Vote for SEB Student Representative-Elect 2020!

Biographical sketches of candidates and the vote ballot are here:

The election period will close at the end of May. Official results will be announced soon thereafter.

A heartfelt thank you to all of the graduate student candidates who have applied! You are all outstanding. We appreciate your patience throughout this whole process. Best wishes with your work!

Aja Grande, SEB Student Representative 2020

Writing for newspapers, magazines, and blogs

By Susanne Masters, who is working on PhD research at Naturalis Biodiversity Center, writes articles for assorted publications, and taught a Calderwood Seminar on public writing at Bard College this spring. 

ethnobotanical articles examples Orchids articles examples

Extending an invitation to the realm of science or getting a paycheck for writing. Either of these motivations or others might lead a scientist to write for non-academic publications.  Regardless of your motivation, in the first place I would recommend that you approach writing with humility; remember that journalists spend years studying and learning on the job how to write articles that appeal to their readers. And in that the second important consideration is demonstrated; you are writing for the readership of the publication.

As an ethnobotanist or ethnobiologist the obvious writing niche in which you have particular knowledge and expertise is ethnobotany and ethnobiology. You might branch out into other topics when you have more non-academic publications in your writing portfolio, but as an initial step use to your advantage what you already know well.   Being an expert on an area can be a great asset when you are asking that first editor to take a chance on someone without published features.  Because when you pitch a story idea to an editor you are also pitching why you are the best person to write it.

Getting your foot in the door
You wouldn’t expect to walk into a University ask for a tenure track Professor position and get it – there are steps you follow to build up to it from undergrad to postgrad, and onwards. An editor needs to be able to trust that you can deliver the story you are proposing. This is helped by seeing articles that you’ve written published by other places.

A manageable way to start scaling that mountain is to write an article about something within your realm of experience for example fieldwork or visiting an economic botany collection for a special interest publication or science group that you are affiliated with e.g. the Society for Economic Botany newsletter Plants & People.

Publications that are operating as special interest or educational often don’t have funds to pay for writing. And as organisations that aren’t operating on a commercial basis it is reasonable to share information with their readership without being paid as a writer. Additionally if you have had funding that enabled you to go on fieldwork writing about it is a great way to help other people find out about that funding body, as well as giving thanks to your collaborators in the field. For example, my PhD research is on trade in wild harvested orchids.  Several times I have written about fieldwork and orchid conference attendance for RHS Orchid Review.  It has been a great way to share what I’ve learnt with an audience who is really interested in orchids.

Orchid Review Orchids of Bhutan

However, commercial publications and organisations should pay for your work, whether it is the first article you have written or the 100th. Even if you don’t feel that you need the money, by writing articles for free you are taking work opportunities away from people for whom writing is their day-to-day job. You are also tipping the balance towards never getting paid for writing as you undervalue the role of a writer. Furthermore commercial publications that don’t pay writers will also skimp on copyediting, picture editing, fact checking and all the other things that go into making a great article.

Publications to pitch to

Having advised you to not write for commercial publications for free, I am also happy to signpost you towards some publications that pay writers, and whose readership may be very interested in what you have to write about. These are also publications that share the Society for Economic Botany’s ethos and are actively fostering diversity of voices and narrative perspectives in writing.

Lady Science
A magazine that covers “…women and gender in the history and popular culture of science, technology and medicine.” Furthermore, they strongly encourage writers from marginalized and minoritized backgrounds, newer writers, and writers transitioning out of academia to pitch to them. Their pitching guidelines are on the website, but I recommend that you also follow them on Twitter so you know when they are putting out requests for pitches and keep up to date on the kinds of articles they publish.

Willowherb review  
This publication is dedicated to publishing nature writing by writers of colour. Their submission guidelines are on the website. Follow them on Twitter to see their calls for submissions and other opportunities that they highlight.

High country news
Focused on the western states of the USA. They have a dedicated tribal affairs desk centered on Native voices for an Indigenous audience, details are included in their submission guidelines.

Gastro Obscura
In 2020, a year that is noted as the 400 year anniversary of the Mayflower, this publication is seeking to highlight the revitalization of Native American cuisine. They are also hoping to have these stories written by people from within these communities and in their call for submissions on this topic asked, “If you are Native American, please feel welcome to email gastro-pitches (@) with your name, some information about yourself, including where you live and writing samples, and if you’re available to write for us. We are keen to commission stories from American Indian writers, and we may email you a story idea we are looking to assign.” On their FAQ there is a link to their pitch guidelines.

