Local JMU student to continue research in Galapagos Islands

Bridgewater native and James Madison University graduate student Julia Stutzman will be heading to the Galapagos Islands Feb. 7 to research the plant genus Cordia.

Stutzman, who will receive her master’s degree in biology this spring, is trying to determine how many species of Cordia grow in the archipelago, located about 600 miles west of Ecuador in the South Pacific.

While there are perhaps 300 Cordia species around the world, current literature states there are four Cordia species found only in the Galapagos. JMU biologist Conley McMullen, who published Flowering Plants of the Galapagos in 1999, isn’t convinced the identifications are accurate.

“One of them is obviously different from everything else, so we would agree that there are at least two species,” said McMullen, who advises Stutzman and will make the trip too. “But these other things they say are divided into three species, you really can’t tell what they are. And that’s what Julia’s project is, to study all of these plants that have been collected and determine whether they should be considered different species and if so, how many. It’s possible we could say ‘no,’ this is all just a very variable single species or we might say it’s just two species or we might agree it’s three or we might actually have to say there are four.”

Stutzman, who will return from the trip Feb. 22, graduated from Turner Ashby High School in 2004 and from Bridgewater College in 2008, where she earned undergraduate degrees in biology and environmental science.

Edited by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at freepress2@ntelos.net.

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