Ethnobotanist  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dotEthnobotanists are scientists. They study how people of a particular culture or region use the plants that are native to the area in which they live.

Ethnobotany is a subdiscipline of botany. It is the science of studying how plants are used to make food, clothing, shelter and medicine. It also covers how plants are used in hunting and religious ceremonies.

dotEthnobotanists divide their time between fieldwork, lab work and paperwork. Most also teach at universities. Fieldwork can be done in a variety of places around the world. Many people in this job travel extensively.

Fieldwork may be fun, but there's more to the job than that. Ethnobotanists also have to compile statistics and publish their findings in professional journals.

"There is a good demand for people with our skills," says Robin J. Marles. He is an associate professor of botany. "Ethnobotanists are sought by universities, aboriginal communities, government institutions and private drug and food companies."

dotAn average workday for an ethnobotanist can begin with a walk through the area they are studying. It can end at a microscope examining plant material. Or they may be talking to an aboriginal native, trying to learn the stories of their plant usage.

Ethnobotanists need to be physically fit. Sometimes they have to reach remote locations.

At a Glance

Study how people in specific regions use plants

  • Your time will be split between fieldwork, lab work and paperwork
  • Many ethnobotanists work as professors
  • You'll need a master's in biology or botany