The Society for Ethnobotany

Fostering research and education on the past, present, and future uses of plants by people.

Keynote Speakers

SEB-SoE 2023 will feature eminent speakers from across the globe!

Opening Keynote Speaker

Dr. Robin Wall-Kimmerer

We are delighted to announce that Dr. Robin Wall-Kimmerer, New York Times bestselling author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, will be our opening keynote speaker. Dr. Kimmerer is a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and SUNY Distinguished Professor of Environmental Biology. Her work and writings on restoration of ecological communities and restoration of human relationships to land has been recognized with a John Burroughs Medal and invitation to address the United Nations general assembly on the topic of healing our relationship with nature. She will hold a book signing after her lecture the evening of Sunday, June 4th.


Distinguished Economic Botanist


Dr. Bradley C. Bennett

The award of "Distinguished Economic Botanist" is bestowed annually by the Society upon an individual on the basis of outstanding accomplishments pertinent to the goals of the Society. Our esteemed Distinguished Economic Botanist this year is Dr. Bradley C. Bennett! Dr. Bennett is a Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Florida International University. He is a past President (2004-2005) of the Society for Economic Botany. He is a member of the American Botanical Council's Advisory Board and a senior research associate at the National Tropical Botanical Garden's Kampong Garden. His main research focus is ethnobotany in the neotropics. Dr. Bennett and his graduate assistants have worked in Bolivia, Brazil, Cameroon, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Guyana, Japan, Mexico, Panama, Peru, and the United States. Join us for a special visit to the Atlanta Botanical Garden and reserve your banquet ticket for Thursday, June 8th to attend Dr. Bennett’s DEB lecture!


Distinguished Ethnobiologist Award


Dr. William Balée

This year, the Society of Ethnobiology’s highest recognition of lifetime achievement, the Distinguished Ethnobiologist Award, has been awarded to Dr. William Balée. Since 1998, Bill has been Professor of Anthropology at Tulane University. Balée has been at the forefront of ethnobiological and ethnographic innovation since his time as a Research Fellow at the Institute of Economic Botany, New York Botanical Garden (1984–1988) and as an Associate Researcher at the Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi in Belém, Brazil (1988–1991). His intellectual synthesis had its roots in his intensive and lengthy fieldwork undertaken principally among the Tupi-Guarani speaking Ka’apor, which resulted in his now classic 1994 book Footprints of the Forest: Ka’apor Ethnobotany—The Historical Ecology of Plant Utilization by an Amazonian People (winner of Mary W. Klinger Award from the Society for Economic Botany). Balée continues to conduct research with the Ka’apor, whose language he fluently speaks. His lecture will be held on the afternoon of Monday, June 5th.


Plenary Speakers
We are pleased to announce a stellar lineup of distinguished speakers who will kick off our six thematic sessions for the conference on Monday, June 5th and Tuesday, June 6th.


Phytochemistry: Reading the Language of Nature

Dr. Nadja B. Cech

Dr. Nadja B. Cech’s day job is as Patricia A. Sullivan Professor of Chemistry at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, where she works with a dynamic group of students and research scientists to identify medicinally active molecules from plants and fungi. In the cracks between, she’s a mom, a writer, and a community gardener. Dr. Cech is the recipient of the 2011 Jack L. Beal Award from the Journal of Natural Products and the 2017 Thomas Norwood Award for Undergraduate Research Mentorship. She is a Principal Investigator for the NCCIH- and ODS funded Center for High Content Functional Annotation of Natural Products, Co-Director of the Analytical Core for the Center of Excellence for Natural Product Drug Interactions, and Co-Director of the Medicinal Chemistry Collaborative.


Psychedelics: From Indigenous Knowledge to Applications in Medicine

Dr. Mark Merlin

Dr. Mark Merlin is Professor in the Botany Program, School of Life Sciences, University of Hawai’i at Manoa. His master’s thesis, Man and Marijuana: Some Aspects of their Ancient Relationships (1972), and his doctoral dissertation, On the Trail of Ancient Opium Poppy (1984) were both published as books by university presses. In 1992, his co-authored book, Kava: The Pacific Drug was published by Yale University Press, and in 2013, his co-authored book, Cannabis: Evolution and Ethnobotany, was published by the University of California Press. All these book length studies of historically important psychoactive drug plants received critical acclaim, including the book on Cannabis being the co-winner of the prestigious Mary Klinger award from the Society for Economic Botany (SEB) as the Best Ethnobotany Book of the Year (2014). More recently, as its lead and main author, Plants and People of the Marshall Islands and Plants and People of Yap; the formers was also awarded the Klinger award from SEB as the Best Ethnobotany Book of the Year (2021). Professor Merlin is recognized as an authority on archaeological record and cultural biogeography of mind-altering drug plants, and highly regarded for his research and publications focused on traditional environmental knowledge of the societies in Remote Oceania.


