2019 Sessions

Thank you to everyone who submitted sessions. Submissions are now closed.

Session Organizer(s): 
Nicole Sault

While ornithologists examine birdcalls and songs within the context of ethology, ethno-ornithologists go beyond these observable behaviors to consider the relationship between birds and people in cultural context. This includes creation stories with avian heroes, myths of transformation where birds change into people or vice versa, and birds as the source of human speech. In addition, many societies believe there is bird wisdom encoded in signs, omens, and dreams, which can be interpreted by specialists. Through song and dance, calls and whistles, people and birds communicate with each other. These papers address bird talk in terms of perception, hearing and understanding on various levels, and consider which particular birds are recognized for their abilities to advise or instruct, signal changes in the environment, and warn of impending danger. In what ways have avian voices been ignored, misappropriated, or silenced?

Session Organizer(s): 
Kathryn Matthews

Cultivating Camas Connections:


Camassia quamash (common camas) is a facultative wetland hydrophyte with cultural ties to many different tribes and first nations across western North America. It was particularly important due to its edibility and abundance, and its carbohydrate rich bulb continues to be harvested, cooked, and eaten. Historically, camas harvests were an opportunity for indigenous peoples to trade and interact, both within and between different indigenous groups.


Camas requires specific habitat characteristics to ensure a suitably wet growing season. Its habitats, often referred to as camas prairies, were important traditional harvest sites for many indigenous cultures. In the 19th century federal land policies removed many tribes and nations from their ancestral homelands and transferred ownership of those lands to railroads, timber companies, and early European settlers. Ultimately, these land uses proved particularly destructive to wetland prairies, including camas prairies. The decline of wetland areas across North America has resulted in significant loss of a habitat that provides valuable ecosystem functions, while also reducing and degrading culturally significant landscapes like camas prairies.

Investigations into the cultural significance, restoration, conservation and management strategies for camas prairies is currently being conducted across a variety of disciplines. This is an exciting time for camas research, and the 2019 Society for Ethnobiology conference would provide an ideal forum to foster and encourage further discussion across these disciplines and bring the current state of camas knowledge forward.

Camas is an important plant that has the unique ability to connect people across backgrounds, cultures, research subjects, and disciplines. Management strategies incorporating traditional uses of specific species, like camas, and more broadly, the biological and cultural landscapes in which these species grow, deserve special attention. The mission of this session is to provide valuable insight into making camas-focused projects more successful, advance landscape restoration goals, and reassert cultural presence on the landscapes that we as ethnobotanists study.

Session Date and Time: 
Thursday, 9 May 2019 - 1:30pm
Geography classroom #242
Session Organizer(s): 
Ethics and Advocacy Committee

The eeLab is an intentional space, organized in the spirit of learning with and listening to the Society of Ethnobiology’s members on ethics and advocacy topics so that we can co-construct participatory and collaborative solutions and resources. The 2019 eeLab will be an opportunity for members of the Society to come together to review and discuss revisions to a proposed new Code of Professional Conduct for the Society of Ethnobiology’s meetings.  The Ethics and Advocacy Committee (EAC) has been developing a Code of Professional Conduct for Meetings that will apply to all Society gatherings, including the annual conference, board and committee meetings (both in-person and virtual), social media communiqué, and other types of official meetings.  The EAC is undertaking this work as part of a movement within academia to support meeting spaces where everyone can thrive while pursuing their academic and professional goals. The EAC has drafted a Code of Professional Conduct for Meetings that will be shared with eeLab participants for feedback.  The draft outlines appropriate and inappropriate behaviours for attendees of Society meetings.  The format for the eeLab will include an introduction to professional codes of conduct for meetings, breakout groups to focus on specific tasks and questions, and a reconvening of the whole group to share feedback that will guide the finalization of the new Code of Professional Conduct for Meetings.  EAC members will serve as moderators, small-group leads and attentive listeners.  A revised version of the Code of Professional Conduct for Meetings will be brought to members for adoption in the weeks following the eeLab.

Session Organizer(s): 
Alvaro Fernandez-Llamazares
Dana Lepofsky

In honour of Kwaksistalla Wathl’thla Chief Adam Dick

This session will explore the role of songs in transmitting and maintaining biocultural knowledge amongst Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities from all over the world. We seek a range of contributions with different scholarly perspectives, approaches, and orientations. First, we invite papers providing the theoretical foundations of the study of songs in ethnobiology, reviewing the history of scholarship, including key methods, subdisciplines, approaches, and findings. Second, we welcome case studies highlighting the role of songs in the intergenerational transmission of biocultural knowledge and traditional ecological management practices, as well as in cultivating a sense of place and fostering emotional connections with the land. Third, because traditional songs encompass a diversity of relational values, including reciprocity, kinship, and responsibility, contributions are sought that delve into the role of songs in promoting paradigms of respect towards the natural world. And fourth, we encourage submissions reviewing examples of biocultural revitalization through song, as well as case studies of how global change, and more specifically climate change, is influencing music-making in many communities around the world. All contributions are encouraged to consider how songs reveal conceptualizations of nature-culture interactions that differ substantially from Western epistemologies, and how the use and applications of songs and music could push forward the research agenda of modern-day ethnobiology.

