Alaska Ethnobotany

Why study Ethnobotany?

Ethnobotany has a broad range of applications. No matter what their professional backgrounds and motivations to study ethnobotany are, our students share a common interest in plants and the multiple roles they play for human cultures.

One of the initial ideas of creating the Alaska Ethnobotany Program was to provide an entryway into higher education through culturally relevant content; by studying local plants and knowledge associated with these plants, students are introduced to a variety of academic disciplines, e.g. anthropology, Indigenous studies, botany, ecology, pharmacology – one of which they might pursue for their future career. At the same time, the program aims to provide training and ideas for small-business economic development in economically challenged rural areas of Alaska, such as the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. Both aspects have applied to a number of our graduates; some EBOT students used the Ethnobotany Certificate Program as a stepping stone into higher education, others have started small cottage-industry businesses related to plants, now work for ethnobotany-related projects by tribal organizations or government agencies in the field of resource management.

Yet another group of EBOT students uses the Certificate as a professional development path in addition to an existing career. Among our graduates we have current and future elementary, high school and college instructors who create culturally sensitive science curricula for their Indigenous students, a dietitians working with Alaska Native patients, a professional herbalist, outdoor guides, a National Guard Air Force survival instructor etc.

Others learn about the wider topic of Alaskan plants and their uses for personal enrichment and growth.

All of our students have in common that they are genuinely interested in plants and that they enjoy sharing the knowledge that they bring to our program. When they walk away from EBOT after having earned their degree, they have become part of a vibrant community of plant enthusiasts!