Results from the 2020 Student Survey on Society Name Change

Click here to view the results in PDF form: SEB student name change survey

by Aja Grande, SEB Student Representative (2020-2021)



Thank you to all of the SEB students who participated in this survey! We hope that this informs generations of ethnobotanists to come about the significance of names and associations that come with them.



In the month of April 2020, I conducted a survey to gauge student opinions on the name of the Society for Economic Botany. Responses were collected via Google Forms.

Throughout the years, members of the Society for Economic Botany have drawn out an ongoing discussion about the organization’s name “Economic Botany.” A previous name change survey held in 2017 focused on all members as a whole, which did include students, but did not necessarily account for their individual responses. The following report seeks to fill that gap in knowledge about student members’ thoughts; it is a small exposé of student member opinions on the Society’s name change.

All student response names are anonymous.

Number of respondents: 18 Response rate: 19%

Total number of SEB student members in April 2020: 94



Survey Questions

SEB student name change survey3

The survey asked students how favorable they find the name “Economic Botany.” This question included an “Other” line for additional comment or an alternative choice.

To some degree, 11 student members disapprove; 7 slightly disapprove while 4 highly disapprove. 5 student members approve to some degree; 3 fully support while 2 slightly support. 1 student found the name neutral.

SEB student name change survey4

The survey asked students if they think the Society should rename its organization to something different than “Economic Botany.” This question included an “Other” line for additional comment or an alternative choice.

Overall, 11 student members said “Yes”; 3 student members said “No”; and 4 said they were “Indifferent.”

One student commented in the “Other” option, “I think either we need to reinvent new post-colonial associations for the term or change it.” Another student said in “Other” that they are “neutral about changing, however recognize that given the colonial extractive history of the field economic botany it may bring up strong feelings of disapproval and discomfort for some people and that should be respected.”


SEB student name change survey5


The survey asked students to select all and/or list an additional name they thought would be more appropriate than the term “Economic Botany.”

4 students chose both “Society for Ethnobotany” and “Ethnobotany Society.” 7 students chose only “Society for Ethnobotany.”
2 students chose only “Ethnobotany Society.”
1 chose only “The Ethnobotany Society.”

1 wrote only “Social-economic botany.” 3 students left this question blank.


Additional comments from individual students

“Thank you for considering changing the name! Unfortunately the old on comes off as exploitive….”

“There are already other ethnobotany societies and meetings. The SEB has low membership, rebranding the name – with all the expenses this incurs-doesn’t seem like a good move when there are other priorities. Economic Botany is a really easy concept for people who aren’t ethnobotanists or anthropologists to understand. Economic Botany is now more relevant than ever as much ethnobotany and work by ethnobotanists is so important in understanding and advocating for the recognition or rural and agricultural livelihoods.”

“It would be good to have “ethnobotany” in the name. However it’s not a small change, as people are used to the name “Economic Botany” and it is also reinforced by the same name of the journal..”

“Economic botany is a loaded term and I was rather turned off by it when I first heard it at the Economic Botany Collection at Kew. However, once Mark Nesbitt explained that they are repopularizing the term, I was more understanding. The term does encapsulate the history of ethnobotany. Let’s face it. Colonialism was a major part of that history. However, the term also sounds extractive. In these times of climate change, biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse, we should ask ourselves whether that is how we want to present ourselves. Moreover, the terms economic botany and ethnobotany are not synonymous. Economic botany falls within economic botany, I would argue, referring specifically to plant use. However, the field of ethnobotany has expanded to the cognitive, linguistic and ontological dimensions. If we want the name of our society to reflect these expanding domains, then a different name would be more suitable.”

“A reasoning for my disapproval: “economic botany” evokes a sense of agronomy or a business-centered approach, rather than a culture- or relationship-centered approach, to human-plant interactions. I fear many people who would be interested in the work being done by SEB would be deterred, assuming their research interests do not align with the mission of SEB simply from the name.”

“If there is enough support a change should go ahead to honour those who disapprove of the name. It seems this change would not alter the content and membership interest, so it makes sense to support.”

