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Cornell Plantations

Welcome Christopher Dunn

Welcome Christopher Dunn

We are excited to share the news that Christopher P. Dunn, Ph.D. will become the next Elizabeth Newman Wilds Director of Cornell Plantations on April 1, 2014. 

“Plantations is an integral part of Cornell, serving as both the largest laboratory and richest classroom on campus, while furnishing the university with a unique botanical character unlike that of other institutions of higher learning,” said Kathryn J. Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, in her announcement. “I am confident that Christopher’s depth of experience and passion will foster new opportunities for Plantations to enhance its conservation mission while continuing to promote the enrichment and well-being of the entire Cornell community.”


Click here to read the February 5 Cornell Chronicle article, “Plantations appoints botanist from Hawaii as director.

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Campaign Goals

Your involvement and support will ensure that Cornell Plantations continues to grow forward as a leader in environmental education and conservation, and a cherished place of beauty and discovery for all who walk our paths.

Through the Cornell Now Campaign, Plantations seeks to:

• Endow professional staff positions in order to attract and retain experienced professionals to direct and expand its education, horticulture, and conservation programs

• Endow graduate fellowships to train the next generation of public garden leaders

• Increase giving to the Plantations Annual Fund to grow more plants and trees, preserve more habitats, and connect more people with nature

Nature & Nurture, Science & Serenity

When they need to de-stress, Plantations is the place where Cornell students come to jog, bike, hike, and XC ski—or just wander, relax, and reconnect with nature.  

This cherished place of beauty and respite is also a living museum and a leader in environmental conservation.

At Plantations, horticulture students get their hands dirty as they study new plant cultivars. Natural resources majors experience first-hand the challenges of protecting rare species. Professors in the plant sciences, landscape architecture, environmental engineering, geology, and ecology and evolutionary biology can lead field trips without ever leaving campus.

Horticulturists: The Brains Behind the Beauty

Growing the more than 5,000 plants and trees in Plantations’ 150-acre arboretum and 25-acre botanical garden is literally in the hands of our dedicated Horticulture staff. These experts create flourishing collections that provide relevant teaching opportunities for faculty and application-rich field experiences for students.

It’s no pun to say that Plantations has contributed to groundbreaking research in plant and soil science. For example, Cornell horticulture professor Nina Bassuk used the Urban Tree Collection in studies that led to the invention of CU-Structural Soil®, a medium that enables trees to thrive in urban environments.

Director of Horticulture Mary Hirshfeld '75, MS '80 manages Plantations' 14 campus gardens, 150-acre arboretum, and supervises a staff of 20, yet still spends the better part of her days tending to plants. From rhododendrons to heritage vegetables, exotic container plants to towering conifers, Plantations horticulturists preserve biodiversity and demonstrate the latest advancements in plant breeding, sustainable design, and gardening practices.

Educators: Connecting People and Nature

Kindling an awareness of plants and an appreciation for the interdependence of people and nature is the responsibility of Plantations’ Education program. Together education director Sonja Skelly and her staff create and deliver programs that transform our living collections into learning opportunities for people of all ages.

For Cornell students, Plantations offers summer internships and a unique graduate program in public garden leadership. For the public, there are youth programs for schools and families, year-round tours, community outreach events, and a wide range of continuing education classes taught by Plantations staff, Cornell faculty, and local experts.

In a place that is all about growing, these dedicated educators cultivate intellectual curiosity and foster concern for protecting and preserving the natural world.

Conservators: Preserving Our Natural Heritage

From the gorges that cradle the campus to bogs, old-growth forests, and wildflower preserves, Cornell Plantations is the steward of over 4,000 acres of natural areas in Central New York. Protecting these habitats and the plants that grow there, and sharing them with the public is the responsibility of our Natural Areas program.

Director of natural areas Todd Bittner and his staff manage a diverse portfolio of nature preserves that represent all of the ecological habitats found in the Finger Lakes region. Plantations' holdings are among the five largest systems of natural areas associated with public gardens in North America.

Taking what they’ve learned from studies with faculty and their own work on the ground, our natural areas staff partner with other national and regional conservation organizations—such as the U.S. Forest Service and the Center for Plant Conservation—to monitor and restore rare and endangered plant communities.  In 2010 we launched the Natural Areas Academy, a unique education program that fosters conservation by building environmental literacy and training volunteer stewards to help preserve our irreplaceable natural resources.

