EEB graduate student Na Wei has been awarded the Barbour Scholarship for 2013-14 by the Rackham Graduate School.

Wei joins a long line of outstanding women who, over the past 98 years, have become leaders in science, education, public service, medicine and other fields in their home countries all over the world. She will receive $18,000, tuition and health and dental insurance for the academic year. Her advisor is Professor Christopher Dick.

Wei’s dissertation research focuses on seed- and pollen-mediated gene flow in tropical trees. “Seed and pollen dispersal are the most important phases of plant life cycles because they successfully move genomic materials over time and space,” Wei explained. “Up until now, our knowledge of the relative importance of seed- and pollen-mediated gene flow in trees has been biased toward temperate zone species. With primarily wind-pollinated and -dispersed temperate zone trees, pollen flow is recognized as the principle avenue of gene transport. Yet, it remains unclear whether this generalization for northern species can be extrapolated to tropical moist forest trees where animals are the primary pollinators and seed dispersers.

“My research seeks to evaluate this generality of pollen-dominated gene flow in tropical trees by unambiguously decomposing the seed and pollen component from the overall gene flow in a suite of dioecious (distinctly male and female) trees of different dispersal and pollination syndromes growing in the mature forests of Barro Colorado Island, Panama.

“With spatially explicit pathways of seed and pollen movement, this research will be able to quantify the relative magnitude of seed and pollen dispersal in this set of distantly related tropical tree species, and will improve our understanding of the respective ecological and evolutionary importance of seed and pollen dispersal in relatively under-studied tropical forests. It provides a solid empirical framework for latitudinal comparisons between tropical trees and temperate zone trees, as well as comparisons between tree species of different life history characteristics."

Wei is originally from China. She graduated from Nanjing University with a master's degree in ecology.

In 1914, the bequest of Levi L. Barbour established a scholarship program at U-M for women of the highest academic and professional caliber from the area formerly known as the Orient (encompassing the region extending from Turkey in the west to Japan and the Philippines in the east) to study modern science, medicine, mathematics and other academic disciplines and professions critical to the development of their native lands.