Developing the Ethnobotany Society at Brown

Written by Aja Grande, SEB Undergraduate Ambassador

Every expedition stems from a question, a wonder about the lush and uncharted. Just two months into winter after the election of Trump, the task to unite the biological with the social sciences seemed necessary, yet somewhat of an enigma. Who would dare to start an anomalous group at such a politically tender time? My reason was human curiosity. Inquiry about life outside of my sphere lead me to found the Ethnobotany Society at Brown. When the society became institutionally recognized with over 70 members, I began a journey with other students to connect inside classroom content with the community beyond university walls, in both the physical and intellectual sense. Our outings entailed visiting Lincoln Woods for a mycology excursion, touring the greenhouse of a local farmer from Laos, hosting a seminar on chemical plant extraction, and dispersing botanical knowledge via aphrodisiac cards on Valentines Day, in addition to building an online resource for all things Ethnobotany-related. It was not the abundance of ethnobotanical information in a single place, but the lack of its cohesive presence in my community which set the society in motion.

The greatest learning experiences stem from surrendering what is already known. Confrontation with these inward foundations of truth is coupled with reward. Similar to most innovative groups, building this society‚Äôs foundation called for an abandonment of the lifestyle I toiled so hard to maintain ‚Äď a career as an intercollegiate swimmer. Transitioning from chlorinated pool waters to earthly terrain has not been easy task. Although all goals of competing on a Division I level were buried in the forfeit of athletic merit, the lessons I gained through that experience remain engrained in my character.

Fellow peers, adventure past the safety of the known, for your previous devotion will show through on your next expedition in ways which you will least expect. The key is to pick a direction and commit. Though grueling, the feat of dedicating full attention to the construction of something original will earn distinction among peers.

At the conclusion of the 2017 summer, the Ethnobotany Society tucked away an eight week long summer reading session on the history and development of Ethnobotany in the 21st century, and has collected over a dozen exciting submissions for a Fall journal issue. As I begin to assume the two-year position as student representative under the Society for Economic Botany, I depart advice to other students in the form of three simple actions: leave your comfortable spot, explore the unknown, and share what you learn with others. It is through this process that one is able to embrace and contribute to an extraordinary world filled with people and plants.

Plant Hunting in the Amazon

Written by Joe Modzelewski, SEB Undergraduate Ambassador

I had the privilege this past June to work with Fauna Forever in Peru, primarily concentrating in the field of ethnobotany and medicinal plants. Fauna Forever was founded , and is currently headed, by Dr. Chris Kirby. For the past twenty years, Fauna Forever, based out of the fast-growing town of Puerto Maldonado, has worked within the Madre de Dios region of Peru striving to promote rainforest conservation through research of animals and plants all the while fostering outreach projects with the diverse communities who call the rainforest their home.

Under the supervision and counsel of Juan-Carlos Huayllapuma Cruz, I visited and worked in and among various settings in the Madre de Dios region. The first community we visited was at Las Piedras, known as Boca Pariamanu. The community at Boca Pariamanu is only accessible by boat along the Rio Madre de Dios and is a mixed heritage population of both indigenous Amahuacan and colonial Spanish.

The Boca Pariamanu community, in conjunction with Fauna Forever, has some initiatives currently in the works to preserve their native Amahuacan language, to engage in ecotourism, and to promote conservation practices as they relate to their primary source of income which is agriculture and the harvesting of rice, plantains, and yuca.

I worked with the community healer Alberto to learn about the various medicinal plants which he and the community use in their daily lives to mend and heal all sorts of ailments, to aid in the creation and building of a community medicinal garden, and to gather ethnographic data which will be eventually compiled to formulate a proper plan of action that to be implemented for the introduction of ecotourism in the community. For example, one of the concerns for the community is whether or not to allow ayahuasca tourism once they open themselves to visitors. Although potentially very lucrative, ayahuasca tourism presents its own pitfalls and dangers in regard to harvesting sustainability and notions of cultural and ritual continuity.

The second community setting we visited was the Malatesta family farm located just outside of Puerto Maldonado. The Malatesta family farm is an agroforestry project which implements organic and sustainable growing practices. Just like the Boca Pariamanu community, the Malatesta family is interested in opening up their farm to ecotourism and so, Juan-Carlos and I investigated the farm to determine how it could become more conducive to potential visitors. As well, we investigated and identified various medicinal plant species around their property, geocaching points of interests. One mini-project we started was to create signs to label the multitude of medicinal plants which visitors would pass by as they walked the trail around the farm land.

The third setting we visited was the Colpas Tambopata Lodge, which is currently serving as the Fauna Forever research station, located in the Tambopata National Reserve. This is where the majority of the other Fauna Forever interns were stationed, as they worked within the fields of mammal studies, ornithology, and herpetology. Based out of the research centre, Juan-Carlos and I made various vegetation plots to aid in the determination of the age forest based off of measurements of tree circumferences. We also noted and explored the surrounding forest in regard to the various medicinal plants which could be found.

Across these diverse settings, Fauna Forever allowed me some incredible opportunities to explore the field of ethnobotany and gain invaluable hands-on experience with a whole variety of individuals who are passionate about their rainforest and the living communities who share it.

SEB Conference 2017

One of the most exciting things about SEB 2017 (Bragança, Portugal) was the opportunity to network with other ethnobotanists. Whether new to the field or veterans, from Europe or distant islands, everyone at the meeting had valuable experiences and perspectives to share. Many students expressed interest in developing a toolkit of ethical guidelines and ideas for returning knowledge to the communities we work with. Although journal articles publish the results of previous ethnobotanical work, they rarely share information about the process of community engagement. The students of SEB would like to collect stories of how previous ethnobotanists have built ethical research relationships as models and inspiration for our own research. If you have stories of how you or other researchers have worked with communities (whether the outcomes were positive or not) and how they gave back to these communities, please share them with myself or the other members of the SEB Student Committee. Together, we can provide a foundation for the ethics of the next generation of ethnobotanists.


Graduate Student Representatives Bestabé Castro and Matthew Bond.

Written by Matthew Bond

Position Opening

Dear SEB Student Members,

Hello, my name is Alexander O’Neill and I am the current President of the SEB Student Committee. I wanted to draw your attention to a new position available at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (IB-UNAM). Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions, or ideas as we begin our academic year.


The Institute of Biology, Universidad Nacional Aut√≥noma de M√©xico (IB-UNAM), whose main mission is the study of Mexican biodiversity and houses the national biological collections, invites applicants for a tenure track, full-time position as Associate Researcher, level “C”, in the field of Integrative Ethnobotany at the Botanic Garden situated in the main campus at Ciudad Universitaria, Mexico City, Mexico.¬†See attached PDFs for further information.

Convotacoria EtnobotaŐĀnico – Instituto de Biologia UNAM – Mexico

Ethonobotanist position – Instituto de Biologia UNAM – Mexico

Best wishes,


Alexander R. O’Neill

Master of Environmental Management & Forestry Candidate

Nicholas School of the Environment | Duke University


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 ‚ÄúGlobal vision on Indigenous Plants and Economic Botany‚ÄĚ: 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 ‚Äď 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 |
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.

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 Portugu√™s de Etnobiologia entitled ‚ÄúLiving in a global world: ethnobotany, local knowledge, and sustainability‚ÄĚ (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.