The Society for Economic Botany

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!


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. Kat Anderson

Dr. Kat Anderson has a Ph.D. in Wildland Resource Science from UC Berkeley and is a research associate in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis. She is the author of the book Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources, which received the Mary W. Klinger Book Award from the Society for Economic Botany. Kat has worked with Native Americans in California and Washington for many years, learning how indigenous people judiciously gather and steward native plants and wildlands. In recent years, she has widened her research to explore culturally significant plants, tending practices, and ethical stances towards nature in her own ethnic heritage and that of other traditional cultures around the world.


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.