Session Organizer(s): 
Sarah Walshaw

History as a discipline is facing questions about its relevance, in an era of declining student enrolments and calls to decolonize a traditionally Eurocentric and ivory-tower pursuit. Ethnobiology, as an interdisciplinary study of human inter-relationships with the biological world, has the potential to contribute theoretical principles and methods to the study of History more broadly, and in particular to the subfields of Environmental History and Ethnohistory. Ethnobiological approaches allow greater access to Indigenous worldviews and logics of the natural world by putting into conversation data from ethnography, historical ecology, oral history, and the documented past. In enquiring about emic systems of ordering nature and human society, ethnobiologists can put into context non-linear modes of time, systems of kinship (human and non-human), and ways of creating, keeping, and transmitting knowledge. Perhaps most significantly, ethnobiology offers a methodological intervention that places Indigenous knowledge holders as collaborators in – and not merely subjects of -  research design, data collection and interpretation, and dissemination of knowledge. Such perspectives and methods offer a pathway to decolonizing historical studies, and bring into focus Indigenous experiences and observations of climate change, food sovereignty, health and healing, and land management, all pressing issues to reconciliation.

Session Organizer(s): 

The Global Change/Global Health session presents work in which global change and human health are viewed as interconnected phenomena. At the intersection of global change analyses and global health studies, these papers frame global change and human health as direct and indirect causes and consequences of each other. Human responses to the continuous transformations in the Earth’s atmosphere, ocean, and land involve biopsychosocial shifts in human communities. Papers may consider one of the major threads through which global change connects to global health, such as: (1) the health related causes and consequences of environmental change; (2) spatiotemporal processes of health; (3) the phenomenology of climate, environmental, and lifestyle changes; (4) critical analyses of global change and global health initiatives; (4) theoretical and methodological contributions to global change and global health studies; (5) global flows of people and ideas related to environments and wellbeing; (6) emerging ethical debates about global climate, health, political and social restructurings; (7) human and environmental relationships to new technologies, and the relevance for wellbeing; and (8) global change and global health in relationship to global conflicts. In addressing these most important convergences between global change and global health, the papers in this session contribute to public debates and informing public policies about the human dimensions of global change.

Session Organizer(s): 
Abderrahim Ouarghidi

Climate change is changing the way Indigenous People interact with water around the world. Water scarcity is being experienced primarily in local, usually Indigenous communities. Likewise changes in marine and coastal ecosystems have far reaching impacts on local and indigenous communities. Yet, in many places, decision-making processes and water management are becoming increasingly commoditized and centralized. Centralized management systems rarely aligned with the indigenous communities’ needs and expectations. Governmental policies and high-tech solutions tend to focus on production, yield and off-take and often favour large scale agricultural and fisheries production, rather than sustainable and long-term use of resources. Conversely, indigenous people and their traditional practices have much to offer to sustainable water use: from traditional irrigation and water storage technology to traditional institutions for water and aquatic resource governance. Water is central to Indigenous Peoples, livelihoods, food security and spirituality. Around the world communities are facing changing water resources and aquatic ecosystems creatively and adaptively. Understanding the ways indigenous knowledge and practice around water is changing and evolving can inform new systems of management that recognize indigenous efforts and credibility to co-manage natural resources.

Ethnobiology has given a close attention to understanding the social-environmental systems and the traditional ecological knowledge of natural resources. However, little attention has been given to understanding the power dynamics between the indigenous and the new systems and how this can help impact the policy makers and the decision-making processes. This session aims to explore ways that Indigenous knowledge and practice can inform efforts towards better use of water and aquatic resources.

Session Organizer(s): 
Victoria Reyes-García

While the evidence is growing that Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLC) are disproportionally being affected by climate change impacts, few acknowledge that Indigenous and Local Knowledge (ILK) systems can contribute towards understanding climate change impacts on local social-ecological system. However, throughout the world, IPLC with a long history of interaction with the environment have developed intricate and complex knowledge systems (including information, management techniques, and forms of organization) that allow them to detect not only changes in local weather and climatic variability, but also the direct effects of such changes in the physical and the biological systems on which they depend.

