The Catawba College Professor Who's Back from Borneo
August 14, 2013
During the academic year, his students and faculty and staff colleagues at Catawba College know him simply as Dr. Jay F. Bolin, an Assistant Professor of Biology. But when classes ended and summer began, Bolin became an international collaborator doing field research in exotic Borneo.
Bolin recently returned to Salisbury from his third research trip to the Bornean nation of Brunei Darussalam. Over the summer, he and colleagues at the Universiti of Brunei Darussalam (UBD) studied the ecophysiology of parasitic plants (plants that parasitize other plants) and mychoheterotrophic plants (plants that use fungi as part of their nutrition). They also evaluated parasitic plants, such as dodder and love vine, for their potential threat to Bornean agriculture.
Bolin’s research trips to Borneo have been funded by the Universiti of Brunei Darussalam Science and Technology Research Grant No. 8. The primary investigator is Dr. Kushan Tennakoon at the Universiti of Brunei Darussalam, whom Bolin met as a Ph.D. student at Old Dominion University. Dr. Tennakoon was a visiting Fulbright Scholar to Old Dominion at that time.
Bolin says the research has been a "fruitful collaboration" and has allowed him to have two botanical papers published in collaboration with the Universiti of Brunei Darusallam (UBD) in the journals Plant Species Biology and Functional Plant Biology. Three more manuscripts regarding parasitic plants and written with Bolin’s colleagues at UBD are now in review.
Brunei Darussalam is known as the "green heart of Borneo," Bolin explained, due to the nation’s emphasis on expanding ecotourism to their extensive rainforests largely spared from logging.
"This nation, he said, "stands in contrast to the other Bornean nations of Malaysia and Indonesia that are unfortunately known for their slash and burn agriculture for oil palm production. Brunei is located on the northwest coast of Borneo and is a small country, slightly smaller than Delaware, but with many, many times the plant and animal diversity seen in that state. For example, North Carolina has about 650 tree species, while Brunei has well over 2,000 tree species in a much smaller footprint."
Bolin is currently working with Catawba College and the UBD to help develop a student exchange program that will bring Bruneian students to Catawba College and to provide an international experience for Catawba students. Bolin’s colleague, Dr. Kushan Tennakoon, is the director of the Kuala Belalong Field Studies Centre in the Temburong District of Brunei Darussalam, "a wonderful place I hope to bring Catawba students in the future," Bolin said.
Bolin made his first research trip to Borneo in 2009. He actually signed his employment contract at Catawba College while he was researching in Borneo during the summer of 2011.