Join us! Become a Student Committee Member

Hello Everyone,

It’s hard to believe that we are just one month away from our annual conference in Bragança, Portugal! Our Student Committee has been hard at work planning events for junior members of our Society. We hope to see you there! Are you a student and would you like to join our team for serving the committee in 2017-2019?

Submit your application before May 28


56th Annual Meeting “Global vision on Indigenous Plants and Economic Botany”: Botanist Rupert Koopman was guiding conference members to a local nursery, South Africa 2015

The SEB Student Committee is happy to announce a call for nominations for the SEB Student Committee Member Positions. This is a great opportunity for both undergraduate and graduate students to network with established members of the SEB community, develop projects with the support of the SEB Council and prior student committees, and develop leadership experience.

We are seeking candidates for:
2 At-large (Graduate or Undergraduate) Student Committee Member Positions
1 Undergraduate Student Committee Member Position

We have a great group of students currently working together – as we can attest, this is a really fun way to meet and collaborate with peers that face similar questions and challenges about pursuing research and study in ethnobotany!

Alexander O’Neill (on the right), the incoming chair of the SEB student committee

What do the positions consist of?
Student Committee Member Positions: Student Committee Members will serve two-year terms (2017-2019) and collaboratively interact to produce new student initiatives and maintain existing initiatives (SEB Website Student Pages, SEB Student Blog, SEB Student Facebook Group, Twitter and Instagram accounts, administration of Charles B. Heiser Jr. Mentor Award and more). In addition, the Student Committee typically works with Trish Flaster, the editor of Plants and People, to write and submit various articles of interest to the Spring and Fall Newsletters.

Don’t let the details scare you off! These are great positions and a really special way to tap into the financial and experiential resources of the Society for Economic Botany. You can make a difference and help the economic botany student society to grow!  We hope that different Committees, with different members, interests, and skill sets, will propose and orchestrate new initiatives.

If you’re interested in being a candidate, please submit: (1) a photograph, (2) a few sentences expressing your interest in the field of ethnobotany, and (3) a few sentences telling us why you’d like to be on the Student Committee. Please email this to Sandra ( and Alexander (

DEADLINE, May 28th, 2017

Join, share, and invite!  We appreciate your support, and look forward to seeing you in June!

Thank you,
The SEB Student Committee

SEB Student Blog |
Facebook Public page |
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Society for Economic Botany
4475 Castleman Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri 63110
Ph. 314-577-9566, Fx 314-577-9515
Mission: To foster and encourage scientific research, education, and related activities on the past, present, and future uses of plants, and the relationship between plants and people, and to make the results of such research available to the scientific community and the general public through meetings and publications.

SEB Seeks Nominations for Heiser Award

Charles B. Heiser Jr. Award Society for Economic Botany 2017

DEADLINE, May 28th, 2017

Dear SEB Student Members,

With registration still open for the 58th SEB Annual Conference and the II Encontro Hispano Português de Etnobiologia entitled “Living in a global world: ethnobotany, local knowledge, and sustainability” (June 4-9, 2017), we would like to issue a call for nominations for the Charles B. Heiser Jr. Mentor Award.

The Student Committee initiated the Award in 2007 to recognize outstanding economic botanists who have substantially impacted the training and professional development of economic botany and ethnobotany students. The Mentor Award is named in honor of Charles B. Heiser, Jr., Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Indiana University and spotlights dedicated educators who foster the development of the field by example and through student mentoring. A student-nominated award, it acknowledges mentors who are experienced, knowledgeable, trustworthy friends, counselors, and teachers.

Current SEB student members and recent graduates (up to 3 years) are invited to nominate a mentor who has influenced their development in the field of ethnobotany. Students who wish to nominate a mentor should submit a letter explaining why they believe their nominee should be selected for the award to Sandra ( and Alexander (

Eligibility criteria for nominated Mentors:
1. Open to SEB members (closed to non-members)
2. Closed to previous awardees

Eligibility Criteria for Students to Nominate a Mentor:
Students and recent graduates (within 3 years) who are current SEB members

Please submit your nomination letters by no later than May 28th, 2017.

Dr. Sunshine L. Brosi
2014 Recipient of the Charles B. Heiser Mentor Award.

We look forward to reviewing your submissions!

Sandra Bogdanova
Student Representative

SEB Student Blog |
Facebook Public page |
Twitter |
Instagram |

Society for Economic Botany
4475 Castleman Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri 63110
Ph. 314-577-9566, Fx 314-577-9515

Mission: To foster and encourage scientific research, education, and related activities on the past, present, and future uses of plants, and the relationship between plants and people, and to make the results of such research available to the scientific community and the general public through meetings and publications.

Cork Excursion


Hello! Please let us know if you have any questions about registering our Cork Excursion in Portugal. If you would like to share a room or ride, we can also connect you with other student members.

