URI student helps measure effectiveness of certification programs for green industry

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KINGSTON, R.I.- October 21, 2011 – University of Rhode Island junior Kristie Saliba spent her summer helping the “green” industry become even greener.

A marine affairs major from Burlington, Mass., she helped to evaluate the effectiveness of the Invasive Plant Management Certificate Program, offered through the URI Outreach Center for those working in agriculture-based industries. The program is aimed at helping these professionals become better acquainted with invasive plant management and the re-integration of native plants back into residential landscapes.

Saliba said that measuring the effectiveness of this type of training and certification program, which combines environmental protection with business growth strategies, allowed her to be involved with organizations that she hopes to work with in the future, like the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council.

The most challenging aspect of this project for Saliba was not having a background in plants. She was given a detailed native plant booklet to help identify the plants, but she had to learn basic botany first. Her mentor, URI researcher Kate Venturini, has an impressive background working with professionals and homeowners to include native plants in residential landscapes, which allowed her to be of aid in Saliba’s learning process.

The expertise Saliba gained about native plants was also required by all participants in the training sessions in order to pass the green industry certification program.

“Kate definitely showed me the skills I needed to get the job done, both in the office and outside. I’m going to use these skills in any job I have after college,” said Saliba. “The most enjoyable aspect of the project was feeling responsible and having somewhere to be every day of the summer and the satisfaction of completing the tasks that needed to be done.”

Saliba said that the project will continue until December, when she and Venturini will learn the results of the survey they sent to workshop participants about the effectiveness of the training programs.

“We want to know how the program can be improved so that professionals have the education they need to improve environmental quality,” Saliba said.

Saliba and Venturini will also complete the publication of a native plant booklet and the installation of a native plant system in the URI Botanical Gardens before the project is finished at the end of the year.

Saliba’s project was undertaken as part of the URI Coastal Fellows program, a unique initiative design to involve undergraduate students in addressing current environmental problems. Now in its 17th year, the program, based in URI’s College of the Environment and Life Sciences, teams students with faculty, research staff and graduate students to help them gain skills that will ensure their future success.

The URI student chose to study marine affairs because of its focus on the coastal environment, and her research project demonstrated an important aspect of her field of study — the link between environmental growth and business growth.

“What better way to experience working with environmental outreach then to work with the Outreach Center on campus?” said Saliba.