Sowing the Seeds of Leadership: Graduate Fellowships

As municipalities and not-for-profit organizations recognize the value of preserving green spaces and conserving native plants and habitats, new public gardens and nature preserves are being created across the nation. To give the next generation of leaders the tools they will need to sustain these institutions in a cash- and resource-competitive world, Cornell Plantations offers a unique Graduate Fellowship Program in Public Garden Leadership (PGL) .

Now in its 12th year and one of only two such graduate-level programs in the nation, the Plantations PGL program offers a mix of coursework and real-world experience in management and horticulture. Fellows complete four semesters of study at Cornell, a summer internship at another institution, and a research or action study to earn a Master of Professional Studies degree.  

Graduate fellowships at Cornell include full tuition, a nine-month stipend, and health insurance. Currently, Plantations is able to support only four students in the PGL program each year. “Funding, not qualified candidates, is the number one barrier to increasing enrollment,” says education director Sonja Skelly.

After completing my degree, I was able to move right into a directorship at a sustainability-minded arboretum.—Melanie Sifton MPS ’09, director, Humber Arboretum and Centre for Urban Ecology, Toronto

Alumni Leaders at Public Gardens

  • Jessica Blohm ’08, park project & volunteer manager, The Esplanade Association, Boston
  • Jennifer Davit ’04, director, Lurie Garden at Millenium Park, Chicago
  • Jenny Evans ’04, native plant nursery manager, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, Florida
  • Erin Marteal ’10, director, Ithaca Children’s Garden
  • Miriam Pinsker Von Essen ’08, education and Penn outreach coordinator, Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania
  • Melanie Sifton ’09, vice president for horticulture, Brooklyn Botanic Garden
  • Justine Tay ’11, manager of horticulture standards, National Parks Board of Singapore
  • Julie Warsowe  ’02, manager of visitor education, Arnold Arboretum, Boston

Campaign Gift Opportunities

Endowed Leadership Positions
Cornell Plantations’ program directors have to be top experts in their fields, and resourceful managers who are dedicated to preserving and enriching our botanical collections and natural areas. Endowing these positions will help Plantations retain its exceptional staff and ensure that we can attract and hire outstanding leaders in the future.

  • Director of Education, $1.6 million
  • Director of Horticulture, $1.6 million
  • Director of Natural Areas, $1.6 million
  • Community Outreach Coordinator, $1 million
  • Interpretation Coordinator, $1 million

Endowed Graduate Fellowships
An endowment for a named fellowship in Cornell Plantations’ unique Public Garden Leadership program will help give the next generation of leaders the tools they will need to manage public gardens, aboreta, and conservatories.  —$500,000

Student Internships
An endowment gift for Plantations’ summer internship program will provide a paid, 12-week educational work experience for a Cornell student, and may be designated to support a position in the horticulture, natural areas, or education program. —$100,000

For more information, contact Beth Anderson or call 607-254-4727.

Garden Naming Opportunities

Building on the success of the opening of the Brian C. Nevin Welcome Center, Cornell Plantations is now moving forward in the next phase of an ambitious plan to reimagine the Botanical Garden. In the most significant horticultural development since the F. R. Newman Arboretum was created in 1981, the broad expanse of lawn in front of the Nevin Center will be transformed into a beautiful series of new Peony and Perennial Gardens, while the plateau on Comstock Knoll will become a dramatic East Asian Garden.

We have launched a major initiative to raise almost $7 million for these projects. Our goals include $2.7 million for construction and plant material, and $4 million to endow the new horticulturist positions that will be required to maintain the gardens.

Gift opportunities to fund and name individual gardens range from $200,000 to $850,000. Additional naming opportunities include the already-planted Bioswale Garden and the Nevin Center Courtyard and Patio Garden.

Our goal is to secure the funding by 2014 so that we can build the new gardens and dedicate them during Cornell’s Sesquicentennial Celebration in 2015!  For more information, contact Beth Anderson or call 607-254-4727.

