SEB Conference Awards – 7 March 2018

This year the SEB awill be providing eight travel awards for students to attend our joint conference in Madison, Wisconsin (3 – 7 June 2018). Four awards will be granted to student and postdocs, and another 4 will be dedicated to members from developing countries or countries recently affect by natural disasters. The deadline is quickly approaching – 7 March 2018.

Indigenous Biocultural Exchange Fund

Great opportunity to sponsor you or our SEB affiliates!

IIE Logo sized for Program Pages.png

The Indigenous Biocultural Exchange (IBEX) Fund provides financial assistance to an individual to attend global biocultural events/exchanges or meetings of international significance which impacts the applicant’s home territory or region. This fund supports indigenous peoples and local communities to have a voice in the policies and forums that concern biocultural diversity at a global level.

Applications will be accepted until January 29, 2018 at 11:59 pm EDT for conferences taking place between March 1, 2018 to July 31, 2018. You can find the application form online. Please take time to review the eligibility requirements before completing the application.

Job Opportunity: Remote Sensing, GIScience and Ethnobiology

This is an excellent opportunity and example of interdisciplinary applications of ethnobiology and economic botany. Please check the job description, as it describes technical skills demanded in our evolving field.

Alexander R. O’Neill

Student Representative, Society for Economic Botany and Masters Candidate at the Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University


Northwest Indian College invites applicants for a full-time faculty position on Lummi campus. This position has primary teaching responsibilities that support the BS in Native Environmental Science, and research related to harmful algae, ocean color, and remote sensing through the Salish Sea Research Center. Research and scholarship related to this position will focus on climate resiliency issues important to the students and communities that Northwest Indian College serves. The candidate should hold a MS or PhD in earth, atmospheric, or geospatial science, or a closely related discipline, with extensive experience in climate science, environmental science, or natural resources. The applicant’s work should engage with climate resiliency issues, as applicable to GIS, remote sensing, and ocean color. In addition, preference will be given to applicants with experience with critical geography / cartography. Applicants should also have experience with maintaining and upgrading hardware and software typically used in GIS and GPS applications, such as: ArcGIS, Terra Sync, and Trimble GPS equipment. Experience with open-source software used in GIS and image processing is highly desired.

More details available here:

Researching Ayahuasca in the Amazon

Written by Michael Coe, SEB Student Ambassador at Large.

Over the last few months I have been working with several volunteers from Alianza Arkana as well as Laura Dev, the Research Coordinator for Alianza Arkana, to help assess the overall importance and sustainability of medicinal plants among certain Shipibo communities.

Before beginning the research, I participated in a focus group that Alianza Arkana facilitated in the community of Paoyhan, to discuss priority areas that the community would want to focus their efforts for future development.

When we asked the community members who attended the focus group about how they felt about the importance of traditional botanical knowledge, they discussed how having a local botanical garden would help them access plants that have become more difficult to find in the area and aid in passing on local ecological knowledge to younger generations.

I agreed to help with this project, as it will provide a way to give back to the community in a tangible way. During the focus group, community members agreed that the research I had planned for my dissertation, aimed to determine which medicinal plants were important and irreplaceable to the community, would be complementary to the long-term community driven botanical garden project.

To do this work, we interviewed 30 community members of diverse ages about their use of various plants for medicinal purposes, such as for illness, injuries, during pregnancy and childbirth, as well as for artisanal purposes such as dyeing fabrics. We also asked about which plants were easy to access, and whether they were already being grown or managed.

(Laura Dev, Maestro Gilberto Mahua, and Michael Coe in Paoyhan after an interview with the Maestro about important medicinal plants he uses for healing and learning.)

We anticipate that the results from these interviews will aid the community in determining which plants will be essential to include in their botanical garden. Although the botanical garden project is in the initial planning phases now, we are looking forward to developing this project further with the community, and will be writing more about the garden as it progresses.

In a different Shipibo community, we conducted research in efforts to help aid the development of a forest management plan for an economically important medicinal vine species, Banisteriopsis caapi, which is one of the two plants used to make ayahuasca, a culturally important psychoactive brew.