“Ethnobotany implies a narrower focus than economic botany. Would modern industrial applications of traditionally un-utilized nonnative plants fit? Ethnobotany also sounds confusingly similar to Ethnobiology and is bound to cause confusion with the Society of Ethnobiology.”

“I have always found the term ‘Economic Botany’ difficult. Although it can be interpreted as the ‘study of useful plants’, it reeks of colonial-era botanical expeditions and suggests commoditisation of nature.”


Future survey design suggestions

Going forward, there are a few suggestions for the survey that may benefit this ongoing discussion about the Society name change.

The iteration of this survey is in need of more options for the list of alternative Society names (page 5), similar to the listings on the 2017 SEB survey on name changes. Although this 2020 survey allowed for respondents to add their own names in the “Other” option, having an existing diverse set of names may more accurately gauge what names students are in favor of.

This 2020 survey did not ask for the origin or current location or nationality of students. In a future survey, it may be interesting to see the correlation between nationality and name change opinions.



Society for Economic Botany Survey: Student Opinions on the Organization’s Name-Change

Dear SEB Student Colleagues,

Throughout the years, members of the Society for Economic Botany have carried out an ongoing discussion about the organization’s name “Economic Botany.” In the following survey, we ask student members to please share their thoughts and opinions on the name “Economic Botany.”

Follow this form to fill out the survey:

Survey results may be posted in the next issue of the Society for Economic Botany’s bi-annual newsletter Plants & People:

If you WOULD like to write a longer opinion piece on the rename discussion, please email Society for Economic Botany Student Representative, Aja Grande: If you have any questions, please let me know.

Be well,

What are you going to do after you graduate? Ethnobotany careers outside of academia

As a student, people always want to know what I’m going to do after I’m done with university. When I started my PhD, I thought that the only possible jobs were in academia, research, and teaching. However, only 23-30% of social and life sciences PhD graduates work in tenure track jobs– so where are the other 70%? Most science PhDs now work in private companies, while many others find work in the public sector.


Carrie Cannon works to conserve the plants and ethnobotanical knowledge of the Hualapai Native American Tribe. Photo credit: Carrie Cannon

If tenure-track jobs are so rare, how can you be prepared for the job market? Today, I’d like to share five alternative career paths for ethnobotany students that I’ve discovered during my own graduate education: conservation, consulting/business, science writing, science policy, and data science. For each of these categories, I describe the career, share contact information for ethnobotanists who currently have these jobs, and suggest ways that you can gain experience in these careers so that you’re ready to find a job after graduation!

Grady, goldenseal cropped2

SEB member Grady Zuiderveen works for the U.S. Forest Service to protect forest trees and medicinal herbs from threats like climate change and overharvesting. Photo credit: Grady Zuiderveen



Half of the earth’s land and fresh water have been transformed by humans, and we have driven a quarter of all bird species to extinction. Conservation seeks to protect and restore species, ecosystems, cultural sites, and ecological knowledge. Conservation scientists may select project goals, identify the best methods to achieve those goals, establish and supervise management plans, write progress reports, apply for permits to work with protected areas or species, educate the public about their work, and raise funds by applying for grants.


Society of Ethnobiology member Carrie Cannon is employed by the Hualapai Tribe to restore native plants and conserve and revitalize ethnobotany knowledge.

SEB member Grady Zuiderveen works for the U.S. Forest Service to protect forest trees and medicinal herbs from threats like climate change and overharvesting. He found this job by applying for the Presidential Management Fellowship to intern with US government agencies.

SEB member Annie Virnig works for the United Nations Development Program to implement the Sustainable Development Goals to protect humans and the environment.

SEB member Anne Elise Stratton worked for EcoLogic Development Fund to conserve tropical forests by supporting sustainable livelihoods for local and Indigenous communities in Central and South America.


Volunteer for local conservation organizations near your university- this can be key to getting a job at that organization after you graduate! Look for internships in biological and cultural conservation. Take a class in grant writing. Apply for the Presidential Management Fellowship to intern with US government agencies in conservation. Read more about conservation careers in government, nonprofits, and NGOs.


