SEB Call for Student Rep Nominations

Dear SEB Student Members:

Please consider applying and encouraging others to apply to be a SEB Student Representative.  Even if you just want to get more involved, we would love to hear from you as we utilize a small group of students to provide advice and direction.


POSITION                     Society for Economic Botany – Student Representative-elect
LENGTH OF TERM      June 2020 – June/July 2022

The Student Representative-elect serves a two-year term for the Society for Economic Botany, first as the Vice President of the Student Committee and then as the President of SEB Student Committee and as a voting member on the SEB Council. This position is responsible for spearheading initiatives of the Student Committee, and promoting student outreach. The Student Representative holds voting rights on the SEB Council just as other SEB Council members. At the annual meeting, they are also responsible for organizing a student social event, and for presenting a summary of the student council’s activities during their term. The Senior Student Representative will fill one of the at-large SEB Council positions and will hold voting rights just as any other Council member. The Senior Representative will take the primary leadership role, but the interaction is expected to be collaborative with contributions from both the Senior Representative and the Representative Elect. For more information please contact current Student Representative Aja Grande ( or Student Representative-elect Karsten Fatur (

Established in 1959, The Society of Economic Botany is an international organization dedicated to research and outreach activities related to plant resources. It is principally interested in the relationship between plants and people, and ensuring the results of such research are accessible to both the scientific community and the public. Currently, the society draws members from over 60 countries, who are concerned with botanical, phytochemical and ethnological studies of plants known to be useful or those which may have potential uses so far undeveloped.

This position is open to Masters and PhD-candidates who are currently enrolled. Please send a one-page resume as well as cover letter that speaks to your qualifications for this position and what you hope to achieve as the Student Representative. Submissions should be sent to both Aja Grande ( and Student Representative-elect Karsten Fatur (

The deadline for this application is 30 April 2020.

Best wishes,
Aja Grande
Student Representative, SEB

featured image from Baiba Prūse, researcher from the Institute for Environmental Solutions, Latvia (June, 2019).

To the love of ethnobotany and spirit of adventure

By Baiba Prūse with contribution of the ethnobotanical team from Institute for Environmental Solutions (Latvia).

The authors hope that the photo-essay will touch the young and emerging ethnobotanist especially in regard to the adventure ethnobotanical expeditions can bring on individual level. The following photos will reflect an ethnobotanical expedition to Latvia (Rūjiena & Naukšēni municipality) which took place in June, 2019.


“In natural science the principles of truth ought to be confirmed by observation.”

― Carl Linnaeus –


“Zieds ir tikpat liels kā jūra. Neskriet taisni jūrā, nebrist ziedā, nekāpt dvēselē, bet iet tuvu līdzās, apiet apkārt, palikt tuvu.” [In Latvian]

Translation: The flower is as big as the sea. Do not run straight in the sea, do not step into the flower, do not climb into the soul, but go next to it, around, to stay near.

– Imants Ziedonis –


“A herbarium is better than any illustration; every botanist should make one”.

― Carl Linnaeus –


“One never reaches home,’ she said. ‘But where paths that have an affinity for each other intersect, the whole world looks like home, for a time.”

– Hermann Hesse –



The credit of the photos goes to the ethnobotany team (picture above) and the people from the municipalities: Baiba Prūse, Signe Krūzkopa, Līva Roze, Ieva Mežaka, Andra Simanova



Thanks for the positive encouragement from the ethnobotanical team of Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Italy.

The work has been supported by ERAF co-finansed project ‘Innovative solutions for growing technologies and applications of spring medicinal and aromatic plants’ (Nr.



Quotes by Carl Linnaeus:;

Quote by Imants Ziedonis:

Quote by Hermann Hesse:



Postponed: ISE-SEB Conference 2020

Dear SEB Students,

The ISE-SEB Conference of 2020 in Jamaica is postponed until next year, 2021. The SEB office will process automatic refunds for all those who have already paid registration fees. If you have booked accommodation, please contact your provider.

We hope you all remain safe and healthy in the coming months with the surge of the global pandemic COVID-19. Best wishes to all of those whose universities and institutions are asking students to leave on such short notice.

See official announcements here:

See official newsletter below.




