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!
Alex graduated Magna cum Laude from Georgetown University where he earned a BSc in Environmental Biology and BA in Anthropology. A Washington, D.C. native, Alex’s academic interests include conservation science, historical ecology, and environmental policy. As a Fulbright-Nehru Research Scholar, he conducted independent research into wetland transformation in the Eastern Himalaya, and used oral narratives to buttress nascent spring renewal programs in Sikkim. Alex plans to pursue a MESc at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and is currently working at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Biodiversity Assessment Unit.
Aloha! I have been dreaming about plants and nature since childhood- around age seven, I started to collect and dissect plants in a manner that was eerily similar to my future university taxonomy and physiology classes. Now I study how plants and people interact at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, where I’m currently a third year PhD student.
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? My fieldwork in Solomon Islands explores how plants, and humans, and their environments affect one another, and may also help us to develop new medicines. Although I live in Hawai’i now I was born in Canada. As a Cornell University undergraduate, I studied Plant Sciences with a concentration in Plants and Human Health. My research in ecology, ethnobotany, and conservation has taken me to Rapa Nui, New Zealand, Patagonia, Costa Rica, and Dominican Republic. For more information, check out my website and twitter!
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 Puerto Rican, I grew up in a tropical island and Caribbean gem that houses a magnificent variety of ecosystems, biodiversity, natural wonders, and peoples. My interest for people and plants started around the time I helped my grandparents harvest & prepare traditional herbal remedies for our family. Beyond my childhood interest in natural and human systems, my growing curiosity motivated me to pursue a bachelor’s in Integrative Biology at the University of Puerto Rico, followed by a master’s in Cultural Anthropology at the University of Missouri. I also have several years of experience working in herbarium collections, as a field biologist, and even an eco-tourism guide. Currently, I am pursing a PhD in Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. Given my interdisciplinary interests, my main adviser (Dr. Paul Fine) is a tropical botanist/ecologist and my co-adviser (Dr. Thomas Carlson) is an ethnobotanist.
My primary focuses are ethnobotany, ecology, and evolution of plants of cultural/ethnobotanical significance in the Caribbean Basin. I am especially interested in how humans can promote evolutionary responses to culturally significant plants (ex. edible, medicinal, and others), how they vary phenotypically, how plastic can they be, where did these plants originate or came from, and how have they moved around and across islands in the Caribbean. By applying mixed methods, my efforts as an interdisciplinary scientist have also sparked an interest for understanding mechanisms that drive biocultural loss through studying the relationships between people and their environments, as well as how to best preserve traditional botanical and ecological knowledge.
Danielle Nicole Cicka
I am an MD/PhD candidate at Emory University. As an undergraduate at Washington University in St. Louis, I studied biology and political science with coursework in anthropology. As I constructed my academic path and learned from ethnobotanists, I envisioned how to sustainably utilize plant-based therapies to fill the gap in the world’s health care needs. For my PhD research, I hope to incorporate an ethnobotanical approach to drug discovery from natural products in ultimate support of finding novel therapies, supporting local communities, preventing neglected diseases, and providing accessible health care.
I am a second year medical student at Lincoln Memorial University. I did my undergraduate at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga, where I studied Biology and Chemistry with a minor in Spanish. My first interest in Ethnobotoany was when I took an undergraduate mycology class and I got interested in the medicinal properties of mushrooms. When I got to medical school I actually got to start research on those properties and we looked at how alpha Amanitin causes apoptosis in Nematodes. Currently we are writing a grant to do research on the Amatoxins with human cancer cells. I hope to keep researching the medicinal effects that plants can give us.
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 at Florida State University in Plant Sciences. I have always been interested in plants and their uses since I was a young girl living in the North and spent most my days exploring the woods behind our house. Now I am an older "girl" living in the south and my love of plants and their uses have stayed with me these many years. I have always been curious about the relationship of plants to people and their varied uses. I find myself interested in the evolution and biogeography of plants, and how plant families are used by differing cultures. Past projects at FSU have been an ethnobotanical study of our native Hypericums and I also did work in the RK Godfrey Herbarium curating specimens donated to FSU by Stetson University. It was exciting to come across many specimens from the early 1800’s collected in Hawaii and elsewhere. Also for the past 7 years I have spent my summers in Spain with forays into Portugal, Italy and France and have enjoyed learning about the plants and their uses in this part of the world. I am thrilled to be associated with the Society of Economic Botany and make connections with others that have a shared interest in plants and ethnobotany.
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.
After farming organic vegetables and fruits for five years across Canada, I worked as the head gardener at one of Canada’s National Historic Sites. Research for my job led me to the fascinating world of historic gardens and more specifically walled kitchen gardens. It was through my passion for walled kitchen gardens that I discovered Ethnobotany. I realized that Ethnobotany was the perfect fit for me and so in January 2016, I took a leap and started an undergraduate degree in Biology and Anthropology as a mature student at Trent University in Peterborough Ontario Canada. Trent has a strong Indigenous studies program and I hope that I will be able to learn about medical plants from the Elders while I am here. I am fascinated by many topics related to plants and people but ultimately my goal is to work with and research Cacti in the desert.