Dr. Justin M. Nolan, In Memoriam

Justin Nolan, 2007

The Society of Ethnobiology joins in sharing our fond memories in celebration of the life and scholarship of Justin Nolan.

SoE Service

Justin was very committed to, and a significant component of, the success of the SoE since 1994. As a graduate student, he began service to the society by apprenticing and assisting Deborah Pearsall, his advisor and then Journal of Ethnobiology Editor. He served as Member-at-Large on the society’s Board from 2005–2008 and was the Conference Host of the 2008 Society of Ethnobiology Annual Meeting in Fayetteville. The society voted him President-Elect 2009–2011 and President 2011–2013. He helped found and contributed significantly to our graduate student fellowship program, and in appreciation of his ongoing support of this program, the Ecological Knowledge Graduate Fellowship is now named in his honour.

His most recent role was, together with his academic sister Marsha Bogar Quinlan, as Co-Editor of our monograph series, Contributions in Ethnobiology.

Legacy in Ethnobiology

Dr. Nolan leaves a considerable imprint on the discipline through a wide variety of projects and impactful publications. He was a leading scholar in the folk ethnobotany of peoples in the Ozark Mountains of Oklahoma, Missouri, and Arkansas, and he made significant scholarly contributions in the areas of cognitive ethnobiology and ethnoecology.

Dr. Nolan was a gifted teacher with a contagious enthusiasm for plants, animals, land and waters, indigenous and local peoples, and students of ethnobiology. He mastered the ability to make technical information and methods clear. He ran and participated in various field methods courses which substantially contributed to the ways that anthropology and ethnobiology are studied to this day. This included an NSF Ethnoecology Methods course, and a summer Cultural Ecology postgraduate module at Italy’s University of Gastronomic Sciences (2012–17). His quantitative approaches and penchant for integrating them with ethnographic research brought him broad ecological social science respect and teaching demand.

Through his teaching and leadership, Dr. Nolan was a mentor to innumerable anthropologists and ethnobiologists.

Donate to "The Justin Nolan Ecological Knowledge Fellowship" Fund

Justin Nolan with students (ca. 2007).

Justin Nolan with students (photo ca. 2007).

Shawna and Roger Cain show Justin Nolan the steps in making kenuchee, hickory nut soup, near their home in Stilwell.

Shawna and Roger Cain show Justin Nolan the steps in making kenuchee, hickory nut soup, near their home in Stilwell. Kenuchee is made by crushing hickory nuts with a mortar and pestle, and forming balls from the bits of nuts and hulls (photo ca. 2007).

Roger Cain of the United Keetoowah Band and Cherokee Nation shows Justin Nolan a patch of bloodroot on his ancestral lands in rural Adair County, Oklahoma.

Roger Cain of the United Keetoowah Band and Cherokee Nation shows Justin Nolan a patch of bloodroot on his ancestral lands in rural Adair County, Oklahoma. Nolan is an ethnobiologist at the University of Arkansas, where Roger is pursuing graduate studies in anthropology (photo ca. 2007).

Justin Nolan (R) with Steve Wolverton, Fayetteville, Arkansas

Justin Nolan (R) with Steve Wolverton, near Fayetteville, Arkansas, 2012.

Justin Nolan with Jan Timbrook (L) and Gene Anderson (R) at 2013 Ethnobiology Conference in Denton, Texas

Justin Nolan with Jan Timbrook (L) and Gene Anderson (R) at 2013 Ethnobiology Conference in Denton, Texas.


Memories (6)

  • anon

    Justin loved people as individuals and societies. He also loved plants and animals and landscapes and water. Many will remember when he chaired the wonderful Fayetteville SoE meeting and organized the field-trip to canoe the in the Ozarks; he was in hog heaven to have so many of his favorite elements collide. Justin viewed the humorous details in every situation (SO many belly-laughs). One of the kindest, most generous and empathetic people I will ever know, Justin was always there for people with a pick-me-up (physical or mental help, mentoring, a compliment, or encouragement) when you needed it most, or to keep in your back pocket for when you did. 

    Jun 26, 2020
  • anon

    Yes i remember the field trip to canoe. It was my first canoe experience, i could never be grateful enough for his kindness he showed me, he made sure i was ok since it was also my first time in US from Kenya. May he RIP.


    Oct 24, 2023
  • anon

     I am still mourning the tragic death of Justin, my dear friend, colleague,collaborator and former student. I was his co-advisor with Deborah Pearsall at the University of Missouri. We worked together on several ethnobiological projects in rural Missouri . His monograph Wild harvest in the Heartland :Ethnobotany in Missouri's Little Dixie.  is an exemplar of what inter-disciplinary research ,applying novel quantitative and  traditional qualitative methods, can accomplish.Justin's nimble,open mind, coupled with his prodigious, scholarly industry brought him to the very cusp of greatness at the time of his passing. His enthusiasm for, and devotion to, the craft he loved was a contagious example to all,including legions of undergraduate and graduate students. He was, by any measure in sum, a Master classroom teacher. He was ,of course, also one of the most sincere,generous, kind and fun-loving people I ,for one have ever known. He was like a son to me. I miss him. We are all diminished by his loss.

    Jul 16, 2020
  • anon

    I met Justin in 2008 at the Society for Economic Botany conference in Durham, NC. On the off-chance, I saw his name on the nametag hanging from the shirt of his barrel-like chest. I had read several of his papers regarding the ethnobiology of wild plants in the Ozarks and intended to do the second part of my agrobiodiversity dissertation research project in the Ozarkia bioregion. After I introduced myself and he learned of my hope to do research in his neck-of-the-woods, he enthusiastically and generously offered to put me up in his guesthouse and help me develop research contacts among old-time Ozarker and Cherokee gardeners. Thinking he was probably just being polite, I was genuinely surprised at his follow-up to my emails some months later and about a year later I used his guesthouse as a launching pad to interview gardeners in NW Arkansas and NE Oklahoma, many of who he introduced me to, including knowledgable Cherokee informants such as Shawna and Roger Cain. We became fast friends for the next decade. Justin helped me with some complicated (for me, easy for him) statistics on my dissertation despite not being on my committee. When I started the Appalachian Institute for Mountain Studies (AIMS), a biocultural diversity conservation and climate catastrophe resilience center, Justin served as a board member and significant financial contributor. I know I was only one of many people who benefitted from Justin's kindness, generosity, counsel, collegiality, big smiles and even bigger hugs. I will miss the man enormously and my life has been forever and greatly enriched by his presence in it. 

    Jul 31, 2020
  • anon

    I miss Justin and have a hard time believing we won't pick up our conversation again at the next meeting.  He was a fellow student of Dr. Pearsall's, and the one I was always trying to live up to in grad school.  He was so kind and genuinely good with people that you couldn't let yourself be too guilty about how brilliant and skilled... and hard working he was.  He is sorely missed, and I am grateful for the chance to know him.

    Mar 29, 2023
  • anon

    I am shaking and trying to type. I just learned about Justin passing a few seconds ago...where have I been? I first met Justing when he was coordinating the 31st annual Ethnobiology conference in Fayettevile in 2008. He paid for my flight from Kenya and accommondation in US to attend the conference. I had an oral presention on Ethnoornithology of Kenya. He made me relax and not have stage flight, i am so forever grateful to his kindness. His generousity goes beyound this life. Thank you Justin and may you RIP.

    Mercy from Kenya.

    Oct 24, 2023

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