Traditional Medicine and Ethnopharmacology

Dr. Ben Erik Van-Wyk

Dr. Ben Erik Van-Wyk is a Professor at the University of Johannesburg in the Department of Botany and Plant Biotechnology. He is a plant taxonomist with a research interest in ethnobotany and economic botany. He has authored and co-authored more than 380 scientific papers, 20 books (including ca. 50 editions and translations), 30 taxonomic revisions, and more than 100 new species and other taxa. He is best known for his series of international full-colour reference books on useful plants, co-produced by leading international publishers and translated into several languages. These include global reviews of Medicinal Plants, Food Plants, Herbs and Spices, Mind-altering and Poisonous Plants, Phytomedicines, Cut Flowers and Garden Succulents. As National Research Professor in Indigenous Plant Use, his research focus is on ethnobotany and the documentation of plant-related indigenous knowledge.


Urban Ethnobiology

Dr. Andrea Pieroni

Dr. Andrea Pieroni is a full Professor of Ethnobotany at the University of Pollenzo, Italy. He was also Rector of the same university from 2017 to 2021. He has previously been in Germany (Bonn University), Netherlands (Wageningen University), and England (University of London and Bradford). He has served as the Vice-President and President of the International Society of Ethnobiology (2008-2010). He is the founder and Chief Editor of the Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine (Springer Nature). His research focuses on the ethnobotany of minorities and diasporas, esp. in the Balkans, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.


Community Based Conservation and Land Management

Dr. Teri Allendorf

Dr. Teri Allendorf is the Executive Director of Community Conservation, located in Viroqua, WI, but with projects around the world, including Peru, Myanmar, Nepal, Madagascar, Thailand, and Cameroon. She is also an Honorary Fellow in the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Allendorf has worked on issues of local communities and conservation since 1994. She earned her PhD in Conservation Biology in 1999 at the University of Minnesota. She was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nepal, a AAAS Fellow with USAID’s Biodiversity Team, and a Fulbright Senior Specialist. She has published numerous scientific articles on community relationships with protected areas and biodiversity and the influence of gender and policy. She has taught courses at the University of Minnesota, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Future Generations University, and has consulted on forestry and biodiversity projects for USAID in Tanzania, Mozambique, Uganda, Nepal, Guatemala, Guyana, and India.


Agroecology and the Future of Food

Chef Sean Sherman

A member of the Oglala Lakota tribe, Chef Sean Sherman was born and raised in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Cooking in kitchens across the United States and Mexico for over 30 years, Chef Sean is renowned nationally and internationally in the culinary movement of Indigenous foods. His primary focus is the revitalization and evolution of Indigenous foods systems throughout North America. In 2014, Chef Sean opened the business, The Sioux Chef, designed to provide catering and food education in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul area. His first book, The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen, received the James Beard Award for Best American Cookbook for 2018 and was chosen one of the top ten cookbooks of 2017 by the LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle and Smithsonian magazine. Chef Sean was selected as a Bush Fellow and received the 2019 Leadership Award from the James Beard Foundation. The Sioux Chef team continues with their mission to help educate and make Indigenous foods more accessible to as many communities as possible through their non-profit arm, North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems (NĀTIFS) and the accompanying Indigenous Food Lab professional Indigenous kitchen and training center. Working to address the economic and health crises affecting Native communities by re-establishing Native foodways, NĀTIFS imagines a new North American food system that generates wealth and improves health in Native communities through food-related enterprises.


Exploring Underutilized Foods for Human and Planetary Health

Chef Alejandra Schrader

Alejandra Schrader is an award-winning author, plant-based nutrition certified chef, food TV personality, and activist based in Los Angeles, CA.