Cornell Plantations is essential for so many of us in the extended Cornell family and wider community.  Students, alumni, faculty, staff, Ithacans, and all visitors benefit from the stewardship of our beloved gorges, gardens, and green spaces.  My involvement with and support of Plantations is an investment that gives back multi-fold, as each time I come back to Cornell, I discover a new natural treasure or hidden special place.

–Bob Ramin '82, MBA '85, Parent '12 & '15, Plantations Advisory Council member

Cornell Plantations is one of the premier gardens/arboreta/natural areas in the country. The staff are knowledgeable and dedicated...their job is enormous and they do it well.  Certainly it deserves our support.  I direct all of my annual contributions to Cornell toward Plantations.

–Dan Groth '70, Plantations Advisory Council member

I love living in Ithaca for many reasons, but high among them is Cornell Plantations—where we can retreat into a natural setting close to where I live and work.

–Ithaca resident

Plantations' natural areas are one of the features that drew me to Cornell. The work that my students and lab groups conduct at these sites represents frontiers in land management and conservation biology, as well as basic research in ecology and evolution.

–Anurag Agrawal, Professor, Ecology and Evoluntionary Biology

The Public Garden Leadership Program allowed me to engage in a wealth of educational and practical learning experiences that better connected me to the global community of public garden leaders and innovative non-profit business managers.  After completing my graduate program, I was able to move right into a directorship at a sustainability-minded arboretum.

–Melanie Sifton MPS '09, Director, Humber Arboretum and Centre for Urban Ecology, Toronto

Professors can teach all about a tree with slides and books, but to go out and see one of the few remaining American chestnuts ... that goes far beyond being in the classroom.

–Jordan Warner '07, Biological and Environmental Engineering

For my students, nothing beats seeing the real plants.

–Antonio DiTommaso, Professor, Crops and Soil Science
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Giving to Plantations

From gardens to gorges, everything that we offer at Plantations is made possible by the generous support of our donors. Charitable gifts, memberships, and endowment income provide 80% of our operating budget.

Unrestricted gifts from alumni and friends provide vital funding for:

  • new plants and trees for the gardens and arboretum
  • conservation efforts to protect rare and endangered native plants
  • work-study students
  • seed money for new education programs
  • tools and equipment for our arborists, gardeners, and natural areas stewards

Make a gift to the Cornell Annual Fund for Plantations now!

Tribute/Memorial Gifts

Cornell Plantations offers two options for donors who wish to mark a special occasion, or establish a permanent memorial or tribute for a family member, friend, or colleague.

Tribute trees are located in the 150-acre F.R. Newman Arboretum. At Plantations, trees are collected, planted, and maintained with a purpose. Our goal is to create as diverse a collection as possible, featuring a wide range of both native and cultivated varieties of trees and shrubs that are hardy in New York State. Specialties at Plantations include oaks, maples, conifers, crabapples, and urban trees.

For a gift of $5,000, Plantations will designate and name a tree in accordance with your wishes. A special tag is placed on the tree, inscribed with language provided by the donor. Plantations will care for the tree in perpetuity; if it needs to be replaced in the future, your tribute will be carried forward.

Tribute benches are made of teak or stone, and are placed at strategic sites selected by our staff. Donors may provide their own wording for the plaque that is installed on the bench. Plantations will maintain the bench in perpetuity, ensuring that it will always be in place for future generations to enjoy. The minimum gift for a tribute bench is $25,000, and opportunities are currently available in the Mundy Wildflower Garden.

For more information, email Beth Anderson or call 607-254-4727.

Membership Gifts

Whether you make a gift to Plantations through the Cornell Annual Fund or join us as a member, all donors receive a Plantations membership card and are welcomed as partners in our mission to connect people of all ages with plants and the natural world.

Membership Benefits

  • Reciprocal benefits at over 270 other public gardens, arboreta, and conservatories in North Ameria. This typically includes free or reduced admission, plus discounts in garden and book shops.
  • Lower registration fees for Plantations’  classes and workshops
  • Discounts at our gift shop and cafe in the Nevin Welcome Center
  • Invitations to member-only events at Plantations and in the community
  • Verdant Views, our biannual magazine, and other Plantations’ publications

Join Plantations now or give a membership to a friend or family member!

