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ODU Doctoral Student in Ecological Sciences Wins Fulbright Award

Jay F. Bolin, an Old Dominion University doctoral student in ecological sciences, has won a student Fulbright Program award to continue his dissertation research in southern Africa on a group of parasitic plants in the genus Hydnora.

The award, for the 2008-09 school year, will allow Bolin to work with faculty and students at the University of Namibia and with scientists at the Namibia National Botanical Research Institute.

Bolin did field work in Namibia for the last five months of 2005, and one of his advisers is Erika Maass, a faculty member at the University of Namibia. At ODU, he is mentored by Lytton John Musselman, Mary Payne Hogan Professor of Botany.

The young researcher has focused on the unusual Hydnora species, which grow underground in southwestern Namibia and steal water and sugars from the roots of other plants. Hydnora triceps "breaks all of our preconceived notions about what constitutes a plant," Bolin said. "It never sees light of day, has no leaves and produces an odor of rotting flesh to attract its pollinators underground."

Mining in Namibia may be threatening Hydnora, and Bolin proposes to clarify Hydnora taxonomy with molecular and classical methods. This information and studies on the reproductive biology of the plant are important for its conservation. He also intends to mentor University of Namibia students and to give a seminar on molecular techniques in plant ecology and systematics.

Musselman, who established a collaborative relationship with the University of Namibia eight years ago, said he finds the award to his student to be "very exciting and personally fulfilling."

In 2006, a photograph that Bolin took in southern Africa of Hydnora africana in full bloom won a plant images contest sponsored by the Botanical Society of America.

Bolin is one of more than 1,450 U.S. citizens who will travel abroad for the 2008-2009 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, which is sponsored by the Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

The program, which was established in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, operates in over 155 countries. Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields.

The Institute of International Education administers the student program. For further information, visit http://fulbright.state.gov or contact James A. Lawrence, Office of Academic Exchange Programs at 202-453-8531 or fulbright@state.gov.

This article was posted on: June 30, 2008

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