She is the author of “The Low-Carbon Cookbook and Action Plan: Reduce Food Waste and Combat Climate Change with 140 Sustainable Plant-Based Recipes.” Her book won the 2021 Gourmand World Cookbook Award for the United States in the Food Waste category.

Ms. Schrader’s message focuses on healthy diets, nutrition, and sustainability as the key for optimal food systems where everyone has access to good food. She has been invited to speak at the United Nations and the World Bank and has been interviewed by high-profile media including The New York Times and Forbes.

Some of the international events where she has spoken include the Global Nutrition Summit 2017 in Milan, EAT Forum 2018 in Stockholm, Devex World 2020, United Nations Food Systems Summit 2021, and AGRF 2022 Summit in Kigali where she also cooked for a dinner hosted by President Kagame.

As an Ambassador for the Periodic Table of Food Initiative, Alejandra has spoken at two different launching events of the initiative—the 75th World Health Assembly in Geneva and FINUT Conference in Mexico City.

Ms. Schrader is a founding member of the Chefs’ Manifesto—a program by the SDG2 Advocacy Hub—and she has taken a lead in promoting equity and sustainability in our food systems. She is an Ambassador for Sustainable Development Goal 2: “Zero Hunger,” and has contributed to campaigns by the United Nations, World Health Organization, World Food Programme, EAT Foundation, and Global Citizen.

A Sister on the Planet Ambassador for Oxfam America, Alejandra has traveled internationally to work with ecological farmers and underprivileged communities in developing countries such as El Salvador, Honduras, and Peru. She has also done policy advocacy at the United States Capitol where she has met with elected officials including (former) Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and then US Senator, now Vice-President Kamala Harris, among others.

As a celebrity chef, Alejandra has showcased her passion for planet-friendly food on all major television networks in the United States and Canada. She’s made appearances on national talk shows such as Access Hollywood Live, The Talk, Café CNN, Despierta América, the Marilyn Denis Show, and The Social. She is an alum of the popular cooking show ‘MasterChef’ with Gordon Ramsay where she earned the title of fan favorite as a top finalist in the competition.

Ms. Schrader has a Certification in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies at Cornell University. She holds a Master of Arts in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, with a focus on sustainability and a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the Southern California Institute of Architecture.


SEB Mid-Career Award Winner

Dr. Adeyemi Oladapo Aremu

Dr. Adeyemi Oladapo Aremu, Associate Professor at the Centre for Indigenous Knowledge Systems at the North West University, South Africa

Prof Adeyemi Oladapo Aremu is based at the Centre for Indigenous Knowledge Systems, North-West University, South Africa and Honorary Researcher with the School of Life Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. His research team focuses on the value-chain of African floras with medicinal, horticultural and nutritional potential. Adeyemi is the current Vice President of the South African Association of Botanists and member of the International Society for Ethnopharmacology. In recognition of his academic excellence and contribution to science, Adeyemi has received several awards and recognitions such as the Membership of the Global Young Academy (GYA), Young Affiliate-ship with the African Academy of Sciences (AAS), Executive Committee of the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS), Claude Leon Fellowship and fellow of the African Science Leadership Programme (ASLP). He is also an Associate Editor for four international journals and the Royal Society’s Future Leaders – African Independent Research (FLAIR) Fellowship Committee.


Writing Non-fiction Science for the Public: Meet the Author Panel

We have a special panel on science communication scheduled for the afternoon of Monday, June 5th, featuring award-winning and best-selling authors and a literary agent from a top NYC firm. The panel members will discuss the importance of communicating science to the public through popular books and will offer insights into the process of based on their own experiences. Panelists will take questions from the audience. A book signing will follow the event.


Dr. Mark Plotkin

Dr. Mark Plotkin
Dr. Mark Plotkin is a renowned ethnobotanist who has studied traditional indigenous plant use with traditional healers of Central and South America for much of the past 30 years. Dr. Plotkin is President of the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT), a nonprofit organization he co-founded with his fellow conservationist and wife Liliana Madrigal in 1996. He has authored or co-authored many books and scientific publications, most notably his popular work Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice, which is currently in its fortieth printing and has also been published in Dutch, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish. Acclaimed filmmaker Miranda Smith produced a related documentary titled The Shaman’s Apprentice featuring Dr. Plotkin’s work, which has garnered awards at eighteen different film festivals. His children’s book The Shaman’s Apprentice – A Tale of the Amazon Rainforest (1998), co-authored with Lynne Cherry, was called “the outstanding environmental and natural history title of the year” by Smithsonian Magazine. That same year, he played a leading role in the Academy Award-nominated IMAX documentary Amazon.

