BIS-90306 Ethnobotany


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Excursion (one day)16
Independent study
Course coordinator(s)prof. dr. T van Andel
prof. dr. ME Schranz
Lecturer(s)dr. ir. GH Schmelzer
dr. WA Brandenburg
dr. RG van den Berg
prof. dr. T van Andel
prof. dr. ME Schranz
dr. ir. RHMJ Lemmens
Examiner(s)prof. dr. ME Schranz

Language of instruction:

Dutch and/or English

Assumed knowledge on:

Basic taxonomic knowledge of the major plant families, recommended are Biodiversity of the Netherlands (BIS 10306), Webs of Terrestrial Diversity (BIS21306) and/or the course Plant Families of the Tropics of Naturalis in Leiden.


Note: This course has a maximum number of participants. The deadline for registration is one week earlier than usual. See Academic Year.( -> Registration for Courses.

A general overview of the state of the art in the science of Ethnobotany.
Focus is on traditional plant use in the tropics.
Content: (1): Lectures on theoretical aspects. Overview of the history of the discipline, link between cultural and biological diversity, ethnobotany and public health, threats to traditional knowledge and plant domestication by humans: from wild-harvesting (evaluating sustainability aspects) to cultivation, with special attention to traditional landraces and agrodiversity. Invited guest lecturers currently active in the Netherlands in ethnobotany-related research will lecture on their subject.
(2) Lectures on quantitative ethnobotanical research methods: interview designs, botanical collecting, documenting traditional knowledge, evaluating harvest sustainability, preference ranking, market surveys, cultivar descriptions, DNA analysis. Evaluation of different data analyses: interpretation of interviews, plant identification, quantitative analysis, and some frequently used statistical methods.
(3) Excursions to migrant markets where students can witness and practice 'ethnobotany in action'. Students will design and carry out a sort research project, including quantitative methods, collecting specimens, data analysis and presentation.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to:
- know the state of the art of ethnobotanical research in the tropics;
- discuss the process of plant domestication by traditional people;
- evaluate the risks and benefits of traditional medicine for public health;
- recognize the processes of acquirement, adaptation and loss of traditional knowledge;
- collect (ethno-) botanical specimens;
- use the common tools of qualitative and quantitative ethnobotany;
- carry out a small research project that integrates ethnobotanical data gathering, specimen collection, quantitative analysis and presentation.


- attendance of lectures on ethnobotany;
- participate in field excursions;
- carry out short research project and analyse data;
- literature study;
- presentation of research results;
Students are required to attend all elements of the course.


- written test: 50%;
- (Small) group paper: 30%;
- observations of active participation: 20%.


Course reader WUR.
GJ Martin 2010. Ethnobotany: a methods manual. Routledge, London.