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.
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.
The School of Anthropology and Conservation has a large and diverse staff, with particular expertise in ethnobiological classification, historical ecology, gender, computing applications, indigenous knowledge, ethnographic (including quantitative) research methods, the human ecology of tropical subsistence systems, wildlife conservation, biodiversity management, agricultural change, sustainable development, and economic botany and plant taxonomy. Regionally, we have relevant research experience in Europe, the Mediterranean, Southeast Asia, the Pacific, the Himalayas, tropical South America, Mesoamerica and sub-Saharan Africa.
The programme is based at the University of Kent, while students benefit from the wealth of collections, particularly the economic botany collections and specialist expertise on plants, their uses and importance available at Kew. The School is housed in a refurbished spacious building with dedicated DNA, small organism, ethnobiology and biological anthropology laboratories.
The Templeman Library has strong holdings in anthropology, area studies and ethnobotany; and good and expanding core holdings in plant science.
Duration: One year full-time, two years part-time
The MSc is an intensive 12-month programme. You take eight coursework modules over the first six months and then undertake a project and write a dissertation in the second six months.
Additionally, it is also possible to take modules from the list available for our MA programmes in Anthropology and from our MSc in Conservation Biology as un-assessed options. The modules available may include foundations of natural science for conservation, social science perspectives on conservation, population and evolutionary biology, nature tourism, principles and practice of ecotourism, integrated species conservation and management, trade, economics, regulation and the environment, conservation and community development, and managing protected areas.
The course will be supplemented with practical work, field visits to local sites of ethnobotanical interest (Blean woodland, national fruit collection at Brogdale, Canterbury Cathedral Library, phytomedical suppliers and practitioners), and through guest speakers involved in research in various parts of the world.
Students undertake intensive coursework between September and the end of March each academic year. Towards the end of this period, they develop a concept for a project and write a proposal, as part of their assessed work. The second six months of the programme consists entirely of project and dissertation work under the direction of an appropriate supervisor. The supervisor can be from either Kent or Kew and you are encouraged to work on subjects where staff have particular expertise, while pursuing a research theme in a geographical area in which you have a particular interest.
Students may select projects that are library, museum or lab-based, but many wish to undertake fieldwork (usually of six weeks duration) and we try to facilitate this. Some students come to the programme with developed ideas about their projects, others may chose topics that relate to current work at Kew or Kent. For example, in recent years we have been able to provide modest financial support for projects related to our Leverhulme-funded British Homegardens Project, a linguistic diversity erosion project in Cameroon and through the Global Diversity Foundation. Examples of MSc Dissertation titles.
Kew are central partners to this programme. Find out full details of Kew's involvement and the plant resources module they teach on this programme.
Please note that modules are subject to change. Please contact the School for more detailed information on availability.
Compulsory modules currently include
Optional modules may include
Visit the MSc - Ethnobiology page on the University of Kent website for more details!
Fees & funding
Start dates & study options
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