Dr. Plotkin’s critically acclaimed book, Medicine Quest: In Search of Nature’s Healing Secrets, was published in early 2000. The Killers Within: The Deadly Rise of Drug-Resistant Bacteria (coauthored with Michael Shnayerson) was published in 2002; it was hailed as one of the top ten science books of that year by Discover magazine. His most recent book, The Amazon – What Everyone Needs to Know, was published by Oxford University Press in 2020.


Dr. David Haskell

Dr. David Haskell
David George Haskell is a writer and biologist known for his close observation of the living world. He is a William R. Kenan Jr. Professor at The University of the South, a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London, and a Guggenheim Fellow. His books include The Forest Unseen, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award, winner of National Academies’ Best Book Award, Reed Environmental Writing Award, and National Outdoor Book Award for Natural History Literature; The Songs of Trees, winner of the John Burroughs Medal for distinguished natural history writing and the Iris Book Award; and Sounds Wild and Broken: Sonic Marvels, Evolution’s Creativity, and the Crisis of Sensory Extinction, an Editor’s Choice at The New York Times and longlisted for the PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award.


Maryn McKenna

Maryn McKenna
Maryn McKenna is a journalist and author specializing in public health, global health, and food policy, and a Senior Fellow of the Center for the Study of Human Health at Emory University, where she teaches health and science writing and storytelling, and media literacy. She is the recipient of the 2019 AAAS-Kavli Award for magazine writing for her piece "The Plague Years" in The New Republic, and the author of the 2017 bestseller Big Chicken: The Incredible Story of How Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats (National Geographic Books, Sept. 2017), which received the 2018 Science in Society Award, making her a two-time winner of that prize. Big Chicken was named a Best Book of 2017 by Amazon, Science News, Smithsonian Magazine, Civil Eats, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Toronto Globe and Mail; an Essential Science Read by WIRED; and a 2018 Book All Georgians Should Read. Her 2015 TED Talk, "What do we do when antibiotics don't work anymore?", has been viewed 1.8 million times and translated into 34 languages.

Maryn is a senior writer at WIRED, where since the beginning of the Covid pandemic she has written about the last mile of vaccine distribution, the search for the virus's origins, the ignored warnings that PPE would run out, the touchy politics of vaccine passports, and several dozen other stories.. She also has appeared on numerous podcasts and webinars and in the Netflix + Vox Media documentaries "The Next Pandemic: Explained" and "Coronavirus: Explained."


Elias Altman

Elias Altman
Elias Altman is literary agent at Massie & McQuilkin Literary Agents, often representing experts, historians, critics, and scientists who want to share their deep knowledge with a broad audience through trade books. His clients include Alexander Nemerov (Stanford), Maggie Doherty (Harvard), Jing Tsu (Yale), Katey Walter Anthony (Alaska), and Emory’s own, Cassandra Quave, as well as many other journalists, memoirists, and historians.


Dr. Cassandra Quave

Dr. Cassandra Quave
Cassandra Quave, Ph.D. is Curator of the Herbarium and Associate Professor of Dermatology and Human Health at Emory University School of Medicine. She is a Fellow of the Explorers Club, a past President of the Society for Economic Botany, a recipient of the Emory Williams Teaching Award, Charles Heiser, Jr. Mentor Award, American Botanical Council James. A. Duke Excellence in Botanical Literature Award, and American Herbal Products Association Herbal Insight Award. Beyond her academic research and teaching activities, Dr. Quave is an avid science communicator. In 2022, she was awarded The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine Eric and Wendy Schmidt Award for Excellence in Science Communication. She is author of an award-winning science memoir The Plant Hunter: A Scientist’s Quest for Nature’s Next Medicines, named a best non-fiction book of the year (2021) by Kirkus Reviews. She writes a biweekly newsletter, Nature’s Pharmacy, and is host and co-creator of the Foodie Pharmacology podcast, now in its 5th season. Quave’s scholarly research has been cited in the scientific literature more than 6,300 times, and her research has been the subject of feature profiles in the New York Times Magazine, BBC Science Focus, National Geographic Magazine, NPR, PBS, and the National Geographic Channel.