Ethnobotany Certificate Program

The Ethnobotany Certificate Program is the first such program in this state and only one of a handful that are currently being offered in the entire United States. Ethnobotany is integral to life in Alaska because it recognizes cultural knowledge and deepens our connection with the expansive and exceptional natural world at our doorstep.

Students enrolled in the EBOT program will learn: basic plant biology & floral ecology of Alaska, economic applications of Ethnobotany, basic applied chemistry of plants, research methods for local specific projects, as well as traditional and new uses of Alaska native plants. These skills will prepare Alaska Native students for employment in wildlife and cultural management agencies, education, and other rural-based jobs, as well as further college milestones such as the Associates and Bachelor’s of
Science degrees.


Kevin Curran is a biology professor at USD in San Diego, teaching Cell Biology and an Ethnobotany course. He has recently put together a new ethnobotany website. On this site, he delves into the cultural history and health benefits of various medicinal plants. He also provides a mini-review of the latest clinical results for the science behind the health claims of these plants.

Be sure to scroll through the page to see some exciting information about medicinal plants!

Summer Field Class - Kotzebue, Alaska 2014

This film takes viewers into the happenings at the University of Alaska Fairbanks ethnobotany course in Kotzebue, Alaska, in the summer of 2014. Through interviews with instructors, Elders and students,  you will get an idea of what to expect out of a two-week intensive summer field course, which is part of the ethnobotany certificate program.  

See the Ethnobotany playlist

Kayla Scheibl, Ethnobotany exchange student in Hawaii

Kayla is an exchange student at Kauai Community College, in Lihue, HI.

a piece of Kapa fabric

Kayla Scheibl's experience in Hawaii, with Kapa making, traditional Hawaiian bark cloth. Kayla attended a four day workshop to create her own piece of kapa.

Kayla Scheibl in Hawaii I am grateful to have begun my studies on the island of Kaua'i with the wonderfully complex natural history of Hawai'i. Learning about some of the basics of the geologic history, topography, and climate has helped orient myself within these beautiful islands. Now I am focused on learning more about how the people and plants came to the islands and how they have adapted to their new environments. The class field days have been especially helpful in exemplifying everything I have learned, including the dramatic and sometimes concerning changes humans and introduced species have had on the islands over time.

I have also had the opportunity to listen to kumus (teachers) and other cultural practitioners about the current and historical uses of local plants. Being given the opportunity to participate in service learning, such as gathering and processing lauhala (Pandanus tectoris) for a fundraising project to fund Hawaiian culture education, has been especially rewarding. I have helped plant endemic and endangered plants on campus. To aid my overall understanding of everything I have learned, I have utilized the following wonderful books: Hawaiian Mythology by Martha Beckwith, Hawaiian Heritage Plants by Angela Kepler, and Kaua'i: Ancient Place Names and Their Stories by Fredrick Wichman.


lauhala prepped for weaving - a plant they use to make cordage and weave into baskets, mats, etc.

8th Western Alaska Interdisciplinary Science Conference and Forum (2015)

Networks: from nature to society

April 15-17, 2015  Bethel, AK

Hosted by the Kuskokwim campus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the 2015 Western Alaska Interdisciplinary Science Conference will bring together researchers, Elders, educators, students, community leaders, and community members; to share concerns and insights about issues relevant to rural Alaska. This conference is a platform for reporting on and discussing regional research efforts as well as traditional knowledge, providing an interdisciplinary approach to inquiry and discussion.

Participants will explore connections between humans and the environment—to begin to better understand the unique networks that exist within and around communities in rural Alaska. We invite those who have an interest in any aspect of life in rural Alaska to join in this gathering, because we value each perspective that attendees bring as an integral part of the network. We are all coming to realize that we are stronger and better able to move into the future when we cast a wider net—sharing across disciplines/generations/geographic location/cultures.

Visit 8th Western Alaska Interdisciplinary Science Conference and Forum (2015) for more information on the conference.

Draft Yukon-Kuskokwim plant guide:

Check out our new guide to traditional uses of plants for food, medicine and other purposes in our region. We thank the 31 elders from 13 local villages who shared their knowledge and everyone who helped put together this book. This book is still a draft and we are putting it up as web-based document only for a year. We are asking for comments from the public about how we can improve this book.

If there is anything we need to correct or anything you think we should add please email editor Kevin Jernigan at

A Guide to the Ethnobotany of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Region (PDF)

Certificate in Ethnobotany (PDF)

EBOT program brochure (PDF) The brochure describes the Ethnobotany program and how to enroll in the program.

 Ethnobotany 100 Field Course Pre-class Botany Module

The class EBOT 100, “Introduction to Ethnobotany,” will discuss the relationships between people and plants in the Sitka region as well as other parts of Alaska and the rest of the world. People relate to plants in many ways, for example, by eating them, using them as medicine, naming them and telling stories about them. To give you an idea of the types of things we'll discuss, we have included a few sample pages from our ethnobotany program's upcoming book on the ethnobotany of the Yukon-Kuskokwim region, in Western Alaska. This will give you a feeling for how people of a different region relate to a few species you may also have in your area. Please read the descriptions below of fireweed, Labrador tea and cloud berry. Then you can take a short quiz to see what you learned, and what you already know about plants and the study of how people use them.

Anyone interested in the program is welcome to take the quiz too!

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