Dr. Patrick Bohlen
Director of UCF Arboretum
Professor of Biology
September 2017

Q: What does Sustainability mean to you?
A: Sustainability is a multifaceted concept that can mean many different things to different people and depending on the context in which the term is used. In general, I agree with the general definition that emphasizes meeting the needs of the current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. That approach has a lot of practical utility, but a major issue with sustainability is that many of our most unsustainable activities are related to using resources in an unsustainable fashion to meet our wants and desires and not our needs. Sustainability ultimately boils down to deciding what kind of world we want to live in, and what we need to do to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy the same kinds of basic goods and services that we are able to enjoy.

Q: Describe the class you teach.
A: I teach a class in introductory environmental science for non-majors. One of my goals is to provide students with the tools they need to think critically about the many environmental issues that affect their lives. I also want them to understand the process of science as a particular application of rational methodology, and that empirical arguments need to be based on empirical evidence.

Q: What do you do at UCF to advance sustainability?
A: I serve on the University Sustainability Advisory Committee(SAC), and also on the land and water SWAT teams. My background is in ecology and environmental science and horticulture, so my major contributions are in those areas, which address the environmental leg of sustainability. On the practical side, I oversee landscape and natural resources, where our initiatives focus on reducing water consumption for irrigation, reducing our use of chemical pesticides through integrated pest management, and adopting fertilizer practices that minimize impacts on downstream ecosystems. On the academic side, I advance sustainability by incorporating sustainability principles into my introductory environmental science class, and supporting high impact educational opportunities in urban ecology, urban agriculture, and natural resource management through the UCF Arboretum.

Q: How can students get involved in your work?
A: We have many opportunities for student internships and work study positions at the Arboretum and in Landscape and Natural Resources. We also support a limited number of directed independent study and undergraduate research opportunities through the Arboretum.

Q: What is your vision for sustainability?
A: One of the areas that seems to get lost in the sustainability discussion is the challenge of sustaining our ecological systems, in particular the impacts of human development on biodiversity. I would like to see sustainability programs place more explicit emphasis on sustaining biodiversity which requires that we place much more emphasis on how we manage natural systems and how we can design and build human systems in a way that enhances biodiversity to the maximum extent possible. Since much of the built environment involves replacing and altering natural systems, this remains a major challenge. There are many ways this can be accomplished, but the metrics are not as easily understood as things like reducing energy consumption and water use.

Q: What is one sustainable practice you do that you would suggest to students and faculty?
A: Reduce your energy consumption. Of course there is more than one way to do that, but if you use it as an organizing principle, you can have a big impact.