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News & Video

“Ogwe’o:weh Consciousness as Peace” – at the Cornell Plantations Nevin Welcome Center, a celebration of Haudenosaunee …
This year, the Cornell Plantations will expand its interpretive displays — booklets, signs and panels that provide …
In a horticultural contest between upstate New York and Hawaii, it’s hard to imagine Ithaca prevailing. But the area’s …
Join Cornell Plantations on December 21 as we celebrate the Winter Solstice with our “Plants of the Winter Solstice” …
Improvements to the lower entrance of Cascadilla Gorge – and a metal-artist’s gate, in particular – have earned Cornell …
Lee Dean, Lead Arborist at Cornell Plantations shows the proper way to plant a tree.
As invasive species move in, native species will be pushed out, according to Cornell Plantations Natural Areas Director …
Over the past few years, the University has attempted to combat the temptation of cool gorge waters on a hot summer day …
For Josh Eckenrode '01 Plantations is all about family. Watch this short video of him speaking about what Plantations …
White-tailed deer were once so rare that their sightings merited newspaper headlines. These days, "there's no woody plant …
The Sierra editors mentioned the two gorges running through campus, the 35-acre Botanical Garden at Cornell Plantations …
Plantations' Let's Move! Orienteering event gets kids out and learning.
Chris Wien, professor of horticulture, experiments with cut flowers to determine which varieties hold the most promise for …
First Lady Michelle Obama wants kids to get off the couch and get moving, and Cornell Plantations thinks it’s just the …
Plantations invasive species control program was recently featured in the Cornell Chronicle.
Josh Whitney, gardener at Plantations, does a Q&A on "Bridge Street" - a Syracuse based talk show.
Cornell Plantations is many things to many people. For Svante Myrick '09, and mayor of Ithaca, NY - it's an asset to the …
Horticulture professor Chris Wien will serve as interim director of Cornell Plantations while the university searches for …
Cornell Plantations is many things to many people. What does Cornell Plantations mean to Cornell faculty, staff and …
Cascadilla Gorge Trail to be Finished and Reopened...: Cornell University has secured enough funding to complete the …
The Cornell Plantations’ Natural Areas program will be the recipient of the tenth annual Richard B. Fischer Environmental …
The flowers may not be in full bloom yet, but poetry is at the Mundy Wildflower Garden at Cornell Plantations.
Enjoy this podcast featuring several Cornell Plantations staff people.
Todd Bittner, of Cornell Plantations, visits Ringwood Ponds Natural Area where the sounds of amphibians are filling the air!
Cornell Plantations has received The Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) Honor Award for Excellence in …
As wildflowers begin to bloom in the Mundy Wildflower Garden at Cornell Plantations, visitors with a mobile phone can …
In the March/April issue of the Cornell Alumni Magazine, the article "Safety First" gives an in-depth report on Cornell's …
Lee Dean, Plantations’ lead arborist offers his experience and expertise on pruning trees, with some basic tips in this …
People who love spending time in the natural areas of the Finger Lakes region and who care about preserving the integrity …
Cornell Plantations (the university’s botanical gardens, arboretum and natural areas) is a public landscape worth visiting …
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has awarded Cornell Plantations $880,000 to repair the damage and restore …
The Brian C. Nevin Welcome Center located in the botanical gardens has been awarded LEED (Leadership in Energy and …
Students and community members can now enjoy all the official trails through Fall Creek Gorge, as phase one of the …
Cornell Plantations hosted their second annual Let’s Move! Family Hike on Saturday, September 15, with over 300 families …
A collaborative project involving the Cornell Plantations and Cornell landscape architecture students focuses on planting …
Cornell Plantations is pleased to announce the successful protection of a seven-acre addition to the Caroline Pinnacles …
Peter Hatch, Monticello’s director of gardens and grounds emeritus, will be on hand to discuss the lasting legacy of …
Dr. Joan Maloof, ecologist, author, and founder of the Old-Growth Forest Network will be on hand to induct Plantations’ …
Join Plantations' as we kick off our Let’s Move! Family Hike on Saturday, September 15 from the Nevin Welcome Center at 2 …
Todd Bittner, Director of Natural Areas at Cornell Plantations talks swimming options for students.

Contact Us

Beth Anderson
Director of Development
Ph: 607-254-4727
beth.anderson@cornell.edu

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