NIGK24014U Applied Ethnobotany

Volume 2024/2025

MSc Programme in Environment and Development
MSc Programme in Forest and Nature Management
MSc Programme in Global Environment and Development





The course will introduce students to research at the interface between several disciplines, using methods derived from botany, anthropology, ecology, economy, ethno-medicine, climate and conservation science.
Introduction to ethnobotany; definition, history and disciplines which contribute to an ethnobotanical study.
Botanical methods; preparing a reference collection, botanical surveys.
Anthropological methods; understanding local people, surveys and analytical tools.
Ecology; describing the environment and the plant resources, qualitative and quantitative approaches.
Economics and ethnobotany; the value of forest products, surveys of community and household economies and local markets.
Food plants; the role of traditional food plants in subsistence, as income source and as emergency foods.
Ethno-medicine; collecting plants for phytochemical analysis, ethics in searching for new plant products, and how to return knowledge to communities.
Climate change; potential impact of climate change on peoples' access to plant resources.
Conservation; the emphasis is on application of local knowledge and the role of local institutions in conservation, sustainable use and community development.

Overall: the course will equip students with competences and skills to craft interdisciplinary solutions for a sustainable future


Learning Outcome

The core concepts in ethnobotany are provided followed by advanced studies of people-plant relations focusing upon importance of wild and domesticated plants to local livelihoods and opportunities for sustainable use of tropical natural resources. The course highlights patterns in plant use and the role that local peoples’ knowledge, institutions and cultural perspectives can play in plant resource use, management and conservation.

After completing the course the student should be able to:

Display overview of key areas within ethnobotanical research and describe main theories regarding traditional plant use and its relative importance to different user groups.
Understand the role of ethnobotanical studies in community development, sustainable land management and development.
Demonstrate awareness of ethics and values related to ethnobotanical studies.
Reflect on ethnobotany in relation to local and national cross cutting issues such as gender, culture, equity, environmental concern and intellectual property rights.

Familiar with methods useful to work with local communities to understand local classification and uses of plants including plant properties.
Select and apply ethnobotanical principels and tools to explore solutions to ecosystem and plant conservation together with local people.
Define and formulate a research question and plan practical field work
Apply scientific ethnobotanical methods in data collection and analyses.
Communicate research aim(s) and results to the involved community.

Critically examine ethnobotanical literature
Transfer ethnobotanical methods to own research situation
Work effectively in an interdisciplinary group to define a common research project and plan field work.

Develop interdisciplinary solutions for a sustainable future

Gary J. Martin. Ethnobotany. A methods manual. 2004.
Selected scientific papers. Selected book chapters.

Gary Martins manual is used as an easy introduction to the science of ethnobotany and practical field methods.

The book is supplemented by articles for advanced understanding of hypothesis, methods, analysis and results of ethnobotanical studies within plant use, management, and conservation.

The course is designed for students from a broad range of disciplines; i.e. biology, anthropology, landscape architecture, and pharmacology an introduction to ethnobotany within an applied context. No prior courses are required

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.
The course is composed of alternating lectures, exercises and discussions. The lectures give overview of theory, examples of application in practice and serve to link different disciplines. The focus is on critical discussions, including student presentations. To some extent external specialists will be used as lecturers. During the assignments work, the students work in groups. Exercises will demonstrate the application of different ethnobotanical methods and will be used to integrate literature studies and excercises.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 35
  • Preparation
  • 70
  • Practical exercises
  • 35
  • Excursions
  • 10
  • Project work
  • 50
  • Guidance
  • 6
  • Total
  • 206
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)

Students receive written and oral feed-back (collective) at different stages of their field project, i.e. synopsis, formulation of objective and research questions, choise of methods, and poster presentation of results. 

Students receive oral feedback (individual) on their presentation of a scientific paper.

Students and teachers engage in discussions on topics and development of field projects including the feasibility of potential methods.


7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 20 - 30 minutes
Written assignment, made during the block
Type of assessment details
Written project and poster (25%)
Oral examination (75%). No time for preparation.
The oral exam will analyse one or two key issues in a broader ethnobotanical context.
Students must pass both examinations individually to pass the overall exam.
Without aids

All aids allowed for the written project.

Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
two or more internal examiners

As the ordinary exam

Criteria for exam assesment

Evaluation is based on student performance in relation to intended learning outcome of the course (see learning outcome).