8 min

The evolution of ethnobotan‪y‬ Scienceline

    • Science

As long as humans have been around, we’ve relied on plants for our survival: as food, fuel, shelter, medicine — and to produce the oxygen we breathe. Ethnobotanists are scientists who study and catalog these complex interactions between people and plants. Yet ethnobotany has a complicated history of its own, with roots in European colonial expeditions and in the exploitation of Indigenous communities.

Now, with the biodiversity crisis imperiling plants, ethnobotanists have become unexpected advocates for Indigenous knowledge rights in the quest to conserve useful plants around the world and the cultures that rely on them. Modern ethnobotanists are striving to work in partnership with their study communities to preserve much more than just plants: Languages, livelihoods and a wealth of knowledge are at stake. 

Photo: Blueberry plants grow wild in Jonathan Ferrier’s homelands and study sites, and have many important medicinal uses. [Credit: Kjerstin_Michaela | Public Domain Mark 1.0]

Original music by Michael Radack
Other music and sound effects by Jahzzar, Richard Laiepce, mikevpme, and Blear Moon

As long as humans have been around, we’ve relied on plants for our survival: as food, fuel, shelter, medicine — and to produce the oxygen we breathe. Ethnobotanists are scientists who study and catalog these complex interactions between people and plants. Yet ethnobotany has a complicated history of its own, with roots in European colonial expeditions and in the exploitation of Indigenous communities.

Now, with the biodiversity crisis imperiling plants, ethnobotanists have become unexpected advocates for Indigenous knowledge rights in the quest to conserve useful plants around the world and the cultures that rely on them. Modern ethnobotanists are striving to work in partnership with their study communities to preserve much more than just plants: Languages, livelihoods and a wealth of knowledge are at stake. 

Photo: Blueberry plants grow wild in Jonathan Ferrier’s homelands and study sites, and have many important medicinal uses. [Credit: Kjerstin_Michaela | Public Domain Mark 1.0]

Original music by Michael Radack
Other music and sound effects by Jahzzar, Richard Laiepce, mikevpme, and Blear Moon

8 min

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