I designed a demographic project and worked with Laura Dev, Diego Kau, Orestes Rengifo, and Karl Vikat from Alianza Arkana, as well as other Shipibo community members, to assess the effect of harvest on wild populations of vines in the community territory.  In total, we gathered the first season of plant demographic data on a wild population of over 200 B. caapi vines located in a primary forested area of the Peruvian Amazon rainforest, owned and managed by the Shipibo community.


(Wild Banisteriopsis caapi a.k.a ayahuasca growing in the Peruvian Amazon.)





During our field work, we spent seven days in the forest taking measurements of vines, and mapping out plots over the territory. We set up 6 plots (3 with high harvest levels and 3 with low harvest levels), to assess the effect of harvest pressure. The conditions were both challenging and rewarding, with long days walking through the dense forest in the heat without clear paths, locating plants. One of the greatest challenges we faced, to be honest, is that every time we stopped to take measurements or record notes, we were feasted upon by relentless swarms of mosquitoes, more intensely than we had ever hoped to experience.

Despite the discomforts at the time, we learned a lot from the experience, and our admiration of our local Shipibo guides only increased as we saw how effortlessly and skillfully they navigated this difficult terrain, and how deeply they knew the plants and the forest. We are grateful for the opportunity to see the plants in their native habitat and to begin this project, which we anticipate will contribute to helping these important plants persist over time.

We will follow up with at least one more year of demographic data to fulfill essential data requirements needed to assess long term population dynamics of the vines. This study has the potential to illustrate the critical importance of carefully managing harvest regimes of B. caapi populations. Managers employing harvest regimes based on results informed by this study will have greater capacity to develop more realistic management plans that are ecologically sound with respect to long term sustainability of B. caapi harvested populations.

(Karl Vikat, Laura Dev, and Michael Coe ready to head out into the forest to begin setting up plots and taking measurements for an ayahuasca vine sustainability study outside of a Shipibo community).


A version of this article was first published on the Alianza Arkana website, and was reproduced with permission of the author.




Ethnobiology in the Eastern Himalayas


SEB Student Committee members Alexander R. O’Neill and Santosh K. Rana recently published a review of ethnobiological knowledge in the Eastern Himalayas. Focusing on the northeast Indian state of Sikkim, a former Buddhist kingdom, they found that over 1,100 species of animals, plants, and fungi have written ethnobiological records in the region. The majority of these species were plants (995 species; 625 genera; 160 families) that were used as medicine for gastro-intestinal afflictions, dermatological conditions, and respiratory-tract infections. But many more were integrated into aspects of folklore and regional spirituality. Using site occurrence records, Alex and Santosh then interpolated species distributions based on altitudinal range. They found that the greatest number of species facing human extraction pressures have ranges that fall well outside of protected areas in Sikkim. Moreover, the majority of medicinals were pending IUCN Red List of Threatened Species assessments. Alex and Santosh suggest data from ethnobiological publications can serve a conservation purpose by highlighting where and how intensively species are extracted from the environment. They also were the first ecologists to quantify aspects of biocultural diversity in the Eastern Himalayas, and hope that their methodology can help other scientists bridge disciplines for conservation purposes.

Alexander R. O’Neill

Student Representative of the Society for Economic Botany & Masters Candidate at the Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University


Read more:

Integrating ethnobiological knowledge into biodiversity conservation in the Eastern Himalayas



Summer 2018 Internship at Morton Arboretum

The Morton Arboretum is recruiting applicants for 2018 summer undergraduate fellowships, which runs for 10 weeks and covers housing and a generous stipend. Each fellow works closely under one scientist. Morton Arboretum scientists cover a broad range of topics: basic tree biology, forest ecology, arboriculture, biomechanics, root biology, soil science, population biology, genetics, phylogenetics, systematics, conservation biology, and restoration ecology. The program endeavors to promote critical thinking, self-confidence, and perseverance, while helping prepare students for graduate studies and professional careers in science-related fields.
Information about undergraduate fellowships and the application process can be found here

Information on the Morton Arboretum can be found  here and information on research at the Arboretum can be found here . Students are encouraged to contact lead scientists directly to discuss potential areas of study. Please contact with any general questions.