Facebook Contact: 

Conference Update | Cork Excursion
9 June – 10 June 2017
After the SEB conference in Portugal, society members can take a tour of wine and cork producing areas.

For details, see below!

Tour Break Down – with Transport – Total price €350

-Pick up From Hotel in Bragança at 06:00am June 9
-Arrive at Herdade da Maroteira ( at 10am (on 9th)
-Check-in to hotel
-Be given a welcome coffee and cakes
-After the welcome a small introduction we will go for a small walk around the cork forest
-After lunch jeep tour into the forest to see the cork stripers and then the rest of the farm
-5pm back to rooms for rest
-7pm Wine tasting (Herdade da Maroteira Wines) followed by dinner
-Back to hotel for a good nights sleep
-8am Breakfast
-9am Back to the forest to see more of the cork strip or maybe a visit to a winery (this bit we will leave open)
-Noon all drive in cars to Evora where Jose will walk you around town (lunch will be for own account).
-2pm Leave Evora for Lisbon
-4pm Drop off in Lisbon – Goodbyes and farewells.

SEB Meeting Travel Award – Bragança, Portugal

2017 Society for Economic Botany Meeting Student, Post-doc and Least Developed Country Member Travel Awards


We are excited to announce that we will be able to provide four travel grants to attend the 58th Annual Meeting of the Society for Economic Botany! These merit-based awards will be made in the amount of $800 to be used towards transportation and lodging. Awardees will also receive complimentary registration to the meeting.


Interview with 2016 DEB Tony Cunningham

By Sandra Bogdanova

Is there a better way to end this year than by listening to some lifetime wisdom? This time it is our Distinguished Economic Botanist (DEB) of 2016 – Anthony (Tony) Cunningham. He is an internationally known ethnobotanist from who has seamlessly linked his work at the interface between nature and culture with a successful fine art practice. A true source of inspiration for every ethnobotanist.

For over 36 years, Tony’s research and art have been influenced by the power of place, the beauty of nature and the wisdom of local people in the remote areas of Africa, Asia, Australia and the Pacific. His books “Applied Ethnobotany” (2001) and “African Basketry, Grassroots Art from southern Africa”Âť (2006,) along with his on-going work with Southeast Asian textile weavers, are a testament to his respect for cultural knowledge and the power of place on his work.

  1. What led you to the world of ethnobotany? How did it all begin?

Good question. All SEB members have wonderful “origin stories” to tell. Enough for a book…which would be like a strong rope of woven threads, for many “how did it all begin” stories have common threads. In my case, three stimuli were a catalyst. First, my grandfather, a kind man and Zulu linguist, who worked in remote areas and had respect for all people, across all cultures. Second, my parents: a father, an artist and architect who loved African art and environment and a mother who love plants and gardening. Then thirdly, what brought these components together was a book on my grandfathers shelf: Mairn Hulme’s 1954 Wild Flowers of Natal, which featured most of the plants in the area I grew up, giving their Zulu names and uses. So those “footprints” from other people were the start of a trail I have followed all my life, despite apartheid, no jobs for ethnobotanists, and, at the time, no detailed “how to do it” ethnobotany methods manuals.


  1. Could you describe a typical day at work?

I am the worst person to ask that question, as I don’t have a “typical day at work.” Or a “typical day” depends where I am working. Which might be teaching in Papua New Guinea, doing fieldwork with Indonesian colleagues in eastern Indonesia (I go there in three days time), or in Africa, where I recently completed a study on illegal logging and ripple effects onto ivory poaching, or my home office in Fremantle, Australia, where I currently live, or from my home in South Africa. It is in southern Africa where I have my strongest “sense of place” and where I will return in three years time. Simply put, I haven’t had a “real job” since 1984, when I finished my PhD. All the rest of my life has been working on “soft grants.” Or none. But I get up really early, work long hours, with the common threads are that I don’t have TV at all (which saves a great deal of time), nor Facebook or Twitter. If the weather is bad and I am at home, I deal priority issues first (I make lists). If the weather is fine I go out fishing from a sea kayak as the sun rises, then have breakfast, make an espresso, and start my day….


  1. You’ve encountered cultures around the world. How have you chosen where to settle and down the roots?

I haven’t settled yet. But I know where I want to be. At the moment, I think of myself as a migrant worker away from my African home, to which I will return. Yet I feel comfortable in many parts of the world, with which I have been privileged to build up close connections with wonderful people and places over many years of collaborative work: India (particularly Tamil Nadu); China (especially Yunnan and Sichuan); Western Highlands, Papua New Guinea; and then, most of all, East and southern Africa. So as my art website indicates, I think of myself as “Gondwanan” (see: www.


  1. What can you say about the role of local communities for ethnobotany?

This is a complex question, which needs more space to answer. But the close connections between place, plants, and culture are not only important in terms of “roots” and the past, but also “shoots” and the future. Local knowledge, which is eroding in many places, is so important at many levels, including adaptation to climate change.


