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BIOL 125: Ecology, Evolution, and Diversity: Assignment

Library Assignment

Guidelines for Paper 1: Ethnobotanist-Scientist Feature


Key dates: 1) Today, 11 Feb: Meet in library to work through ideas for paper, learn search strategies

                  2) Thurs lab;  17 Feb: Present a brief, 5-6 min talk (3-4 slides, or 6 min maximum; 5 pts)

                  3) Mon 22 Feb: Final Feature paper uploaded to Hand-in section by midnight; 15 pts)

Topic:  A short “feature” paper highlighting the accomplishments and significance of work being done either by an ethnobotanist or scientist. The person you choose to feature in your paper should be actively contributing to our understanding of forests or other ecosystems in ways that affect their use by indigenous or local populations who depend on them for sustenance or as a cultural resource. Thus your paper will profile an important emerging or currently recognized scientist-ethnobotanist.  Such features are important tools for educating other scientists and the public about the links between what people do and how it affects our understanding of the natural world and the effect of our actions on a sustainable future. Your feature should distill and organize what you learn about this person from the primary and secondary literature and the internet (as appropriate) into a synthetic document.


Process: I expect you to gather sources and develop ideas for your own unique perspective on this paper. It is also valuable to discuss ideas and question one another, as it may help you refine or improve your particular perspective on this paper. Your feature paper, however, is to be prepared and written individually and should include some sources that you alone located as well as, if relevant, the occasional paper that you may have learned about from me or others. Also, you should read every single paper (or website) that you cite in its entirety as it relates to your final topic. Thus each paper will be unique, fueled by your own ideas and curiosity, and infused with the perspectives gained from reading and discussion. In short, I expect awesome papers and that what you write will be in your own words. Writing is a great learning experience, and creating your own language will help you understand complex concepts.

Below are some detailed guidelines for the paper. Good luck and enjoy…

Organization:  The sections below should be evident in your paper. You may want to create subheadings if helpful as in the Johnson paper we read earlier this semester. Include a title at the top of the page.  The introduction is by default the first section and need not be titled as such.


Introduction: This introductory synopsis will vary somewhat in style but should draw the reader’s attention to the most important contributions of this person or give the reader a sense of what to expect in the full feature. In any case, it should reflect a clear message that can: 1) be thesis driven, 2) pose a question (or series of related questions) for examination, or 3) be organized around particular objectives of interest. In all cases, it must be compelling enough that it “invites” the audience to continue reading your feature. (Important Note: Your synopsis may differ in style but should include the date range over which the person lived, and in text literature citations, even if absent in these examples)

I’ve copied below two example excerpts of short synopses that gain the reader’s attention:


1) from an National Academy of Sciences article on Barbara McClintock (2005): 


“Barbara McClintock (1902-1992) in 1944 became the third woman elected to the Academy. In the 1940s and 1950s McClintock's work on the cytogenetics of maize led her to theorize that genes are transposable -- they can move around -- on and between chromosomes. McClintock drew this inference by observing changing patterns of coloration in maize kernels over generations of controlled crosses. The idea that genes could move did not seem to fit with what was then known about genes, but improved molecular techniques of the late 1970s and early 1980s allowed other scientists to confirm her discovery, and consequently she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1983. This made McClintock the first American woman to win an unshared Nobel.”

2) From feature on Maria Fadiman by National Geographic:


Deep in an Ecuador rain forest, monkeys overhead and poisonous snakes underfoot, Dr. Maria Fadiman goes to work. "It looks like one big, green mishmash to me, but the people who live here can single out the right plants for medicine, or the one to eat if you cut out the little part in the very center. Each house is made entirely from the forest—the poles that hold it up, the floors, the thatch on the walls, the vines that tie it, the palm leaf sleeping mats, the baskets, everything. It's strong, it's waterproof, it works, and it's all done in a way that's in balance with nature."


In either of the above stylistic examples, you as the author could follow the short, initial synopsis, with language that sets out the objectives of your paper, or develops a thesis, poses questions, etc. Thus, the introduction will reflect the particular focus that you develop and define. The introduction is typically at least two paragraphs long, but concise, engaging, and professional in its style and approach.

Body of Paper: This section or sections of your paper, to which you can assign subtitles, must include several key elements integrated in a logical fashion in your feature paper.

First, the body of the feature paper must describe and synthesize the background and accomplishments of your scientist as appropriate relative to how you set up the focus of your paper. In providing background, avoid a strict chronological description, instead focusing on selected elements of the person’s childhood or adulthood, and the familial, professional, and societal milieu in which they lived and worked, i.e. aspects that might help the reader understand their scientific endeavors and accomplishments. 

Second, the body of your paper should clarify how their work as scientists-ethnobotanists-explorers contributes to our understanding of the importance and ecological services of plants and ecosystems, and the relationship of their work to the lives of local or indigenous peoples as noted above.  Thus, think about: How is this person’s work contributing not only to scientific understanding of plants, forests, or other ecosystems but also to the lives, sustenance, or cultural traditions of local peoples, whether indigenous to the area (e.g. Kalapuyan tribes in the Willamette Valley) or simply living in close proximity to natural environments and dependent on the associated biotic communities for their livelihoods?

