The Society of Ethnobiology announces Steve Emslie and Steve Weber as joint recipients of the 2017 Distinguished Ethnobiologist (DEB) award for 2017. Steve Emslie is a Professor in the Department of Biology and Marine Biology at the University of North Carolina. Steve Weber is a Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Washington State University.


The nomination of Steve Emslie and Steve Weber was coordinated by Dana Lepofsky, and was supported by the esteemed ethnobiologists Gene Anderson, Cecil Brown, Richard Ford, Kay Fowler, Paul Minnis, Chelsey Armstrong, Jade D'Alpoim Guedes, Andrew Gillreath-Brown, Joyce Lecompte-Mastenbrook, Alex McAlvay, Marsha Quinlan, and Mario Zimmermann.


In her nomination letter for Steve Emslie and Steve Weber, Dana Leposky wrote: “As founders of our Society and our Journal some 40 years ago when they were sassy young graduate students, we have much to be grateful to them for. Little did they know that their vision and hard work would turn into the world’s leading ethnobiological society. In the early days of our Society, beginning with the first conference in 1978, “the Steves” worked tirelessly to promote ethnobiology and in deed to create a cohesive ethnobiology community.”


“Our first two conferences, organized by the Steves in Arizona had about 28 oral presentations and about 50 attendees” wrote Lepofsky. “Compare that to our most recent conference in Arizona, where 146 people presented talks! After those first conferences, the Steve’s created the Journal (and distributed it out of Steve Weber’s garage), and then the Society (and all the legal paperwork and structure that entailed). In 1981 - 1983, both Steves were “co-directors” of the first years of publications of our then bi-annual journal. And then in 1983-1986, Steve W. served as our first President, and Steve E. as our first Secretary/Treasurer (which was a single position up to about 10 years ago). As the supporters of this nomination note, their understanding of the need for a cohesive ethnobiology community, was timely, and in the end, foundational for the discipline.”


“By creating a new scientific society the two Steves did all of us a favor,” testified Richard Ford (Professor Emeritus, University of Michigan), “because the other scientific societies in biology and anthropology were too compartmentalized to envision a field that would integrate all aspects of biology and show its importance for human cultures. They deserve thanks from all of us and to bestow this award on both of them together is most appropriate.”


“Their own unique backgrounds,” according to Alex McAlvay (Graduate Student, University of Wisconsin, Madison), “led them to form an organization that brings the work of ethnozoologists and paleoethnobiologists into cross-pollination with ethnobotanists, an inclusivity that has marked the SoE from its inception. Students accustomed to larger anthropology, archaeology, and biology meetings quickly discover that this is a very different type of organization, less dominated by ego, competition, and hierarchy.”


In her note in support of the nomination, Kay Fowler (Professor Emerita, University of Nevada-Reno) wrote, “Steve Emslie and Steve Weber each have “made his own contributions to the scholarly discourse of the enterprise through continued work in avian ecology and paleoecology in Antartica and North America (Steve Emslie) and the origins of agriculture and crop domestication in India (Steve Weber). The scholarly world owes them a great debt, as does the Society of Ethnobiology.”


According to Mario Zimmermann (PhD Candidate, Washington State University), “Steve Weber believes that archaeobotanical data can and should be used to help present-day farming communities. As an archaeologist he is more than aware that cultures and their environments change constantly. Today people in southern and eastern Asia, both regions where he conducted extensive fieldwork, are among those who suffer most from extreme climatic events. For decades, Steve has provided these people with valuable lessons from the past. As an actively engaged ethnobiologist, he has worked to promote a human-environment relationship that is based on understanding and resilience.”


Alex McAlvay elaborated by adding, “Steve Weber and Steve Emslie have been prolific in their paleoethnobotanical and paleozoological research, but their output is many times more if one were to include the products of collaboration made possible by creating the Society of Ethnobiology. The special space they fostered has led to countless intellectual collisions and collusions resulting in not only tangible products of collaborations, but intangible friendships, stimulation, and inspiration.”


Jade d'Alpoim Guedes (Assistant Professor, Washington State University) wrote, “I cannot think of a better person to nominate for the distinguished ethnobiologist award than Steven Weber. As a budding paleoethnobotanist working in Asia, the pioneering work carried out by Steven Weber set the standard for my own career and for those of many other young archaeobotanists.”


“Steve [Weber’s] position at Washington State University has been based at our primarily undergraduate campus of Washington State University Vancouver,” explained Jade, “and while there Steve has mentored generations of undergraduate and graduate students. It is indeed thanks to his efforts that our department first developed a BA in Anthropology at this campus location. Steve mentored a large number of undergraduates in his lab and it is a testament to his mentoring that each of these students produced publishable papers during their BA. He has also been active in training international scholars. “


To learn more about how the Steves founded our Society, and even how they chose our stick figurine logo, visit:

The DEB award honors ethnobiologists who have made outstanding contributions to the field of ethnobiology and who have advanced the goals of the Society. In recognition of these contributions, the recipient will be awarded a lifetime honorary membership to the Society of Ethnobiology.


“The 40th anniversary of the Society’s founding is an excellent time to recognize their contributions,” explained Paul Minnis. “Without their initial efforts in founding the Society, we would not be, in my opinion, the most intellectually diverse and active organization promoting ethnobiology.  It should be pointed out that they conceived the Society as a bridge across disciplinary boundaries. While the “the two Steve’s” were archaeologists, one interested in animals and the other in plants, the Society from the beginning transcended their personal interests.”