Campus: CSU San Marcos -- November 28, 2005

Cal State San Marcos Faculty Member Receives Fulbright Scholar Award

George Louis Vourlitis, professor of biological sciences at California State University San Marcos, has been awarded a Fulbright Scholar grant to conduct research at Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso (UFMT) in Cuiaba, Brazil, during the 2005-2006 academic year, according to the United States Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

Vourlitis will study the ecology of transitional tropical forests in Brazil. This project will enhance an already strong collaboration between researchers at both institutions. Lead by Vourlitis, the binational group has been quantifying the mass and energy exchange of Amazonian tropical transitional forest and pasture ecosystems since 1999.

The transitional tropical forest, which is considered an ecotonal ecosystem, exists between tropical rainforest and savanna ecosystems. According to Vourlitis, "To our knowledge, we are the only group conducting ecological research in this regionally important tropical ecosystem."

The objective of the research is to quantify the links between carbon and water cycling and to understand how these links are affected by seasonal and interannual variations in climate. According to Vourlitis, because ecotonal communities such as the transitional tropical forest are transitional in nature, they are hypothetically more sensitive to climate change.

Another important goal of the project is to strengthen Brazilian tropical ecology research by instituting sustained research and training programs. To achieve this, Vourlitis and his colleagues have developed intensive, short courses for students and faculty at UFMT that focus on ecophysiological theory, instrumentation and analysis.

Vourlitis joined Cal State San Marcos 1998. His varied research projects have taken him from the Alaskan Arctic, to Southern California chaparral, to Brazil. Currently, he oversees more than nearly $1 million in research grants, including more than $650,000 in funding as part of a prestigious CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation to study how nitrogen resulting from human activities impacts carbon cycling in Southern Californian semi-arid shrub lands. He is also one of several researchers involved receiving a total of approximately $7.25 million as part of the multi-year SCORE program. The National Institutes of Health (NIH)-through their Minority Biomedical Research Support program-funds SCORE to advance professional development and research efforts of faculty doing work within the field of biomedical sciences.

In 2003, he was honored on campus with the President's Award for Scholarship and Creative Activity.

Vourlitis is one of approximately 850 U.S. faculty and professionals who will travel abroad to some 150 countries for the 2005-2006 academic year through the Fulbright Scholar Program. Established in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the program's purpose is to build mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries.

The Fulbright Program, America's flagship international educational exchange activity, is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Over its 59 years of existence, thousands of U.S. faculty and professionals have studied, taught or done research abroad, and thousands of their counterparts from other countries have engaged in similar activities in the U.S. They are among more than 265,000 American and foreign university students, K-12 teachers, and university faculty and professionals who have participated in one of the several Fulbright exchange programs.

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