SEB member Sonia Peter started her own company to sell teas inspired by the plants and local knowledge of Barbados. Photo credits: Sonia Peter

Consulting & Business


Although you may be familiar with the idea of running your own business, consulting is harder to define. Consulting often means providing advice or scientific reports for companies and organizations to help them make decisions. Consultants are typically hired to provide expertise and objectivity for a specific project, so their work is often temporary or seasonal. For example, company might hire a consultant to find a sustainable source for a species of plant used to make herbal supplements, identify which farmers grow a plant species in the right conditions to improve its nutrition or taste, or identify the plant species that are growing on a potential construction zone to minimize their damage to nature and nearby human communities who use the plants.


SEB member Sonia Peter started Heritage Teas Barbados to sell teas inspired by the plants and local knowledge of Barbados.

SEB member Susanne Masters is a consultant that finds unusual and sustainable botanicals for the distilling industry.

SEB member Trish Flaster runs a consulting company that provides sustainable sourcing of herbal and pharmaceutical plants, intellectual property rights information, and quality control of herbal supplements.

SEB member Letitia McCune runs a consulting business for nutritional and pharmaceutical research, environmental and ethnobotanical assessments, and intellectual property rights information.

Ethnobotanist Haris Saslis-Lagoudakis runs a tour company that teaches visitors about the environment of Crete and how to forage their own wild foods.


Take a business class, join a business class or entrepreneur club at your university, or read more about consulting.


SEB member Susanne Masters has written about plants, culture, and travel for many publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, and the BBC. Photo credit: Susanne Masters

Science Writing


Science writing careers include journalism (writing for the public) and technical writing (for scientists, organizations, or companies). Science writing skills include explaining complex research and ideas without jargon, working with tight deadlines, juggling multiple projects simultaneously, identifying your audience so that you can find the right publisher, finding new stories that are relevant to current affairs, using vivid description, and taking photos/videos or making art to illustrate your stories.


SEB student member Susanne Masters has written about plants, culture, and travel for many publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, and the BBC


Practice your writing and storytelling by starting a blog, writing for your university newspaper, or making videos for YouTube. Apply for science writing workshops and fellowships. Read more about science writing.


Ethnobotanist Katie Kamelamela had an internship in United States Congress and now works to integrate Native Hawaiian ecological knowledge into conservation policy. Photo credit: Katie Kamelamela

Science Policy


Scientists who work in policy are not actually lawmakers, but serve as a bridge between lawmakers and scientists. They impartially share scientific information with lawmakers to help them decide how to vote or write legislation. Science policy experts also recommend how to implement policy with specific rules and help other scientists comply with these regulations. A career in science policy requires many of the same skills as science communication, because you are a “translator” between scientists and lawmakers. However, policy careers also require leadership skills to find common ground and compromises between political parties and interest groups.


Ethnobotanist Katie Kamelamela had an internship in the United States Congress and now works to integrate Native Hawaiian ecological knowledge and leadership into conservation policy on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi.

SEB member Grady Zuiderveen participated in the Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering (CASE) workshop to learn about science policy.


Seek leadership positions in university clubs and organizations (like the SEB student representative!) to advocate for change. For example, you could work to unionize students, compost university food waste, or create community gardens on campus. Apply for science policy workshops and fellowships. Read more about science policy.

IMG_3107 - Copy_edited

SEB member Matthew Bond is in a postdoc program to learn data science. Photo credit: Matthew Bond

Data Science


All scientists use data to answer questions, so why is there a separate career of data scientist? Just like statisticians have deeper knowledge of math and analysis than most scientists, data scientists use advanced statistical techniques on large data sets. Data scientists specialize in machine learning, which is making computer programs that find patterns in complex data and automatically adapt to new data. For example, the video website like YouTube and Netflix use machine learning to suggest which videos you might like to watch next by analyzing patterns in videos you have already watched, and can make new recommendations as your watching patterns change.

For this career, data scientists need to know several computer languages (such as R, Python, Spark, and SQL), extract data from public sources such as websites, identify and remove errors and problems in the data, create visual representations of data, write machine learning models and algorithms, and communicate their analyses and results to people who know little about statistics. Other examples of machine learning include predictive texting, automatically predicting fraudulent credit card activity, identifying combinations of symptoms that distinguish diseases with similar symptoms, and targeted marketing (which is based on data like your demographics and search history).


SEB member Matthew Bond is in a postdoc program where scientists are trained to become data scientists.


Learn computer languages like R and Python to analyze data. Look for research opportunities with complex modeling and multiple types of analysis. Take classes in statistics, data visualization, and computer programming. Apply for data science fellowships. Read more about data science.

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: