The Commerce Bank Center for Science Education is the focal point of the Missouri Botanical Garden’s expanding education and sustainability programming. An integral feature of the Garden’s main campus, it is located at the corner of Shaw Ave. and Kingshighway, and joins the Monsanto Center (the Garden’s center for science and conservation) on the campus’ western border.
Located within the 58,000 square-foot facility are offices of the Garden’s Education Division; Sustainability Division, including EarthWays Center; Information Technology Division; Center for Biodiversity Informatics (CBI); Center for Conservation and Sustainable Development's (CCSD) US Plant Conservation Program and Missouri Botanical Garden Press. In addition, Garden affiliates headquartered at the facility include the Center for Plant Conservation (CPC) and the U.S. Green Building Council-Missouri Gateway Chapter (USGBC-MGC). The facility includes a 9,000 square-foot event center of five classrooms and an executive meeting room as well as a kit-lending library for local educators.
Opened in 2003 after an extensive renovation, the facility is a model of green design and construction. Formerly a manufacturing facility, it was upgraded with energy efficient building systems, water saving plumbing, environmentally friendly building materials and native plant landscaping. Recently a 25 KW solar photovoltaic roof top array was installed to provide electricity for five percent of the building’s energy needs. A display in the lobby allows for real-time monitoring of energy production by the solar panels and creates a sustainable learning opportunity.
The Education Division, headquartered at the facility, is a diverse team of professional and passionate educators who share a common goal: To deliver exemplary, experience-based education that increases understanding, appreciation and conservation of plants and the natural world, and inspire people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to think and act in sustainable ways. In addition to enriching a diversity of visitors at its public destinations through interactions, exhibits, classes and special events, the Garden’s Education team provides in-depth learning experiences specifically designed for students, teachers and entire schools. Programs are science-driven and nature-based, including preK-12 on-site student experiences, field labs, outreach programs, teacher professional development, online resources, service learning opportunities and school partnerships.
The Sustainability Division facilitates and implements sustainable policies, procedures and practices on behalf of the Garden. This includes addressing energy and resource efficiency, waste reduction, transportation issues and indoor environmental quality within Garden facilities and operations. The division also provides leadership in advancing sustainability throughout the region.
The EarthWays Center, a department of the Sustainability Division, leads the Garden’s outreach efforts in these areas. Staff work with audiences in both Missouri and Illinois to promote sustainability through environmental education and improving the built environment – primarily through the program areas of green campuses (K-12 and universities); sustainable businesses and communities; green homes; and green building. By educating and demonstrating options about sustainable lifestyle choices they help people realize their choices can minimize their current and future impact on plants, the local environment and the world at large.
The Information Technology Division (IT) plans, develops, purchases, implements, operates and supports the technology needs of the Garden worldwide including computers, printers, copiers, networks, telephones and software used for office automation, retail, garden operations, administration and science and conservation.
The Center for Biodiversity Informatics (CBI), part of the IT Division, seeks to provide innovative technology solutions to the global community of life science scholars in order to mobilize, integrate and repatriate data about the world’s biodiversity. The Tropicos® project is creating a dataset which is the largest single repository of scholarly botanical information made freely available online. Tropicos® contains more than 4 million records documenting the occurrence of the world’s plant species. Another project, the Biodiversity Heritage Library, is a global community of natural history libraries and research institutions who have formed a partnership to digitize and make available the world’s biodiversity literature.
The US Plant Conservation Program of the Garden’s Center for Conservation and Sustainable Development (CCSD) conducts scientific research on native plant populations and communities in the Midwestern United States and helps to preserve rare and threatened plant species and their habitats. Program staff use a variety of methodologies to conserve native plants, including seed banking (ex situ or off-site conservation), demographic and population monitoring, seed germination research, experimental life-history studies, rare plant reintroductions, and habitat restoration. The US Plant Conservation Program maintains an ex situ collection of 29 rare species in the Conservation Science lab that are part of the Center for Plant Conservation’s (CPC) National Collection of Endangered Species.
Missouri Botanical Garden Press (MBG Press), part of the Science and Conservation Division, plays a key role in the Garden's mission to discover and share knowledge about plants and their environment. Through two peer-reviewed, quarterly journals, the Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden and NOVON, A Journal for Botanical Nomenclature; regional floras; and other books, including the series Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden, MBG Press provides an important outlet for the dissemination of botanical research. Book-length publications, co-publications, certain botanical publications from other publishers and individual issues of MBG Press journals ordered online are stored and shipped from the facility. Botanical art reproductions scanned from the originals in the rare book collection of the Peter H. Raven Library are produced on site and distributed from CBEC.
The Center for Plant Conservation (CPC) is solely dedicated to preventing the extinction of U.S. native plants. The Center was one of the first organizations created to meet this need. The CPC is a network of 37 leading botanic institutions. Founded in 1984, the CPC operates the only coordinated national program of off-site (ex situ) conservation of rare plant material. This conservation collection ensures that material is available for restoration and recovery efforts for these species. CPC is an independent non-profit organization. Through an agreement with the Garden, CPC staff offices, archives and meeting space are housed at the facility.
The U.S. Green Building Council-Missouri Gateway Chapter’s mission is to initiate, develop and accelerate implementation of green building concepts, technologies and principles that promote environmentally responsible, prosperous and healthy places to live and work. Through a contract with the EarthWays Center the Missouri Gateway Chapter’s executive offices, meeting space and educational venues are housed at the facility.