Important Tips: Again use the literature for support, include in text citations (CBE style), and take time to explain your ideas in clear, cohesive text. The topic sentence of each paragraph should be inclusive of the content with appropriate transitions. Consult the writing tips I uploaded to our website. Ask yourself if each paragraph extends and develops the key thesis, perspective, or approach you outline in your introduction.

If appropriate, you can cite specific data from published studies or include Tables or Figures (e.g., photos, graphs, diagrams) that you may have located from sources. If you do, be sure to credit the source(s). Such tables or figures, if included, are referred to in the order that they appear in the text (Fig. 1, Table 1). Each should have an explanatory caption associated with it (see examples in journal articles).

Conclusion: These last paragraphs form the finale – linking the introduction to other key elements posed in your feature. An effective conclusion is your best synthesis and it typically also suggest new directions, or a broader view for the future. It may provides a critique of the limitations of scientific knowledge or public action based on what you learned about the person that you featured or their accomplishments.  Your words might stimulate future study or help the scientific community or policy makers determine future actions.

In short, the conclusion, most importantly, is what you want to leave your audience with as a result of reading your feature paper. It is a great place to close with a novel thought, quote, new direction, idea for readers to ponder, etc. Beginnings and endings are important!

Literature Cited: Lists the sources cited in the text, in alphabetical order in the following CBE format (those below are hypothetical; see also library web site for scientific articles):

      Book style: Jones, B. 2007. Darwin and his contributions. Academic Press, New York, NY. 95 pages

      Article style: Smith, A. and J. Peats. 2010. Ethnobotanist Maria Fadiman’s adventures. Nature 45: 2-3.

NOTE: In science, quotes are used RARELY, i.e., only if famous or if they provide something truly unique or helpful.  Otherwise paraphrase and use your own words.

CITE SOURCES IN TEXT: Ideas or photos, or quotes from other authors or sources must be credited by name and date of publication. In scientific papers, this occurs within the text where the idea is used as in: Smith & Peats (2010) found that… OR The work of Darwin and Fadiman guide… (Jones 2007; Smith & Peats 2010). Date is more important than page #  (vs humanities) because current information is critical.


SOURCES:  You must include at least 5-8 sources. Two of these must be professional journal articles in science-related journals (not magazines). Other sources might include bibliographic reference sources, journal articles, your text, reputable web sources, magazine articles, books, or government reports.


LENGTH: A suggested length guideline is 1000-1400 words; however what is most important is the quality of the information content and the writing.  For example, if you are on the low end, be sure your prose is well-edited and fully informative and, if you’re on the high end, make sure your text is concise, well-edited, and without excess redundancies.


Important: you must develop a clear focus, well supported by arguments, text, and citations, in paragraphs that are cohesive. Take time to develop your paper, perhaps using a concept map or outline to flush out ideas you want to emphasize. Please proofread and spell-check your paper carefully!


This paper should not only reflect what you've read, but your own thinking about it, i.e. your integration of the diverse information available.




1.  Today’s Lab: Participate in the library exercise, and get approval from instructors on your topic and focus. You must type or write out and have one of us approve or sign off on:

a) your choice of scientist-ethnobotanist,

b)  rationale for your choice and how it meets the two criteria specified above, i.e. someone

contributing significantly to our understanding of forests or other ecosystems, and some one whose

work is related to the lives of indigenous or local peoples

c) list of 3 sources including one professional journal article


2. Brief presentation: Lab 17 Feb: This can be entirely oral w/o visuals or can include visuals either passed around or uploaded as a ppt presentation to the Hand-in folder on Ethnobotanist-Scientist Talk. Upload not later than NOON Thursday, 17 December. I will upload a guide for powerpoint (ppt) talks if you use them.


3. Paper: I expect you to UPLOAD a coherent, well-edited paper as a WORD document (not rtf, etc) to our class website by midnight Mon 22 Feb. Use the Hand-in folder on Ethnobotanist-Scientist Paper.


Writing Center Consultants:  Harriet Greenlee (hgreenle@) and Hannah Vietmeier (hvietmei@) will have sign up sheets. You are required to make an appointment and work with one of them for this first paper.

Be sure to make your writing center appointments early!


Important NOTE: It is your responsibility to make sure that you send a WORD file  (.doc) that is readable. I will not read other file types, including rtf-based files. Late papers not be assigned full credit, and I accept late papers ONLY up until graded papers have been returned to the class, which ideally occurs within 7-10 days time, or sometimes less. Please do ask if you have questions about these policies!


Excellent papers will have an engaging or thoughtful focus, draw clearly on the literature with examples that are well chosen and explained, and present ideas organized in a logical sequence. Perhaps you will even craft some "elegant sentences," as our writing center director, Dr. Gretchen Moon, once remarked!


I look forward to reading your paper! I also hope you learn to enjoy the process of writing and how it extends your own thinking in new or synthetic ways. Ask if you have questions. <J

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John Repplinger

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Academic Commons,
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Data Management Plans
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