January 22, 2014

The Last 6-Months: My Unbelievable New Job!

So my last post is dated July 1st, 2013, which happens to be the day I started my current job (which probably explains the lack of posts). I'm not sure I can still call it my "new job", since I've been at it for over 6 months now. The job still feels new to me since my tasks seem to change almost every 2 weeks. Until I complete a full year, I won't really know what the entire job entails.

I knew of the potential vacancy about 6 months in advance of the job being posted, so I had to wait and wait and wait some more. This was especially taxing considering that I had to jump from one temp-job to another about 5 times between finishing my Master's Degree and starting my current job. However, one of those temp jobs was pretty awesome...I got to teach a semester of undergraduate-level introductory biology. One of my main career goals has always been to teach at the college level, so achievement unlocked!!! Unfortunately I was an adjunct faculty, which means crummy pay and absolutely zero job security.

My official title is Annual Trial Garden Manager for the Michigan State University Horticulture Gardens. Most people don't know what trial gardens are, which makes the job frustrating at times. Here's a short explanation: Horticulture breeding companies (think Proven Winners, Syngenta, Ball Horticulture, etc.) send their newest (and usually unreleased) plant varieties to me to be grown in our gardens. Sometimes they send seeds, while other times they send rooted cuttings. We grow them in our greenhouses and once the plants are ready for transplant, we plant them in our gardens (in a very organized and well-documented manner). We then evaluate the plants throughout the growing season and assign scores to each plant. This numerical data (along with our personal comments) are summarized at the end of the growing season and sent back to the breeding companies. They use this information to determine if a variety is ready to be released to the general public. Sometimes, breeding companies also submit varieties that have already been released, simply so they can show off their plant material to the visitors to our gardens (we get approximately 200,000 visitors each year).

I'll explain more about my job in future posts (I could go on and on), but overall it has been an absolute blast. I feel incredibly privileged to find a career in the field I went to school for. This job is so much fun...it makes me feel like my 8 years of higher education were actually worth it.


  1. Hi!
    So nice to hear from you again.
    I wonder who pays for these trials. Are they funded by MSU?

  2. The breeding companies pay us to trial their material, since it is valuable information for them to collect. Unfortunately, the trial fees only cover a fraction of the time and labor involved in the gardens each year. In theory, we earn some of the cost back from donations from visitors and benefactors who are attracted by the flower display. We are not funded by the University in any way, so we rely on donations and fundraisers.

    It's also challenging for us to raise funds because we are not able to charge an admission fee to the gardens. We can't charge admission because we can't fence-off all of the entrances to the gardens (since it's right in the middle of campus).


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