ATLANTA – The Southern Nursery Association (SNA) has announced that Dr. Richard Olsen, U.S. National Arboretum director, and Dr. Thomas Molnar, Rutgers University associate professor, will take the lead with The Southern Plant Conference for 2018 as chair and co-chair, respectively. Olsen and Molnar follow in the footsteps of Dr. Michael Dirr and Don Shadow, two world-renowned plantsmen who have led the program for many years.

Dr. Olsen’s early education has roots in the SNA Research Conference and its student competition. He was also a Sidney B. Meadows Scholarship Award recipient in 1996 (NCSU) and 2000 (UGA).

He has served as the Director of the USDA-ARS United States National Arboretum (USNA) in Washington DC, since May 3, 2015. Prior to that position, he was a research geneticist and lead scientist in the Floral and Nursery Plant Research Unit (FNPRU) at the USNA. He served as acting director of the USNA in 2014 and as acting assistant director of the USDA-ARS Beltsville Agricultural Research Center.

Dr. Olsen has a Bachelor of Science degree in landscape design (NC State University), a master’s degree in horticulture (University of Georgia) and a doctorate in horticultural science (NC State University). He joined the USDA-ARS in 2006 as a research geneticist for the urban tree breeding program at the FNPRU. He reinvigorated the USNA’s urban tree program and developed new woody ornamental breeding projects utilizing genetic tools such as ploidy manipulation and interspecific and intergeneric breeding strategies. His research has focused on the development of superior landscape trees with pest and disease resistances combined with non-invasiveness. Dr. Olsen provided scientific leadership for the USNA germplasm program that led to unifying collection and curation efforts within the Woody Landscape Plant Germplasm Repository and subsequent germplasm characterization in the program. He is a recognized international leader in the public garden arena,

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