In this session, we aim to bring together researchers, practitioners, and knowledge holders to share their experiences on both topics. Thus, we aim for presentations featuring case studies of how IPLC social-ecological systems are being affected by the effects of unexpected extreme rainfall events, floods, droughts, pasture disappearance, extinction of medicinal plants, changes in animal behaviour patterns, or the appearance of pests and invasive alien species, phenomena generally related to climate change. We are also looking for presentations exploring how ILK can be an alternative source of knowledge in the quest to understand climate change impacts on local social-ecological systems and how combining such knowledge with research on climate change impacts offers the potential to design successful climate adaptation policies. At the end of the panel we will discuss the importance of establishing a global network around the concept of local indicators of climate change impacts to significantly advance climate research and help to bridge the gap between place-based and global climate research.

Session Organizer(s): 
Terry Sunderland


The international food security and nutrition community has engaged the idea of food environment as a useful frame work . The food environment is described at including four main components that shape dietary choice: availability, accessibility, convenience and desirability. Emerging evidence suggests that changes in the food environment, shapes changes in dietary choice and is at least in for dietary transitions seen around the world. Much could be learnt by understanding the role of the food environment as a key driver of dietary transitions away from traditional food systems.


Ethnobiology understands traditional food use as a central link between Indigenous People and their lands, as part of complex bio-cultural systems. Increasingly Indigenous Peoples’, Land Rights and the Right to food are seen as related issues . Ethnobiology focuses not only on the nutritional and ecological impotence of traditional foods, but also on their cultural and spiritual importance. Ethnobiology is thus well positioned to shed light on the least well understood aspect of food environments: desirability.


This session aims to explore the ways traditional and Indigenous foods, food systems and food production landscapes are embedded with social, cultural and spiritual meaning and the ways these meanings shape food preferences and desirability. Food preferences are linked to social and cultural identity. Many Indigenous communities have a sacred relationship with food and or the landscapes they manage to produce food . Lack of access to traditional lands is increasingly framed as a food sovereignty and right to food issue. To date there has been little effort to understand how these social, cultural and spiritual connections to food mediate desirability and either mitigate or perpetuate dietary transitions away from healthy traditional diets. We will explore the ways that social, cultural and spiritual meanings of traditional foods, as well as the attachment to places (food production landscapes), shapes dietary transitions for Indigenous communities around the world.



Session Organizer(s): 
Natasha Lyons
Chelsey Geralda Armstrong

Anthropogenic landscapes created and managed by Indigenous Peoples were once a common feature of many regions of North America and today are being rediscovered, restored, and re-used by Indigenous communities (and their allies and partners) to their own ends. In this session, we ask contributors to share their visions of the relationship between Indigenous Resource Management and sovereignty throughout Western North America. Case studies might explore how Indigenous Resource Management policies and practices are being codified by Indigenous governments (and other traditional, tribal and cultural bodies); what ecosystems and species are chosen and why; what types of land-based resurgence are being pursued by communities who are land-poor due to colonial processes; and, how these various pursuits are negotiated with different levels of settler governments, outside researchers, internal governance structures, culture and resistance camps (etc)? Finally, how are ecosystems and species restorations planned and/or carried out in practice? For instance, what does it take to restore a clam garden, a high elevation berry patch, a forest garden, or an anthropogenic prairie? What roles do respective partners play? How is success measured? What are some of outcomes in the social, ecological, economic, political and/or spiritual context of community? We invite responses in a range of media, lenses and story-telling styles.

Session Organizer(s): 
Lisa Gollin

Ethnobiologists/ethnobotanists come from diverse fields (botany, anthropology, geography, medicine, nutrition, agriculture, art, architecture, etc.) and possess the knowledge, skills and experience to make critical contributions to: food security and sovereignty, natural and cultural resource management and historic preservation, climate change resilience and adaptation and environmental futures, nutrition, public health and medicine, natural product development and sustainability, wildfire prevention and response, field and methods training and guide writing, to name only a few. This session will expand on the Networking Social event held at the 2017 SEB-SoE joint conference. Come meet with 10 resource professionals who will share their experiences and background in applied work, the cross-over skills in natural-social sciences they bring to their projects, and where they see opportunities for attendees. Introductions and a brief panel discussion will be followed by a group breakout activity. Each resource professional will head a group covering a topic related to the fields, topics and opportunities open to ethnobiologists/ethnobotanists in the public and private sectors, NGO’s and more. Attendees can choose one group or circulate to exchange ideas, build connections, and foster collaborations. The session will be 1.5 hours.

