Garry's Gang

Robin DeRieux University of California, Davis
Greenhouse interns cultivate new skills outside the classroom

Pearson (above left) gives interns the backlot tour of UC Davis, shown here with Ariana Ramzian.
Students who are interested in a greenhouse internship with Garry Pearson need more than just a passion for plants. They need persistence.

Sophomore greenhouse intern Ariana Ramzian said it took several email inquiries before she heard back from Pearson, who serves as the lead greenhouse manager for the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Her persistence paid off, and Ramzian has been an intern at the west campus greenhouses since spring quarter of her freshman year.

An undeclared sophomore from Bakersfield, Ramzian is interested in a career on the business side of plants. In the greenhouses, she has helped cross-pollinate transgenic tomatoes and participated in research to develop a robotic cultivator for weeds.

“Garry doesn’t just give us a task to do — he explains the way plants work, and he shows us around different greenhouses and labs on campus,” said Ramzian. “I’ve gotten to see parts of campus I never would have visited otherwise.”

Plant sciences senior Scott Malain became interested in plants as a biology student at his local community college in Redding, California. He transferred to UC Davis and pestered Pearson until he landed a greenhouse internship.

Malain prefers to work with plants indoors, where temperatures and humidity are controlled. Unfortunately, insects and diseases that attack plants also thrive in the climate-controlled confines of greenhouses. So one day per month, Malain inventories 162 greenhouses and related structures on the UC Davis campus. He takes photos, checks for insects and other problems, and reports back to Pearson.

As an intern, Malain gets plenty of experience applying what he’s studied in entomology, plant pathology, plant sciences, viticulture, and related sciences. “In the classroom, it’s very theoretical,” said Malain, who intends to work in plant breeding after graduation. “In the greenhouse, you have to learn to solve problems using a variety of strategies.”

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