Federal scientists who run a "wildlife CSI" lab in Southern Oregon are planning a scientific garden to give the public a sense of the investigations they conduct inside.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a forensics laboratory in Ashland that helps jail poachers and wildlife smugglers. It has recently been expanded, at a cost of $10 million.
Much of the new space is in a sealed biological-containment lab for potentially dangerous viruses and items like "bush meat," a variety of dead animals smuggled from Africa for use in tribal customs.
In granting a construction permit, the city of Ashland asked the lab to include an educational feature.
The lab hit on the idea of a scientific garden, said Ed Espinoza, assistant director. He cited as examples a garden at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology based on mathematical equations and another at Cornell University based on wavelengths.
"Typically, if you know something about science, you can look at these gardens and think, 'Oh, I get it. That's what they're trying to capture here,' " Espinoza said. "And it's public art for the community."
A University of Oregon landscape architecture class took on the project. The agency paid the school about $4,600 for materials and travel. The students have come up with ideas, such as flowing grasses that look like zebra stripes, sculptures to mimic the bones of a poached whale, or a pond could appear like a cache of smuggled caviar.
"It's a different concept. Definitely, it's weird," Espinoza said. "The goal is to make a statement."
All the designs must feature berms to stop vehicles, Espinoza said.
"Homeland Security requirement," he said.
The public will get a rare chance to see part of the lab and to vote on the designs from noon to 8 p.m. Friday. Concerns about protecting evidence in ongoing federal cases means visitors cannot enter any of the individual labs, which will be blocked off with crime-scene tape.
Information from: Mail Tribune, http://www.mailtribune.com/