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Society for Economic Botany Holds 51st Annual Meeting

Society for Economic Botany Holds 51st Annual Meeting

The 51st annual meeting of the Society for Economic Botany (SEB) was held in Xalapa, Mexico from June 6-10, 2010. Its theme, “Agrobiodiversity: Lessons for Conservation and Local Development,” paid tribute to the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity (IYB). In addition to commemorating IYB through a variety of the presentations and sessions, the event included a special symposium sponsored by Biodiversity International, titled “Plant Domestication as an Ongoing Process: Implications and Applications for Conservation and Resilience.” The meeting was accompanied by the 2nd annual meeting of the Open Science Network in Ethnobiology.

Thanks to the local organizing committee and the event’s institutional sponsors, the Centro de Investigaciones Tropicales (CITRO) at the Universidad Veracruzana and the Instituto de Ecología, A.C. (INECOL), the meeting was a great success, both in the meeting rooms and with regards to the accompanying events. Such accompanying events included field trips and local attractions, allowing participants to sample the local flora and cuisine, as well as ancient and contemporary culture. The meeting’s location (this was the 6th meeting outside the United States in 16 years) and an international crowd of speakers and participants reflect SEB’s successful attempt in broadening its scope and membership.

The 4-day event was host to over 100 oral and 30 poster presentations, which were attended by more than 300 participants from 16 countries, some from as far afield as Kenya, Poland, and Estonia. The meeting was partially bilingual, with some presentations given in English and/or Spanish. Alas, the wealth of presentations made parallel sessions inevitable and offered a tough choice to participants.

The meeting provided a great opportunity and platform for young and experienced scientists to present and discuss their work. While it is almost impossible to name highlights amongst the presentations, the young scientist award winners deserve mention: the Edmund Fulling Oral Presentation Award went to Ashley DuVal (Yale University, USA) for “Selection, Management, and Diffusion of Açaí Branco by Smallholder Farmers in the Amazon Estuary,” and the Julia Morton Poster Award was given to Xitlali Aguirre-Dugua (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) for “The Gourd Tree Crescentia cujete: Phylogeography and Ethnobotany of a Useful Fruit in Mexico.” The Mary W. Klinger 2010 Book Award was given to Eduardo S. Brondizio, author of The Amazonian Caboclo and the Acai Palm: Forest Farmers in the Global Market (New York Botanical Garden Press, 2008). These monetary awards are given annually by the society to promote young scientists.

Another highlight—both in terms of speed and scope—was the honorary lecture of this year’s recipients of SEB’s Distinguished Economic Botanist award, Edelmira Linares, PhD, and Robert Bye, PhD. Alternating elegantly, Drs. Linares and Bye uncovered a lifetime of tireless professional curiosity, research, and achievements in studying traditionally used medicinal plants documented by the rich ethnobotany of Mexico.

SEB also held board and business meetings as part of the conference, details of which are due to be published in the next edition of the organization’s newsletter. SEB’s 2011 annual meeting will be held jointly with the Botanical Society of America from July 9-13 in St. Louis, Missouri. Its theme is “Healing the Planet,” and it will feature a symposium on medicinal plants in honor of the late Harvard ethnobotany professor and SEB Distinguished Economic Botanist Richard Evans Schultes.

More about SEB is available at its website,

—Thomas Brendler, Plantaphile Ltd., and Trish Flaster, Botanical Liaison, LLC