn more about the School of Landscape Architecture

Apply to the School of Landscape Architecture