I am curator and research leader for economic botany at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK, where I have worked since 1999. My research interests are diverse, reflecting a training that spans agricultural botany, palaeoethnobotany, and 15 years field experience in the Near East. I'm fascinated by the intersection of history, plants and people, and seek to apply historical collections to contemporary issues such as the return of knowledge to source communities, whether for barkcloth in Polynesia or Richard Spruce's ethnobotanical specimens in the Amazon.
One reason I love the SEB is that it is broad-spectrum, home to a wide range of approaches to researching and (crucially) advocating for people and plants. Another is the annual conference - a key activity of SEB - and the way it brings together people at different career stages in a supportive atmosphere. I'd like to SEB to use its resources to do even more to support participation by early career researchers and indigenous peoples. I'm also a strong supporter of the international role of societies such as SEB at a time when national borders are closing. I have been a member of SEB since I was a Masters student, have previously been a Council member and more recently have been on two award selection committees. I would be glad to serve the Society again.
John de la Parra
John de la Parra grew up on a farm in Alabama, with his family originating in México. His grandmother’s early teachings on medicinal plants inspired him to become an ethnobotanist working with indigenous healers to understand how phenotypic selection influences plant-based drug discovery.
John believes that the SEB must continue to stand at the vanguard of the interdependent study of plants, cultures, and the environment. This means ensuring future generations— of diverse backgrounds— have access to a network that provides meaningful engagement with the practice of ethnobotanical research. As a former president of the SEB student council, this is an issue he has devoted much time to addressing. He was honored to be the recipient of the President’s Award for his work supporting the SEB student network and associated causes.
John’s current research is conducted as an Associate at the Harvard University Herbaria and a Research Scientist at Northeastern University. He is also a Lecturer at Tufts University where he teaches the course “Medicinal Plants: From the Sacred to the Scientific”. John is the author of a forthcoming book by the same name (late 2019, Springer Nature). He holds a Ph.D. in chemistry from Northeastern University.
I became a member of the Society for Economic Botany ten years ago as a graduate student in the joint program between The City University of New York and The New York Botanical Garden where I studied the medicinal ethnobotany of Northern Thailand. As a member of SEB, I’ve served on the Student Committee, the Ethics Committee and the Archive Committee. As a member of the Ethics Committee, I helped update the SEB Code of Ethics in 2013. Through my current position as Research Scientist at Nutranext, and as the Botanical Director of the American Herbal Pharmacopeia, I have a commitment to applied botanical science and champion for the scientific and ethical use of medicinal plants in the nutritional supplement business. During my post doc and research fellowship at Stanford University School of Medicine, I conducted research on human nutrition and dietary plant-base fibers. I also taught biology at both University at California Berkeley and San Francisco State University. I maintain a close connection with my former students and help mentor them through their academic career. I have an ongoing commitment to fostering education about plants and preserving biocultural diversity. Service through the SEB allows me to continue to actively contribute to the ethnobotanical community.
As an ethnobotanist, I approach connections between biological and cultural diversities from both social science and natural science perspectives. My interest in this dual approach began with undergraduate training in linguistics and fieldwork on endangered languages in Nepal. In my graduate work, I crossed disciplines into biology. My dissertation research in Himalayan China explored the potential for diverse data sources—traditional ecological knowledge, natural history collections, and ecological monitoring and experimentation—to validate and enhance one another.
Now, in my work in the William L. Brown Center at the Missouri Botanical Garden, I focus on climate change and ethnobotany in mountain environments, with emphasis on the eastern Himalaya. I also work to further quantitative analysis methods for local ecological knowledge using data from montane and alpine environments. To this end, I have collaborated in projects examining geographic, temporal and demographic correlates of plant knowledge and its distribution in the Himalaya, Andes, and Caucasus, and led workshops on quantitative analysis of ethnobotanical data in the US and internationally.
I have participated in the SEB Richard Evans Schultes Award Committee since 2016, and attended my first SEB meeting in 2017. I was inspired and excited by the diversity and commitment to our discipline that I saw there, and would be honored to further this discipline in a term on the SEB board