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Maria Fadiman          

Nat Geo Explorer, Ethnobotanist, Associate Professor Florida Atlantic University

Maria Fadiman is a highly acclaimed ethnobotanist who was named as a National Geographic Emerging Explorer in 2006. When she is not studying plants in the depths of the rainforests of South America or in the wilderness of the savannah lands in Africa she works as a professor of world geography at Florida Atlantic University.

Dr. Fadiman works with the human/environmental aspect of conservation. She received her Ph.D. in Geography at the University of Texas at Austin, an M.A. in Latin American Studies from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana and a B.A. from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. She was named one of National Geographics Emerging Explorers in 2006. Her research focuses on ethnobotany, the study of the relationship between people and plants. She works primarily in rural areas with indigenous people and subsistence agriculturalists.

The majority of her research is in the rainforests of Latin America, mostly Ecuador. Projects include researching oil exploration in the Amazon; organic coffee production in the Galpagos; and the comparative use of rainforest palms and vines. Fadiman has worked with Mayan weavers in the Yucatan and studied medicinal plants with the Lacandon people in Chiapas, Mexico. She has researched alternative livelihoods in Africa for those who depend on tree poaching from the national parks in the savanna; explored house construction from natural materials in the Philippines; studied the Maori utilization of the Kauri tree in New Zealand; and worked with Tibetan children in teaching them to record their own ethnobotanical traditions.

She currently is working on a global scale cross cultural study of peoples use of a cultural keystone species (the flora and fauna that are deemed important to the survival of a culture), and how these plants can act as larger ecosystem preservation incentives.

Speech Topics

People, Plants and Conservation

The importance of the human relationship with plants and the role that we all play in keeping our cultures and world healthy. Geographical areas addressed can be, Latin America, Africa, Southeast Asia, East Asia, New Zealand and the United States

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