Education Initiatives

Education and mentoring of students is important to the Society for Economic Botany (SEB). We have periodically surveyed American and Canadian institutions about the ethnobotanical courses they offer. One of our standing committees is the Education and Public Outreach Committee. The SEB Student Committee organizes initiatives and activities among student members, and their representative sits on the Council.

Since 2007 the Society for Economic Botany has been a partner in PlantingScience, an online community linking scientist mentors with middle and high school student research teams around the world. In 2009 a group of SEB members began the Open Science Network, an NSF-funded open-source online network sharing peer-reviewed ethnobiological teaching materials and ideas geared for but not limited to undergraduate students. OSN became a continuing initiative of SEB in 2012, and we are hoping to link OSN with other societal partners over the coming years. In 2011 SEB was one of several partners with the Ecological Society of America in developing the NSF-funded  DRD, the Digital Resource Discovery and Dynamic Learning Communities for a Changing Biology Project, which consists of linked societal digital libraries. Find out more about each of these Society for Economic education initiatives in the summaries below!

PlantingScience ( is an online community formed by the Botanical Society of America to link students, teachers, and plant scientists. Its purpose, according to the Planting Science web page, is “to facilitate scientist/student mentoring using research as a base for the inquiry process”. The Society for Economic Botany is one of 14 current Scientific Society partners whose members may volunteer to become a scientific mentor for a middle or high school student-led research team anywhere in the world. Projects last at least two weeks and involve a team of students rather than one-on-one mentoring of individual students. The mentor communicates regularly online with his or her participating research teams, averaging one hour per week. Mentors additionally communicate with the students’ teachers as well as with other mentors.

Open Science Network (, supported by NSF through an RCN-UBE grant, gathers open-source, online ethnobiological teaching materials and seeks peer review of the materials. OSN promotes ethnobiological education through the use of web-based technologies and the continual exchange of educational practices, programs, materials, and experiences across institutional and international borders. Volunteer to submit a module to share with others, or peer review material that has been posted! A module can be a lesson plan, syllabus, laboratory or field exercise, electronic talk, or an entire online course. In 2012, to further the development of undergraduate ethnobiology education, OSN formulated draft program hallmarks and instructor/institutional qualities that would allow for voluntary assessment. Furthermore, OSN drafted an Ethnobiological Vision & Change document that defines major ethnobiological core concepts, modeled after the 2009 AAAS Vision & Change document outlining core concepts critical to and guiding undergraduate biology education and scientific literacy. Members are invited to contribute or comment by following the link posted above.

Life Discovery, DRD, the Digital Resource Discovery and Dynamic Learning Communities for a Changing Biology Project ( (supported by NSF) has created a single portal through which societies such as SEB can house digital libraries of photos, figures, charts, datasets and lesson plans for educators on biological concepts for grades K – 16. A search through the shared portal from a particular society’s website results in a preference ranking of material from that society, with an option to equally weight the search for materials across all the collections from all the participating societies. Searches are possible through keyword, society, resource type, subject matter, or educational level. Beginning in 2013, Life Discovery—Doing Science holds an annual conference focused on science education.

Education and Outreach Resources

Introduction to Ethnobotany Video Series

Teach Ethnobotany Video Series

Open Science Network in Ethnobiology

Publications of Dr. Richard E. Schultes

Biocultural Collections

Dr. Richard Evans Schultes Interview