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BIOL 125: Ecology, Evolution, and Diversity: Ethnobotanists

Current Pacific NW Ethnobotanist

Nancy Turner - A notable North American ethnobiologist, originally qualified in botany, who has done extensive research work with the indigenous peoples of British Columbia. A recent article she wrote is "Keeping it Living: Applications and Relevance of Traditional Plant Management in British Columbia to Sustainable Harvesting of Non-timber Forest Products."

Nalini Nadkayni - An American ecologist who pioneered the study of Costa Rican rain forest canopies using mountain climbing equipment. This links to an article on Dr. Nadkarni's project to involve prison inmates in moss cultivation and conservation. Fischer, Adelheid. 2005. Moss Conservation behind Bars. Conservation in Practice 6(3):35-36.

Dana Lepofsky - A paleoethnobotanist who is particularly interested in the social and ecological impacts of human interactions with their environment, but likes anything to do with the ancient use of plants. Dana has conducted research in Oceania and the Pacific Northwest of North America. Lepofsky, D. 2009. Traditional Resource Management: Past, Present and Future. In Indigenous Resource Management: Past, Present and Future , edited by D.Lepofsky. Journal of Ethnobiology 29:184:212

Justin M. Nolan - An ethnobiologist who studies cultural anthropology include ethnobiology, the study of humans and their relationships with native flora and fauna, medical anthropology, the study of health belief systems, cultural conservation, the study of region-specific folkways and traditions.

Historical Ethnobotanists

Dioscorides - A Greek physician who put together a list of 600 plants around 77 A.D. found around the Mediterranean in series of five books called De Materia Medica. His books included 1,000 basic drugs, and he was one of the first to compile local botanical knowledge that was applicable to medicine.

Leonhart Fuchs - A Renaissance artist, botanist and physician who published a catalog of 400 native plants found in Germany and Austria in De Historia Stirpium. 

John Gerard - An English herbalist who authored The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes (1597).  The book contained over 1,000 species, and remained in print for over 400 years and became known as one of the first plant catalogs.

Carl Linnaeus - Also known as  Carl Linnaeus , was a Swedish naturalist and explorer who was the first to frame principles for defining natural genera and species of organisms and to create a uniform system for naming them (binomial nomenclature).

Alexander von Humboldt - A German naturalist and explorer who was a major figure in physical geography and biogeography. His book Kosmos made a valuable contribution to the popularization of science, and he was one of the first to propose that the lands bordering the Atlantic Ocean were once joined.

Matilda Coxe Stevenson - An American ethnologist who studied plants used by the indigenous Zuni tribe (a Native American tribe of the Pueblo People) the New Mexico area in the late 1800s.

Frank Cushing - An American ethnologist who studied the foods and tools of the indigenous Zuni tribe (a Native American tribe of the Pueblo People) the New Mexico area in the late 1800s.

Richard Evans Schultes - Considered one of the fathers of modern ethnobotany, for his studies of indigenous peoples' uses of plants (especially the indigenous peoples of the Mexico and the Amazon) during the early 1900s, including entheogenic or hallucinogenic plants.  He is known for his book The Plants of the Gods: Their Sacred, Healing, and Hallucinogenic Powers (1979). 

Current Ethnobotanists

Mark Plotkin -- Author of Tales of a shaman's apprentice: an ethnobotanist searches for new medicines in the Amazon rain forest is a ethnobotanist and a plant explorer in the Neotropics, where he is an expert on rainforest ecosystems.


Gary Nabhan -- Author of Coming Home to Eat (2001) is an ecologist, ethnobotanist, and writer whose work has focused primarily on the plants and cultures of the desert Southwest.


Maria Feldman -- Cultivated Food Plants: Culture and Gendered Spaces of Colonists and the Chachi in Ecuador. (In Academic Search Premier database)

Cynthia Fowler - Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Environmental Studies, and Public Health at Wofford College. She is interested in multi-species interactions between people, plants, and animals at the local level and their links to regional- and global-level phenomena. 


Wade Davis - A noted Canadian anthropologist, ethnobotanist, author and photographer whose work has focused on worldwide indigenous cultures, especially in North and South America and particularly involving the traditional uses and beliefs associated with psychoactive plants. Davis came to prominence with his 1985 best-selling book The Serpent and the Rainbow about the zombies of Haiti.

Michael Balick - An ethnobotanist who studies how people use native plants to maintain their heath. He cites an example from the small Micronesian island of Pohnpei in the western Pacific, and one of his recent books is called Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants.

Charles Heiser - A botanist who studied evolutionary significance in the origin of domesticated plants and the origin of agriculture. He is an authority on a number of other plants, mostly ones of economic importance, such as chili peppers, sunflowers, naranjillas, various gourds and the totora. He has written a number of books, such as Seed to civilization : the story of food.

Sara Laird - Sarah Laird is a respected independent ethnoecologist who works closely with People and Plants International (PPI), particularly in Cameroon. She co-authored a book with Michael Balick, along with other ethobiologists, called Medicinal Resources of the Tropical Forest.

Searching Technique

One technique for tracking down additional info is to verify if a particular author has written more on the same or similar subjects.  Use one of the current authors on this page to see if they have other articles. 

Related Areas of Study


Willamette University

Willamette University Libraries

Mark O. Hatfield Library
900 State Street.
Salem Oregon 97301
Pacific Northwest College of Art Library
511 NW Broadway.
Portland Oregon 97209