The Society for Economic Botany
Fostering research and education on the past, present, and future uses of plants by people.
SEB Student Council
Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with any of us – about SEB and the student group in general, opportunities or resources you would like to see us work with the SEB Council to make possible, or about our individual research!
John de la Parra
My interest in the field of (applied) ethnobotany is constantly growing through my passion - ancient and current cultural uses of various plant bark, its management, and commerce. I have a BA in Archaeology from Vilnius University (Lithuania), experience of working in the field, archives and in the laboratory. Last years of work connected me to ethnobotany and step by step I begin to specialize in Alpine, Arctic and sub-Arctic vegetation. So far I have been working with traditional knowledge of native peoples in Northern Scandinavia and South Western China. All along the way gained knowledge formed the solid and sustainable foundation of an accurate view of my individual scientific direction. I hope everything I do with the help of ethnobotany will contribute to informing the encounters between peoples in the North, reveal and heal the burdens of history, suggest new approaches to curation of indigenous peoples’ heritage, encourage cooperation among local, indigenous and other institutions.
Aloha! My name is Matthew Bond, and I’m a Canadian/American botany Ph.D. student at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. As a Cornell University undergraduate, I studied Plant Sciences with a concentration in Plants and Human Health.
Our lives depend on plants- for every five people in the world, three use medicinal plants as their primary source of medicine. I want to know how people choose these medicinal plants- why do people look at their environment and decide to use certain plants for medicine rather than others?
To answer this question, I’m currently working in Solomon Islands. My ten-month research trip is exploring how plants, and humans, and their environments affect one another, and may also help us to develop new medicines. Feel free to follow my adventures on my blog!
Student committee member Cory W. Whitney is a PhD Candidate at University of Kassel, Witzenhausen, Faculty of Organic Agricultural Sciences and Scientific Staff at the Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences in Kleve, Germany. He is a human ecologist, ethnobotanist, and organic agronomist with more than ten years experience in nonprofits, environmental educational organizations, and research institutions. Cory is interested in supporting and strengthening sustainable practices through education, development, and participatory research; seeking solutions to the interconnected issues of loss of biodiversity, loss of traditional culture, and food insecurity.
Betsabe D. Castro-Escobar
As a native of Puerto Rican, I grew up in tropical gem that is rich in biodiversity and natural wonders. My interest in plants and people began in my childhood when I use to help my grandparents prepare traditional herbal remedies whenever we got sick. My growing curiosity for plants and people motivated me to pursue a BS degree in Integrative Biology at the University of Puerto Rico and later a MA degree in Cultural Anthropology at the University of Missouri.
Now, I am a first year graduate student with Paul Fine and Thomas Carlson in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley . My general research interests lie in the intersection of the fields of tropical ecology and ethnobotany. I am especially interested in how humans can promote evolutionary responses to culturally significant plants. I attempt to compare the phenotypic variation and plasticity of ethnobotanical plants in different islands of the Caribbean Basin. I am also interested in establishing research sites in Northern California and the Amazon.
I am not the typical student, I am a single mother and after a long break from university I have returned to finish my degree. I have always been interested in plants since I was a young girl living in the North. Now I am an older "girl" living in the south and my love of plants and their uses has stayed with me these many years. As far as ethnobotany is concerned and my focus in my studies I am still trying to figure that out. At Florida State there has not been any professors interested in ethnobotany that could give me any guidance and most everything I have learned of plants has been self guided. I did some independent study on the medicinal uses of Hypericums of Florida along with georeferencing and have explored the biogeography of plants while at FSU.
I find myself interested in the evolution and biogeography of plants and how this has affected the the various cultures of the world but also how culture has affected plants and their dissemination over the planet. At this point of time in the history of our world I also find incredibly important the protection of this knowledge of the many uses of plants and also the conservation of said plants and the ecosystems within which they reside.
As an amateur botanist researcher who studied the cultural and scientific aspects of traditional medicine, with a specific focus on the types of herbal therapies that are used to heal, I did not think that there would be any majors that truly captivated all of what I wanted to learn as an undergraduate. However, after taking a biology class during my first semester called “The Botanical Roots of Modern Medicine,” my eyes were opened to an entirely new world of academic pursuits – ethnobotany and pharmacognosy. After being equipped with knowledge of traditional healing systems, traditional botanical knowledge and phytotherapy, I knew that this is what I wanted to study as an undergraduate and beyond into my doctoral degrees.
Wanting more experience within these fields, I began to conduct research involving medicinal plants and reaching out to those who had similar interest, which inevitably lead me to the SEB. Serving on the SEB’s Student Committee would allow me to share my passions for the field of ethnobotany, while creating opportunities for other students to access mentors, internships and SEB resources. As an undergraduate, I feel especially inclined to serving on the SEB Student Committee so that I can reach out to the undergraduate population of ethnobotanist to build a community that promotes academic inquiry and conversations amongst undergraduates interested in ethnobotany.
Anna Elise Stratton
I am a Biology and Food Systems (Environmental Studies) undergraduate student at Tufts University in the Boston area. My real passion lies in ethnobotany, however, and I am thrilled to have discovered the SEB student page and committee this year.
Since my freshman year of college, when I began working with Dr. Selena Ahmed (now at Montana State University) on her tea agroecosystems project, I have been enthralled by the plants-and-people relationships that make up ethnobotanical research. Following that spark, I have conducted two independent field-based research projects, the first on seed-saving practices among the Mapuche in southern Chile and the second on plant biodiversity and agroecosystem vitality in eastern Guatemala. My methods in the more recent project involved interviews with (Guatemalan) Q'eqchi' Maya farmers and maize grain collections for protein analyses. These dual methods illustrate my blossoming interest in finding ways to tell both plants' and peoples' stories about agroecosystem changes.