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ODU Lecture Series Features Famed Conservationist Mark Plotkin

plotkinMark Plotkin

If Indiana Jones had been an ethnobotanist, Mark J. Plotkin could very well have served as inspiration for the character.

Educated at Harvard, Yale and Tufts University, the Louisiana native has spent decades immersed in South America's tropical jungles learning from shamans about traditional plant use. In 1996, he co-founded the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) and has since worked with 32 tribes to map, manage and protect 70 million acres of ancestral rain forest.

On Feb. 28, Plotkin will visit the Old Dominion University campus as the 2013 Lytton J. Musselman Natural History Lecture speaker. The 7:30 p.m. event, which is part of the President's Lecture Series, will be held at the Diehn Center for the Performing Arts. It is free and open to the public.

Beyond conservation, Plotkin's work has the potential to significantly impact millions of people in Hampton Roads and around the world. He believes lessons learned from indigenous plant use could be instrumental in overcoming drug-resistant bacteria and treating diseases such as diabetes, where Western medicine has fallen short.

Plotkin's efforts have garnered international acclaim, numerous national media appearances and even an Academy Award nomination for the IMAX film "Amazon," in which he played a leading role. Time magazine hailed him as an "Environmental Hero for the Planet" and Smithsonian magazine placed him in company with Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg and Wynton Marsalis as one of "35 Who Made a Difference." Other accolades include being the first environmentalist to win the "Social Entrepreneur" designation from the Skoll Foundation and an award for "International Conservation Leadership" from celebrated primate researcher Jane Goodall.

For more about Plotkin, visit ACT's website or watch an excerpt from The Shaman's Apprentice.

The ODU President's Lecture Series features speakers who share their knowledge, experiences, opinions and accomplishments. Past speakers have included scientists, writers, educators, historians, Pulitzer Prize winners and other prominent figures.

This year's event marks the 10th annual lecture in the Musselman Natural History series, which is supported by an endowment. Musselman is the Mary Payne Hogan Professor of Botany at ODU.

The effort to launch the lecture series was led by Michael Pitchford, an ODU alumnus and former biology student of Musselman who is now president and chief executive officer of Community Preservation and Development Corp. in Washington, D.C. He and his wife, Sue, also an ODU graduate, provided a substantial gift to the lecture series endowment.

For more information or to RSVP for the Feb. 28 event, visit www.odu.edu/univevents (event code: MPL13).