Ethnobotany is quintessentially interdisciplinary, involving knowledge and use of plants and their ecology in the context of their cultural, social and economic significance.
Ethnobotany is the study of the interrelationship between people and plants, historically and cross-culturally, particularly the role of plants in human culture and practices, how humans have used and modified plants, and how they represent them in their systems of knowledge.
This programme combines anthropological studies of human-environment interaction and sociocultural knowledge of plants in different parts of the world with ecology, conservation science, biodiversity management and climate change science. It also covers medicinal plant use and ethnopharmacology, plant conservation and sustainable management practices, taxonomy, and economic botany. Students will receive practical training in mixed methods and learn to conduct interdisciplinary research in Ethnobotany, in preparation for doctoral research or a career in related fields.
The programme is partnered with the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, Botanical Gardens Conservation International, The Eden Project and The UCL School of Pharmacy.
Why study with us?
- One-year Master's programme - excellent preparation for doctoral research and careers in a variety of botanical and environmental fields.
- First programme of its kind in the world and only graduate course in UK and Europe.
- Study with the largest research group for Ethnobotany in Europe.
- More than 25% of our graduates complete PhD programmes, with significant career prospects (read more about our alumni).
- Integrates field methods with theoretical perspectives; our students are conducting research in almost 40 countries.
- Partnered with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UCL's School of Pharmacy, and The Eden Project.
- Field trips to the ancient woodlands of Blean, The National Fruit Collection, Bedgebury Pinetum, Canterbury Catherdral Archives, The Millennium Seed-bank and the Eden Project.
Applicants might also be interested in reading more about the Annual Distinguished Ethnobotanist Lecture and our Ethnobotanical Garden.
This programme draws on the combined strengths of three academic centres. At the University of Kent, the Centre for Biocultural Diversity has pioneered research and teaching in ethnobotany and human ecology; it has been rated excellent for teaching, and its work in anthropological approaches to the environment flagged for excellence in the most recent HEFCE Research Assessment Exercise.
Knowledge and understanding
You will gain knowledge and understanding of:
- ethnobotany as the comparative and interdisciplinary study of the relationship between people and plants
- specific themes in ethnobotany eg plant conservation, medical ethnobotany, ethnobotanical knowledge systems
- cultural and biological diversity and an appreciation of its scope
- several ethnographic regions of the world including north Africa, South America. South Asia and Southeast Asia (in particular Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines)
- the history of the development of ethnobotany as a subject
- the variety of theoretical approaches contained within the subject
- the processes of biological and social change
- the application of ethnobotany to understanding issues of sustainable social and economic development and environmental conservation throughout the world
- the relevance of ethnobotany to understanding everyday processes of plant-human interaction anywhere in the world.
You develop intellectual skills in:
- general learning and study skills
- critical and analytical skills
- expression of ideas both orally and in written form
- communication skills
- groupwork skills
- computing skills
- reviewing and summarising information
- data retrieval ability.
You gain subject-specific skills in:
- understanding how people are shaped by their social, cultural and physical environments while nonetheless possessing a capacity for individual agency which can allow them to transcend some environmental constraints
- recognising the pertinence of an ethnobotanical perspective to understanding major national and international events.
- interpreting plants by locating them within appropriate cultural and historical contexts
- high-level competence in using ethnobotanical theories and perspectives in the presentation of information and argument
- high-level ability to identify and analyse the significance of the social and cultural contexts of plant use
- devising questions for research and study which are anthropologically informed
- perceiving the way in which cultural assumptions may affect the perception and use of plants
- an openness to try and make rational sense of cultural and social phenomena related to plants that may appear at first sight incomprehensible.
You will gain the following transferable skills:
- making a structured argument
- the ability to make appropriate reference to scholarly data
- time-management skills
- the use of information technology including computers and library research
- handling audio-visual equipment
- independent research
- presentation skills
- the ability to exercise initiative and personal responsibility
- have the independent learning ability required for continuing professional development.
This programme aims to:
- provide you with a broad range of knowledge in the major aspects of the subject, showing how these involve connections between a range of different academic disciplines
- provide you with advanced level knowledge of the theoretical, methodological and policy issues relevant to understanding the subdiscipline
- provide you with advanced level knowledge of the theoretical and methodological issues relevant to understanding the subject
- introduce you to a variety of different approaches to ethnobotanical research, presented in a multidisciplinary context and at an advanced level
- facilitate your educational experience through the provision of appropriate pedagogical opportunities for learning
- provide you with appropriate training if you are preparing MPhil/PhD theses, or going on to employment involving the use of ethnobotanical research
- make you aware of the range of existing material available and equip you to evaluate its utility for your research
- cover the principles of research design and strategy, including formulating research questions or hypotheses and translating them into practicable research designs
- introduce you to the philosophical, theoretical and ethical issues surrounding research and to debates about the relationship between theory and research, about problems of evidence and inference, and about the limits to objectivity
- develop skills in searching for and retrieving information, using library and internet resources in a multidisciplinary and cross-national context
- introduce you to the idea of working with other academic and non-academic agencies, when appropriate, and give you the skills to carry out collaborative research
- develop your skills in writing, in the preparation of a research proposal, in the presentation of research results and in verbal communication
- help you to prepare your research results for wider dissemination, in the form of seminar papers, conference presentations, reports and publications, in a form suitable for a range of different audiences, including academics, policymakers, professionals, service users and the general public
- give you an appreciation of the potentialities and problems of ethnobotanical research in local, regional, national and international settings
- ensure that the research of the Department’s staff informs the design of modules, and their content and delivery in ways which can achieve the national benchmarks of the subject in a manner which is efficient and reliable, and enjoyable to students.