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ODU's Motley Delivers Talk to Botanical Society in New York City

Timothy Motley, the J. Robert Stiffler Professor of Botany in the Department of Biological Sciences at Old Dominion University, delivered a talk about the French Polynesian island of Rapa Iti to one of the country's most prestigious botanical societies on Sunday, March 7.

His presentation to the Torrey Botanical Society was at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Torrey Society, believed to be the oldest such society in the United States, gets its name from the Columbia University botanist John Torrey. His work in the 19th century helped to lift U.S. botanical sciences to the level of Europe.

The title of Motley's talk was "Botany and Natural History of the Remote Island of Rapa Iti." It was given at the annual banquet meeting of the Torrey Society.

Motley, who has done research on the island with a team of botanical experts, described unique discoveries of plant species, rare birds, unusual animals, archaeology, ethnobotany and shipwreck adventures.

An island of unique music, plants, culture and geography, Rapa Iti or Oparo, not to be confused with Rapa Nui or Easter Island, is a volcanic island 400 miles south southeast of Tahiti. Around the lagoon in the remains of the volcanic cone are towering peaks, atop which are ancient fortresses abandoned by the time of European discovery in 1871. As for the plant life found on the temperate-climate island, "scientists have found the vegetation of Rapa Iti to be one of the most difficult to classify and one of the most botanically distinctive islands of central Polynesia," Motley said.

The Torrey Society is an organization comprised of people interested in plant life, including professional and amateur botanists, students, and others who simply like to enjoy nature. The society began informally in the 1860s and incorporated about a decade later.

Today, the objectives of the society are to promote interest in botany, and to collect and disseminate information on all phases of plant science. These objectives are fulfilled through indoor meetings, field trips and publications. Since the publications have become standard reference materials for botanists, people residing in practically every state and in a number of other countries have become members. Thus, the society has become an international organization and is affiliated with the American Institute of Biological Sciences.

This article was posted on: March 6, 2010

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