Plant Systematics, Conservation Biology, and Ethnobotany


Robbie Hart, Ph.D.

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Robbie Hart, Ph.D.

Director & Curator of Economic Botany
William L. Brown Center

Research Interests
• Ethnobotany / Ethnobiology
• Plant Ecology
• Climate Change




Carolina Romero, M.Sc.
Research Specialist
William L. Brown Center

Research Interests
• Neotropical floristics and conservation
• Natural history collections
• History of Botanical Exploration and Natural History Expeditions

Amazonian Ethnobotany in the Missouri Botanical Garden Collections. Hart, is the director of MBG's William L. Brown Center; he is an ethnobotanist and ecologist with interests in quantitative methods in ethnobotany. Romero is a research specialist at the William L. Brown Center working on cataloguing biocultural collections. The Biocultural Collection at the Missouri Botanical Garden encompasses both biological specimens and the cultural artifacts more commonly seen in ethnographic and artistic collections, either made of plants or intimately associated with plant uses. This collection includes a wide array of objects, such as baskets, clothing, farming tools, household items, paper, plant-based medicines, food, textiles, and art. As herbarium specimens vouch for species occurrence, biocultural artifacts vouch for a cultural use of a plant, and consequently, tell a story related to a particular human–plant relationship. The Collection includes approximately 150 objects collected in the Amazon region and ranging from medicines, food, clothing, and baskets to paper, tools and weapons. Each one of these objects attests to the wide variety of uses of plants native from the tropical rain forests of the Amazon River’s basin, and each tells of a traditional use from its country of origin (be Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela and the Guianas). Documenting this variability, and contextualizing it within the broader herbarium collections, not only would allow the generation of a regional inventory of the Amazonian Biocultural Collections at MOBOT (including their provenance), but also the identification of the plant species used (along with the families or genera most prominently used), as well as details on the uses, material culture, and manufacturing processes. All this wealth of information will become a valuable resource for the understanding and conservation of the Amazonian biocultural heritage represented by these objects, as well as a means of preserving traditional knowledge and the lasting influence of people–plant links on the human cultures.

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