BLOOMING BIODIVERSITY at the Philadelphia Flower Show

CBEST's 2022 Flower Show exhibit
CBEST Exhibit Philadelphia Flower Show

The 2022 Philadelphia Flower Show theme was “In Full Bloom.”  Our Center is committed to fostering conversations that broaden the connections between science and community, and we were excited to share some of what we do through our exhibit at the 2022 Flower Show.

Our exhibit, anchored in biodiversity, explored local habitats and native plants and their relevance to the health of ecosystems and humans, focused on native Pennsylvania species and the importance of native biodiversity to the resiliency and health of habitats in a changing world. In our exhibit, you could find a bog, a marshy wetland, an upland forest, and an open meadow on display— systems like these are places in which we work all over the world. We also incorporated scientific tools to encourage conversation and demonstrate research in action and animal art created by our own graduate student, Margaret Boyle. The CBEST exhibit was designed and implemented by a team of students and researchers, and we were proud to bring you a glimpse of our science in a world of Blooming Biodiversity.  Damir Creecy, a graduate student also working on the team, created the incredible Story Map that accompanies the exhibit. Our team was incredibly hard working and creative and we are now happily planting our native species back at Villanova where they will add to the burgeoning biodiversity of the campus.

The plants we used for the exhibit are all straight native species found in the wilds of PA and can now be found at Villanova University.


The PHS judges awarded us several honors including:

WINNER of the 2022 PHS Gardening for the Greater Good for Education exhibits.

WINNER of the 2022 Pennsylvania Landscape & Nursery Association Trophy.

WINNER of the 2022 Massachusetts Horticultural Society Gold Medal for Educational exhibits.

WINNER of The 2022 PHS Silver Medal (Educational) for major exhibits receiving 80-89 points.


Check out the Media Room Feature Story that highlights our team and our exhibit.



This exhibit explores a tapestry of ecosystems: woodlands giving way to sunny open meadows, dissipating into marshes and bogs lower in the landscape. Our meandering boardwalk, much like those we build in our research sites, helps connect science with nature. We urge you to imagine yourself walking among the blooms and textures in these systems populated exclusively with PA native trees, shrubs and herbs. This matrix of life inspires us every day; and as you also explore, we hope you will find something you’ve never seen or thought about before. 

Plants historically native to Pennsylvania are on display in the exhibit. As our climate changes and biomes shift, plants and animals that once lived exclusively in southern climes are marching north. Plants like these are building blocks for ecosystems and biodiversity everywhere. Understories and overstories, plants and animals, insects and blooms are all intertwined into a functioning healthy resilient whole.

All plants will return to Villanova where they will be incorporated into educational displays including a bog garden and native plant pollinator friendly gardens. Trees and shrubs for the exhibit were graciously purchased for the exhibit by the grounds department and will also be planted on campus. The entire collection of the exhibit will contribute to the biodiversity on campus, actively supporting Villanova’s Sustainability Plan, enhancing Biodiversity on campus.

Students working on PHS exhibit amidst many plants
Bins of mosses on a table ready to be installed in PHS bog




In the exhibit, we’ve tucked in tools we use for the research that is done in habitats like these all over the world. Take a closer look at the exhibit for: a precipitation collector used to evaluate rainwater chemistry, field notebooks, automated bird feeders used to tease apart bird behaviors and a marsh organ that helps us study how sea level rise impacts wetland system.

Our equipment inspires you to think about how complicated these systems are, how and why we seek to understand them, and how important they are globally. As scientists, we ask questions, hoping that a meticulously planned experiment will provide answers. How does an ecosystem store carbon? How are plant ranges shifting in response to climate change? What environmental factors impact songbird migration? How is pollution impacting the health and function of a system?

A precipitation collector, used to collect and evaluate rainwater
A precipitation collector, used to collect and evaluate rainwater
A marsh organ - pvc pipes arranged in a step-wise fashion elevating some above waterlevel
A marsh organ helps scientists study the impact of sea level rise on wetland systems.


Our exhibit is inspired by the research we do everyday


Our Exhibit Design Team and Collaborators

Margaret Boyle '22 MS  Chickadee and Titmice social structures and interactions

Jocelyn Bravo '24 MS Trait development of marsh grasses under variable conditions

Damir Creecy '22 MS  Effects of elevation on mangroves

Morgan Mack '24 MS  Volnerability of coastal wetlands to nutrient pollution

Tess Adgie, Research Technician, Wetland Ecologist (Marsh/Mangroves)

Kim Scott, Research Associate, Peatland Ecosystem Ecologist (Bogs/Fens)

The Villanova's Grounds Crew was instrumental to the success of the exhibit, under the guidance of the Horticulture Manager Hugh Weldon. The Grounds Division of Villanova also supplied trees and shrubs, and helped source reusable local Villanova resources for the project.

The John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum graciously donated some of the wetland vegetation used in the marshy/wetland

The Villanova Center for Resilient Water Systems shared campus stormwater wetland plants, and will re-home these and other wetland plants after the exhibit is complete.

We also thank the Associate Director, Conservation, Plant Breeding and Collections at Longwood Gardens, Dr. Peter Zale, for his consultation and for offering native orchids to the educational bog garden.


Science meets nature, and nature is our research lab. Maintaining the biodiversity of native habitats is important for not only ecosystem processes with global consequences, but also to our own physical and mental well-being. We hope to inspire you to get out into these beautiful systems, to take a breath, to refresh, and to connect.