  1. Can you describe your academic and/or professional philosophy?

While I wear an “academic hat,” trying, as a person not on any salary, to keep publishing (which is an important responsibility for all of us). I am an “applied problem solver” by nature, who having seen the damage done by academia chopping up the integrated, multi-disciplinary real world into single disciplinary themes, has tried to do transdisciplinary work as much as possible. Mainly applied to real world issues: conflicts between people and conservation areas, for example.


  1. You’ve had a long and successful career—do you have any general life and/or professional advice for young and aspiring ethnobotanists?

If you love learning new things and intellectual challenges, then ethnobotany (or better still ethnoecology) are the fields for you. This is an incredibly exciting time for ethnobotanists and ethnoecologists. New techniques (such as genomics and accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon dating) offer amazing opportunities for linking with older methods and for research collaborations. Never be satisfied that you know enough. There is always more to learn. Try to save time by giving up time-wasting things, so you can “go down the rabbit hole” following information trails of credible, peer reviewed research that connects to what you do. Try to be the best at what you do. And expect hardship. Expect to be knocked back. But be determined, resilient, professional, and above all, passionate. For that is what will get you through thirsty, sweating places with biting flies or boring bureaucracy.


  1. Is there a study or collaboration that you wish you could find time to work on (past or present)?

I wish I had opportunities to teach more, particularly if there was a field course component. I love teaching at all levels, from the village level in southern Africa to teaching well-established Papua New Guinean researchers and scholars. But I am rarely paid to teach and without a salary, cannot afford to do so pro bono very often. So if there are visiting scholar grants out there, let me know!


  1. What do you read or study in your free time?

I am currently reading two thoroughly enjoyable books. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (by Yuval Noah Harari) and The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander von Humbolt, Lost Hero of Modern Science (by Andrea Wulf). But some days, I am tired of reading. So that is where fishing (good weather) or watching a movie (most recently “Brooklyn” about Ireland, choices, and sense of place) are something I do. One can only read so much…then I need a break!


  1. We have noticed a decline in membership, especially with students in the past years. Do you have any advice for reversing this trend?

This is an unfortunate trend. And it can be reversed. SEB has been pro-active at asking established scientists to mentor younger SEB members on chosen themes. “Teaching Tuesday” and the workshop that I was part of at the previous SEB meeting in South Africa was great fun. Probably for me most of all, meeting such super-smart, keen young people who will go on to do great things. Perhaps a variety of short thematic field trips that were low cost and affordable after or before SEB meetings are an option. Or universities and SEB trying to get endowments or grants for guest teachers within established courses. Enthusiasm is infectious. Particularly in a field situation, where people can experience plants through taste, touch, and through the stomach! That can reverse the trend.


  1. While you are an inspiration in our field and a legend in your own right, you have also worked with and been friends with many legendary ethnobotanists across continents. Do you have any stories or wisdom from working in that environment that you could share with our members?

Always be open to new ideas. Grasp opportunities and take risks. Trust scientific methods and always think creatively. In some cases, what we thought was rock solid information turns out to crumble like sand. Be skeptical of “legends.” We are all human. And fallible. I have seen some “legends” behave very badly in local community situations. And there is no excuse for that.


  1. What is the most recent direction you have taken in your career, and why?

I have recently renewed my work as a fine art print maker. I studied etching in the early 1980s, moved very heavy etching press around for years, within Africa and Australia. But the technique is slow and less versatile for me. So I have been using a different method of doing Giclée prints, with the designs now expanded to textiles. My most recent exhibition was 10 – 28 February 2016 at Kidogo gallery in Fremantle, Australia and went very well. I don’t have Facebook, but the gallery does


  1. What do you see as your legacy?

On the ethnoecological (and ethnobotanical) science side, my legacy is in two parts: publications and people. Publications (such as my book Applied Ethnobotany: People, Wild Plant Use and Conservation (2001, Earthscan), which is published in Chinese, Spanish, and English) have been useful, I think. But can be updated and improved. Ideally, “living documents” in the form of online, easily updated resources would be best. But most of all my (and I think as scientists, our) most powerful legacy is through the people we work with, inspire, and who also inspire us. Particularly young people. That is the SEB opportunity. And the challenge.



Tony Cunningham at his Fine Art exhibition at Kidogo, 2016

The story first published in the Spring 2016 issue of Plants and People, the Newsletter of the Society for Economic Botany. Find it here.


Sandra Bogdanova is a Student Representative to the SEB Council 2015-2017 . She holds a BA in Archaeology from Vilnius University, MA degree in Indigenous studies from UiT the Arctic University of Norway. Over the years, she has been working on projects in Norway, Finland, Lithuania, China and India that use community-based research approach, combine environmental education, local plant knowledge, and heritage food. Currently working with herbal medicine she is also an independent scholar, practitioner and a member of British Beekeepers Association (BBKA). You can follow her research and activities here: