The 45th Annual Conference of the Society of Ethnbiology in St. Louis, MO, Apr 24–27, 2024
Data scientists combine expertise in statistical workflows, database creation and maintenance, and programming language to efficiently analyze large amounts of data. Their goal is to understand complex phenomena and offer new insights from large datasets. Modern society is now reliant on data science considering how effective it is at extracting useful information. Whether we like it or not, data science and its technologies are here to stay. Environmental archaeology—a subdiscipline with explicit ethnobiological connections—is rich in data from a vast array of different areas of research, such as geochemistry, environmental science, ecology, botany, and zoology. Environmental archaeologists have rapidly adopted data science approaches to glean accurate, precise, and replicable insights from the archaeological record. This poster session highlights new approaches in data science that help support the study of how past peoples interacted with their environments. We focus on such topics as the creation and management of ethnobiological databases, open-source tools in scientific communication, interactive data visualizations and user engagement, and new statistical and computing techniques to better understand the archaeology of human-environment interaction. Posters in this session demonstrate how these relatively new techniques and technologies are not mere distractions but offer the potential to expand our understanding of people-organism-environment interactions and relationships. Ethnobiologists can leverage data science to help sustainably support, expand, and transform the field well into the future.
Archaeologists are increasingly engaging local communities through heritage connections to places. For archaeologists, these places stand as sites of study. However, for many local peoples, such places hold significant cultural meaning, what ethnobiologists term cultural keystone places (CKPs). CKPs emphasize the deep connections between people, culture, and the natural world, offering a framework for merging cultural revitalization and environmental restoration. This session comprises examples of research on cultural keystone places from many areas of the world, representing a transition in the field toward recognizing that the future well-being of local peoples and ecosystems relies on connections to CKPs.
Museums and botanical gardens contain a wealth of information about culturally significant plants. They also contain the seeds of these plants, which are considered by many Indigenous people to be living kin. This roundtable discussion will bring together seed keepers and growers who are trying to revive or preserve their communities’ traditional relationships with plants with scientists and curators from various fields to ask: How can these collections of sleeping seeds be awakened?
Some of the first studies in ethnobiology relied on the measurement of anatomical features from biological specimens, such as skeletal elements or plant seeds. Advances in environmental archaeology increasingly rely on robust measurements of biological specimens, or biometrics. This increase is related to the development of new imaging technology and robust statistical computing techniques. For example, environmental archaeologists now frequently turn to 3D scanning technology and/or open-source packages for multivariate statistics that allow for objective shape-based analyses (i.e., morphometrics). These new techniques and perspectives promise to reinvigorate a classic area of ethnobiological research. In this session, we highlight the reassessment of standard metrics used for taxonomic identification, the creation of new measurements for identification, the replicability of different protocols, and new areas of research that benefit from a focus on biometrics.
The application of multiscalar approaches to the study of urban societies (through the lens of diet, life history, reproduction, ect.) helps explore the causal relationship between ancient states and ancient people. Shifts in state power affect institutional structures, such as politics, economics, religions, but also alter important aspects of everyday life, such as social hierarchy, movement, labor, and diet. Urban environments can create or exacerbate physiological stresses resulting from the nested relationships between the individual, their immediate environment, and the larger sociopolitical climate. The interplay of different social identities at the individual level is associated with structural inequalities that produce and maintain social, political, and economic disparities as well as their subsequent health outcomes. The bioarcheology of urban societies provides a framework to connect the material record of the state with the lived experience embodied in human skeletal remains and associated cultural material. In this session, we present recent scholarship on the bioarcheology of ancient urban states from Peru, Kenya, China, and Egypt.
In this session we will present the SoE Student Board initiative and the Student involvement opportunities in the Society of Ethnobiology. We will share current projects and will gather input to create a shared vision by and for students. Finally, we will share tips and advice on student grants applications. Current students that want to learn about opportunities to become involved in the Society and develop leadership skills are highly encouraged to participate in this session.
On the edges of noisy cities and in the deep quiet of forests, avian worlds are part of human worlds. This session brings together those who have researched, thought and written about birds and their relations to humans in ecologies, biomes, stories, flyways, backyards, languages, laws and policies, and spiritual arts. The aim is to enroll birds as allies in a broad-scope and collective ethnobiological project to understand how to respond creatively and justly to key planetary transformations.
The Choreography of Biodiverse Belonging: Flamingos, spoonbills, and godwits foraging in Lisbon's mudflats (Stephanie Kane)
Maang in the Anishinaabe Tradition: Learning from Our Avian Kin (Scott LaTour)
Precarious, Precious, Pest: Guineafowl Keeping in the United States
Writing from the Missouri Botanical Garden, the famed ethnobotanist Edgar Anderson began his classic book, Plants, Man, and Life, by arguing that “the history of weeds is the history of man.” In the seven decades since, weed studies have branched out in fascinating new directions. In this session, we will explore weeds defined in the ecological sense: plants adapted to frequently disturbed or unpredictable environments. What makes these plants successful in their turbulent habitats? Why have so many weeds been domesticated? Are these flexible plants the answer to the problem of producing food in an increasingly unpredictable climate? How do weeds shape urban environments and food systems? We welcome papers that explore both the entangled histories of weeds and people, and those that imagine their futures.
Although it is all too easy to consider humanity as separate from the environment in urban areas, many cities offer unique opportunities to foster community connections through environmental stewardship. Through this session, ethnobiologists located in cities throughout the world will share work revolving around a similar theme: How are urban communities connecting with nature in a disconnected environment? Topics can include community-based conservation, environmental education, urban parks and recreation, immigration/refugee gardens, urban agriculture, and more. These activities work to improve both environmental conditions and human health and well-being.
In our dominant culture, listening is considered to be something largely passive. Yet, when we have the experience of feeling genuinely listened to, it has the power to transform and expand our relationships. While not always something that is valued or carefully taught, who we listen to and how we listen can have great impact on the design, quality, results, governance and relevance of our research. In a world increasingly built on abbreviated information, how might we return to being active observers in our listening? What are the ethical and practical aspects of leading with listening in our research across lines of difference? What might be some barriers, challenges and tools to getting there? This interactive roundtable discussion seeks to describe the utility of active listening in ethnobotanical research, and the responsibility of researchers to practice that listening with integrity - as is the case with historical sources as well as living, contemporary ones. Participants in this roundtable come together through unique partnerships emerging amongst The Land Institute, the University of Kansas, Indigenous communities, and the community-based Palestinian research group Makaneyyat, that are all investigating the roles of food plants in our lives and cultures through ethnobotany, perennial crop development, art, restoration, participatory research, and education.