Session Organizer(s): 
Eleanor Sterling
Pua'ala Pascua
Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares

Collaboration between local and international conservation initiatives is imperative as it can synergize cross-scale planning and evidence-based implementation for sustainability. Yet across the globe, Indigenous Peoples and other place-based, local communities are often subjected to global goals, national policies, and regional commitments that are externally codified and include pre-determined monitoring and reporting indicators.  This can result in indicators that may not effectively support communities in realizing their self-determined vision. In addition, indicators that lack community-level input may also discount, misrepresent or undermine the knowledge systems, worldviews and cultural values that underpin the connections between people and place.

We argue that a promising solution to this challenge is to develop monitoring and reporting indicators using a biocultural approach, one that begins with an understanding of locally grounded priorities and needs that inform community interactions with, and management of, nature. Using participatory methods to identify indicators supports the identification of metrics that are culturally appropriate, that are monitored in a way that is coordinated with and respects peoples’ livelihood strategies and time limitations, and that provide information that is relevant for local community decision-making. Working alongside community members to reflect on and choose indicators is an essential part of the process, supporting community empowerment and ultimately influencing improved environmental and social outcomes of conservation initiatives.

We propose to engage a small panel of practitioners and ethnobiologists from across the globe who are actively using well-being or other biocultural-oriented monitoring and reporting indicators for their place-based initiatives. We will ask invited practitioners to describe their place-based initiative’s indicator set and/or framework, in particular, the context in which they were used and/or process they fed into, any helpful tools/resources encountered along the way, and based on these experiences, recommendations for future conservation planning efforts that are attuned to local needs/priorities and global goals.

Session Organizer(s): 
Dana Lepofsky

Across cultures and around the world, stories are a powerful way to share ethnobiological knowledge.  It has been so from the beginning of time.   In this session, we invite story-tellers to share stories that highlight people's connection to their biological worlds.  Lessons learned about our developing relationships with other creatures, how the world works, and how to act respectfully and responsibly, are among the many themes that will run throughout this session.

Unlike other sessions (which will be limited to 15 minutes per presentation), story tellers in this session will be given a 30 minute slot to share their stories. 

Session Organizer(s): 
Fiona Hamersley Chambers

There are many voices of food, and this is particularly true for traditional foods and the stories of their resurgence. This session will bring together researchers, activists, community partners and others from the Northwest Coast to demonstrate the diversity inherent in understanding and revitalizing traditional foods and associated practices.

Session Organizer(s): 
Daisy Rosenblum
Spencer Greening

This session will focus on the multiple ways that Indigenous languages contain and express histories of biocultural relationships and knowledges of place. We invite submissions from a range of perspectives, approaches and orientations, encompassing community-based and academic research. Relevant topics include, but are not limited to: oral histories of place and relationships to ancestors and other territorial beings; placenames and the Traditional Ecological Knowledge they contain; ethnobiological histories revealed through comparative linguistic study; regional practices of protocol applied in visiting, gathering, and processing; and the development of contemporary language reclamation projects centered in biocultural knowledge and land-based pedagogies. We particularly welcome contributions reflecting on community-centred methodologies and best practices in the integration of language and linguistic understanding to ethnobiological research.

Session Organizer(s): 

This session will explore the roles of women in different Indigenous subsistence economies, which could be pastoralist, hunting and gathering, as well as, horticultural subsistence systems (including small-scale farming and fishing). The geographical area is global, from the southern part of the globe stretching to the north including the arctic. Women’s work is often unrecognized both on the local level as well as the international level; in calculating the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in economics, the women’s unofficial work such as preparing food, taking care of children, cleaning, and washing clothes, is not included. However, the work of women is not limited to the domestic sphere, women also do work outside the domestic sphere with fishing, hunting, herding animals, which is considered by anthropologists as well as the local men, as men’s work. In addition, historically, women are gathering fruits and plants in a hunting and gathering society, and women often tend to the fields in small-scale farming while the men do clearance of the forest for farmland.

The session welcomes presentations about Indigenous women’s work either in the past or in present day. The research can be archaeological, historical, or anthropological. We are especially interested in presentations, which focus on understanding how the role and the status of Indigenous women in subsistence economy were transformed over time due to colonization.The presentations can also address the issue concerning; gender roles in the Indigenous communities are changing and new strategies for surviving and maintaining different Indigenous identities are being formed in present day. Many women in Indigenous communities are today working as wage-laborers and professionals, bringing in money to the family. Their income often facilitates the continuation of the subsistence practices, leading to changed power relations and changed practice of the subsistence activities. Still they are not always recognized as the breadwinners in the national legislation and not granted the same rights as the men. We welcome explanations drawing on historical factors, such as the legislation and regulation of Indigenous peoples and anthropologists’ ethnographic description of them, for creating this situation.