Blake Beyer, a senior Environmental Science major with a concentration in Wildlife Management, and Haley Hancharuk, a junior Computer Science major, are diversifying their Stockton experience by learning the art of horticulture at the Stockton greenhouse.
Both are student employees working for Stockton alumna Christine Schairer, who is now a professional service specialist in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.
Although they have very different coursework and aspirations, Beyer and Hancharuk have a common interest in gardening, botany and horticulture.
At the greenhouse, they water, fertilize, prune, repot and control pests in both tropical and temperate microenvironments flowering with orchids, succulents, cacti and rare plants year-round.
“One of the most fascinating things I’ve learned is that most plants can be started from cuttings of the parent plant which will eventually root and become its own plant if the propagation is successful,” said Hancharuk.
Beyer added that the most valuable thing he’s learned “is an appreciation for the sheer complexity of plants and the uniqueness and individualism nature has given each species to perfectly suit the environment nature intends for them to live.”
Beyer, of Aberdeen, hopes to work as an educator within the park system or as a conservation officer. “Anything where I’m outside,” he smiled.
He interned as an educator with the Monmouth County Park System over the summer. During seining sessions, he scooped fish out of the water revealing an underwater world while explaining the food chain and habitats to curious children.
“I love kids. They’re funny, and they have great energy,” he said.
He led shell walks, gave fishing tutorials and guided wildlife tours by kayak to point out birds, turtles, fish and other marine life.
He is passionate about educating others about our oceans and shorelines. The advice he offers is to “be a steward of our oceans and follow a ‘carry-in and carry-out’ policy.”
His internship and greenhouse experiences have made him more aware of his natural surroundings.
“Find time to slow down and take notice of the little things out in nature. The smallest and most fragile of things play an astonishingly large role in the natural world around us and it’s our job to make sure we coexist with nature, protecting all of its intricacies, not exploit or pollute it,” he said.
Hancharuk, of Galloway, wants to pursue a career in computer science or the gaming industry as a game designer, animator or concept artist. She would like to make a role-playing game (RPG) based on an original comic series. “I have a lot of ideas, and I would love to see them come to life,” she said.
Since working at the greenhouse, she’s started buying plants personally, arranging terrariums and has discovered her interest in outdoor landscaping.
Not wanting her choice of major to limit her extra-curricular activities, she started as a volunteer at the greenhouse in her freshman year. She didn’t know that it would lead to a job and a new hobby.
“Sometimes, we as students have to step outside of the boundaries we put ourselves in and try something new. An open mind is always a good thing to possess; it might just help someone find out that they enjoy doing something enough to develop a new passion, opening a world to new people, new perspectives and different opportunities that they may not have even considered before,” she explained.
When an opportunity arises, “be versatile and ready for anything,” Hancharuk added.