Helping hands: The role of assistants in Ethnobotany

Post by Karsten Fatur, SEB student representative elect, PhD student in biology at the University of Ljubljana.


As the sun shone on the Adriatic, I watched families flocking to the beach, enjoying another perfect day in paradise. My legs, however, were not carrying me to the sea’s cool embrace, and my back turned on the pristine beauty and revelry behind me.

I knew today was not a perfect day.

At about 35 degrees by 10am with the sun beating down on me, I headed off to conduct my interviews for the day on the usage of medicinal plants in the coastal region of Slovenia. Though the weather was indeed beautiful for a day on the beach or one spent reading in the shade, for fieldwork it was not ideal. For hours I stood in the hot sun, unable to find shade in the scrubby Mediterranean vegetation. My hands were busy trying to do a many things (taking notes, collecting and photographing samples, and recording the interviews), so I could not hold the umbrella I would usually use to shade myself from the sun. When the wind picked up, things got even worse, with my samples trying to fly away with each gust that also pulled at my various supplies and made it more difficult to hear the informants whose answers were crucial to my research. At one point, the cellphone I was recording on overheated and could no longer function. 

I, however, was lucky; I had assistance. An extra set of hands from my friend who had accompanied me to help me with interviews on that day. Hands that held the phone close to informants’ mouths as they spoke, while I gathered samples with others. Hands that flew in to offer extra hold on things that tried to fly off in the wind. A body that would sometimes stand over me and block the sun’s harsh rays from falling on the back of my neck. 

Field assistants, the unsung heroes of ethnobotanical research. Though in my case just a friend with no background in either botany or cultural studies, just the extra set of hands so eager to help made all the difference in a day that otherwise could have been a disaster. 

Whether they be friends, family members, student assistants, or local guides, those who assist us in our research carry out a fundamental role that I feel is too often overlooked. In their least-involved capacity perhaps they are carrying some of your things for you, but at most, they may be the local person who speaks a language that you do not and is your only means of communicating with the people you are trying to interview. 

I must admit, before this day I had given the thought of assistants little thought; I have always conducted research in areas where I was able to communicate with the local people, and my previous fieldwork had been at a much slower pace. But with three individuals all standing around waiting on me in order to share their knowledge and get on with their days out of the sun, the pressure to carry out my tasks as quickly as possible was on. Without the help that day, I simply would not have been able to carry out my work. I would have lost samples to the wind, my recording would have been muffled from being down on the ground with me by the plants, and I surely would have come home realising that my day had been a complete failure on the research front. 

It does beg the question of what role a research assistant plays in our work. An author for a publication is usually one who makes an intellectual contribution to the work, but isn’t this what a local translator would be doing? Taking the words of their peers and shaping them into a narrative in a language that we can understand. In this case, the assistant is the first filter on the data. Does this make their contribution significant enough to warrant being included as an author on your publication, or is a note of thanks in the article more appropriate? I don’t have an answer to this question. I suppose context is key. But where do we draw the line between someone who has carried out field research with us and someone who has helped us carry out field research? Maybe these are pedantic questions, but since that day I have thought of them. 

Though ultimately my friend will not be listed as an author on the paper that will hopefully come from this research, he will definitely be thanked in it. Though he may not have translated for me or helped to identify plants, the extra set of hands was exactly what I needed on that day, and a true show of friendship that he was willing to come and help me when he could have spent his day on the nearby beach lounging in the shade while the clear blue waves lapped at his feet. 

Image: Wikimedia Commons

A Remembrance of Dr. Isabella Aiona Abbott, (1919-2010) World Renowned Expert in Central and Pacific Algae: the Intergenerational Transmission of Ethnobotanical Knowledge through Women

by Aja Grande, Ph.D. Student of civic infrastructures and land ecologies as spaces of subject formation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the department of History, Anthropology, Science, Technology & Society (HASTS).

Isabella Aiona Abbott

A photo of Abbott in the Stanford lab. Chuck Painter. Stanford Report, Dec. 7, 2010.


*The following is an excerpt from a paper in progress.

I welcome the opportunity to note how quickly one’s customs and religion can be swamped by the newcomer, bent on complete change, tolerating nothing of the old. […] Aloha no i ka wā i hala (Great affection for the time that is past). The plants are still with us, and we have learned how to plant and care for them, and to duplicate the crafts if not the craftsmanship. If we seem inordinately proud of our ancestors and what they contributed, it is because the pride has brought back the spirit of the Hawaiians (Abbott, 2002: 3-6).

