Predictive Tools for Ethnobiology: Using GIS in the Caucasus Mountains

TATE, Richard W. - University of Florida

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can streamline logistics prior to conducting ethnobiological fieldwork in complex biocultural contexts, affording a level of prediction concerning cultural plant use patterns. This is of special consideration when developing research projects in remote or distant study areas, where costly financial outputs make maximization of on-ground effort a priority. Using a combination of known locational data, edaphic information, and vegetation layers from the republic of Georgia, GIS analyses are used to predict habitat distribution of useful plants. Such applications present multifaceted assets for ethnobiological researchers by increasing the capability to anticipate plant use patterns among the country’s peoples prior to fieldwork. Other benefits of pre-fieldwork GIS analyses include recognition of biogeographically incongruous use and absence of known endemic medicinals in local pharmacopeia. Application of this technology as a predictive tool represents a step forward in ethnobiological research methodology, offering fiscal incentives through maximization of on-the-ground research efficacy.