Student Council

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SEB Student Council

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with any of us – about SEB and the student group in general, opportunities or resources you would like to see us work with the SEB Council to make possible, or about our individual research!

Annie Virnig

Annie Virnig
Co-Student Representative to the SEB Council 2013-2015 
avirnig@nybg.org 
I first became interested in ethnobotany as a field able to bridge between scientific research and community development and conservation initiatives. My doctoral research focuses on the ethnobotany, phytochemistry, and gene expression of several species of Neotropical blueberries (Vaccinieae, Ericaceae) collected and cultivated in Valle del Cauca, Colombia. Queremal, a small village in this region, is named for these wild blueberries, or “queremes,” whose beautiful flowers are widely known and are used for both medicinal and cultural purposes. I am a third year student in The New York Botanical Garden’s Graduate Studies Program and the Plant Sciences Doctoral Program at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. Outside of my program, I love exploring New York to find fun new cafés, bars, and green spaces, and escaping New York to hike, camp, and travel.

John de la Parra

John de la Parra
Co-Student Representative to the SEB Council 2014-2016 
delaparra.j@husky.neu.edu 
I first became curious about medicinal plants while growing up on a small farm in Alabama. Now I am a PhD student in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Northeastern University in Boston, MA. My scientific interests are in the scientific foundations of both traditional phytotherapies and plant-derived pharmaceuticals. To that end, my research involves investigations in pharmacognosy, phytochemistry, and the biosynthesis of natural products. In the years before I returned to graduate school, I founded Vine Research and Consulting where I have helped investigate, collect, cultivate, and verify rare and unusual plant material for use in novel pharmaceutical research in industry and academia. Besides teaching chemistry for several years, I have also developed a class entitled “Medicinal Plants: From the Sacred to the Scientific”. Outside of my schoolwork, I enjoy hiking, identifying new plants, gardening, and reading about ethnobotany.

Sarina Veldman

Sarina Veldman
Student Council Member 2013-2015 
sarina.veldman@ebc.uu.se 
I am a second year PhD student at Uppsala University in Sweden. It was only during my MSc in Biology that I came into contact with ethnobotany and it has interested me ever since. One of my first projects was to study a 17th century herbarium with useful plants from Surinam. For me it was great to combine interesting topics such as botany, people, history and languages and to look at them together. Currently I am working on DNA barcoding of medicinal plants and edible orchids in Tanzania. The aim of this project is to map harvesting and trade of these mostly wild-harvested plants and to identify which plant populations are susceptible to overharvesting. Together with villagers, harvesters, vendors and park authorities we try to come up with sustainable solutions. It is all very interesting and I can't wait to see what the coming years will bring. In my spare time I enjoy exploring the surroundings with my 5 –year-old son, climbing, traveling, and reading.

Alexandra Towns

Mélanie Congretel
Student Council Member 2013-2015 
melanie.congretel@gmail.com 
Born in Western France in 1988, I grew up in the countryside, not far from the ocean, surrounded by beautiful landscapes and many farms. I was first trained in biology before entering the Paris Institute for Life Sciences (AgroParisTech) in 2008, where I specialized in ecology and in the management of natural resources. After a year off I joined the French Museum of Natural History where I completed a Master’s of Ethnoecology, mostly dedicating myself to ethnobotany, local knowledge and agroecology at the scientific station of Nouragues in French Guiana. My Master’s thesis took place in Jalisco, Mexico, where I studied non-timber forest products within mestizo communities. I am now in my second year working towards an interdisciplinary PhD at the Paris Institute of Technology for Life, Food and Environmental Sciences, researching family guarana production in the Brazilian Amazon. Among my many hobbies (including eating), and as strange as it might seem for someone who works in the Amazon and couldn’t be further from the ocean, I love surfing. It's another way to connect physically with nature, learn how to respect it, and how to read the weather forecasts!

Alexander ONeill

Aurélie Jacquet
Student Council Member 2014-2016
aderusep@purdue.edu
I am a fourth year PhD candidate at Purdue University, Indiana. After growing up in the South of France, I decided to move to the United States to pursue a carrier in ethnopharmacology. I have a broad range of professional interests and works with traditional communities in Nepal as well as with Native Americans to find next generation therapies for Parkinson’s disease. I also have a great interest in sharing my science with lay audiences and enjoy giving public talks and participating in K-12 outreach activities. After work, I like to take pictures. Macro, landscape and portrait photography are my favorite!