During the winter of 2017, I found myself rummaging through a storage room stocked with old Hawaiian history books from my paternal grandmother’s high school teaching days. Joan, my grandmother, traces her ancestry to Portuguese and Spanish subjects of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1883. She used to teach Hawaiian history at Leilehua High, a public school on the west side of O‘ahu island. While I parsed through the shelves, my grandmother poked her head in to discover my sincere interest in her archived life. In her usual direct way, she asked, “Tell me what you’re looking for.” I replied, “Something about plants.” Her eyes scanned the shelves… “Here,” she said, and bestowed to me a copy of Dr. Isabella Aiona Abbott’s 1992 publication, La‘au Hawai‘i: Traditional Hawaiian Uses of Plants.[1] It is through this inheritance from my grandmother that I have grown to appreciate the book’s author, Dr. Abbott, who dedicated her life to identify and classify seaweeds in ways that called upon both indigenous Hawaiian knowledge systems and Western botanical frameworks. Serendipitously, heritage of Abbott’s work to me from my grandmother reflects a longer lineage of Hawaiian tradition that has seen women passing ethnobotanical knowledge down to their daughters and granddaughters. This course of knowledge transfer between women exists among indigenous groups globally, in Latin America,[2] Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America.[3] The following paper about the late Dr. Isabella Abbott, world renowned expert in central-Pacific algae, shows how a remembrance of her work may contribute to redefining notions of the environment in what seems like another era of cultural revival for Native Hawaiians.

As a mediator between Indigenous knowledge systems and Western frameworks of science, Abbott represents a way of communicating between two epistems, or genealogies of knowing, which infuse current-day disputes about land rights in Hawai‘i. To some, the Hawaiian Islands are recognized as the fiftieth state of America. For a handful of Native Hawaiian activists, the archipelago is regarded as sovereign territory. From a third view, a global community of scientists sees part of Hawai‘i’s lands, such as Mauna Kea (“white mountain”), as the ultimate place on Earth for an international observatory: the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). TMT’s directors argue that its construction on Mauna Kea “represents the pinnacle of human imagination and innovation, enabling in-depth understanding of the origins of our universe while pushing further the frontiers of human knowledge.”[4] Protesters from around the state and around the world have spoken out against the building of TMT, and have literally camped out on the mountain to block construction worker access to Mauna Kea’s summit.[5] Some protesters have expressed they are protecting a way of life, while others, such as Trisha Kehaulani Watson, voice that the movement is “all about the needs of Hawaiians being disregarded for 125 years.”[6] At these intersections of social-political unrest, I hope that this paper on Abbott might show how one life story can bring to light the wider arc of possible conciliations on settler colonial grounds where frameworks of Western science and Indigenous knowledges come face to face in confrontational ways.

Abbott, as a half Native Hawaiian and half Chinese ethnobotanist, defines human relationships to the ‘āina (“that which feeds”) as part of nature as opposed to outside of it. As this remembrance demonstrates, Native Hawaiian women, as well as other Indigenous groups of women around the world, have been integral stewards of plant cultivation. In a co-authored article titled “Ua lele ka manu, or ‘The bird has flown’: Science education from Indigenous/local/place-based perspectives” Abbott as one of the contributors points out an “educational issue in science” which emphasizes that in Hawaiian, “there are no words that convey western meanings of science, nature, or physical universe as separate from culture and identity.”[7] Abbott has participated as an authority within the realms of both the traditional uses of Hawaiian plants and the Linnaean classification system of taxonomy. Her concept of humans and nature as inseparable is not only useful for ethnobotanists and biologists, but also important for Native Hawaiian activists and lawmakers involved in land rights and the sovereignty movement.

Based off of archival evidence and in the analytical framework of STS (Science and Technology Studies), I argue that Abbott’s social science work gives testimony to the ways in which Indigenous Native American ways of life can undergo reinvention in wake of colonialism. I discuss how her work connects to existing literature throughout the world on women’s ethnobotanical knowledge. Identifying aspects of Abbott’s work on the inter- generational transmission of Native Hawaiian women’s ethnobotanical knowledge reveals how the telling of her story speaks to issues of gender and indigeneity, topics which anthropologists and ethnobotanists have likewise grappled with. In this work, I posit that Abbott’s contributions within the period of the Hawaiian Renaissance from the 1960’s through the 80’s reveals how she represents a kind of figure that maintains Hawaiian culture by combining indigeneity with Western science. Her story exemplifies the ways in which Indigenous and Western knowledge systems might proceed to more convivial and synergistic forms of understanding, living, and discovery.



[1] Abbott, La’au Hawaii: Traditional Hawaiian Uses of Plants.

[2] Voeks, “Are Women Reservoirs of Traditional Plant Knowledge? Gender, Ethnobotany and Globalization in Northeast Brazil.”

[3] Howard, Women and Plants: Gender Relations in Biodiversity Management and Conservation.

[4] “News about TMT in Hawaii.”

[5] “Bruno Mars joins Jason Momoa and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson to voice support for TMT opponents.”

[6] Watson, Trisha Kehaulani. “Seeking Long-Delayed Justice On Mauna Kea.”

[7] Abbott et al. “Ua Lele Ka Manu: Indigenous/local inquiry methods.” Page 2.


Works cited

“News about TMT in Hawaii.” TMT International Observatory. August 22, 2019.
Bergeron, Louis. “Isabella Abbott, World-Renowned Stanford Algae Expert, Dies at 91.” Stanford Report, December 7, 2010.
Abbott, Aiona Isabella. La’au Hawaiʻi: Traditional Hawaiian Uses of Plants. Bishop Museum Press, 1992.
Chinn, Pauline, Isabella Aiona Abbott, Michelle Kapana-Baird, Mahina Hou Ross, Lila Lelepali, Ka’umealani Walker, Sabra Kauka, Napua Barrows, Moana Lee, and Huihui Kanahele-Mossman. “CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: Ua Lele Ka Manu; The Bird Has Flown: A Search for Indigenous/Local Inquiry Methods.” Counterpoints 379 (2011): 262–79.
Howard, Patricia. Women & Plants. Gender Relations in Biodiversity Management & Conversation.
Lee, Diane S. W. “Bruno Mars joins Jason Momoa and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson to voice support for TMT opponents.”
Lee, Diane S. W. “Bruno Mars joins Jason Momoa and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson to voice support for TMT opponents.” Star Advertiser. July 31, 2019. momoa-and-dwayne-the-rock-johnson-to-voice-support-for-tmt-opponents/.
Voeks, Robert A. “Are women reservoirs of traditional plant knowledge? Gender, ethnobotany and globalization in northeast Brazil.”
Watson, Trisha Kehaulani. “Seeking Long-Delayed Justice On Mauna Kea.” Civil Beat. August 28, 2019. justice-on-mauna-kea/.

Accepting workshop proposals: SEB / ISE Conference 2020, Kingston, Jamaica

SUBMIT to the SEB / ISE 2020 conference – we have a call for workshops (deadline 15 January) and for abstracts that fit within 12 Symposium Themes organized according to 7 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) ! Click here to submit workshop proposals on the official SEB website.

SEB_ISE conference.jpg

Out of Many, One People: Biocultural Diversity across Borders Joint Meeting
Joint Meeting
Society For Economic Botany
International Society of Ethnobiology
May 31 – June 4th, 2020
The University of The West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica
In collaboration with The New York Botanical Garden

SEB / ISE Conference website

Stay tuned on social media for more announcements:
SEB Student Twitter
SEB Student Facebook



local and diaspora plants in African Alliance of RI community garden — Food Sovereignty

A blog post about a recent community engagement excursion–led and written by Society for Economic Botany Student Representative, Aja Grande, Ph.D. student in History, Anthropology, Science, Technology & Society at MIT.

Wednesday, September 19, 2019 Providence, RI On the corner of Elma Street and Prairie Avenue sits an abundant garden plot belonging to the African Alliance of Rhode Island (AARI), teeming with familiar vegetables. With privilege, two students and I were able to get to know the garden by way of Julius Kolawole, founder and director […]

via local and diaspora plants in African Alliance of RI community garden — Food Sovereignty