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Introduction to Ethnobotany
Ethnobotany is the study of culture arising from the relationship between indigenous peoples and local flora. This course will introduce the discipline of ethnobotany and use case studies to examine the ways in which challenges such as climate change, deforestation, cultural assimilation and pressure to discover new medicines are changing global communities.
BIOL 319, Introduction to Ethnobotany, explores the fundamental relationships that exist between plants and indigenous/traditional cultures from around the world. The course presents the history of indigenous/traditional plant use in relation to cultural development, as well as how modern scientific approaches to ethnobotanical investigation are revealing new and exciting applications for plant materials. Where applicable, case studies will be presented that elucidate the various categories of plant use, the importance of traditional knowledge to Western culture, and the role of plant conservation and cultural sustainability. Students will apply components of the botanical sciences (taxonomy, ecology, biochemistry, physiology, etc.) to ethnobotanical investigations and understanding.
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After completing BIOL 319, students should have the knowledge and skills to do the following:
- describe how the science of ethnobotany is applied in the understanding of relationships between plants and indigenous/traditional cultures
- describe how botany and biochemistry are used in identifying and understanding the ethnobotanical value of a given plant species
- develop the skills and methods used to collect, classify and preserve plant materials
- list the main categories of plant use by indigenous/traditional peoples and identify how plant value depends on cultural context, both material and spiritual
- present examples illustrating how traditional plant knowledge derived from ethnobotanical investigations have been applied in our modern world and the positive and negative implications of this
This 12-week course consists of a series of lectures, assignments and web forum discussions based on assigned readings. Lesson 1 (week 1) offers a general introduction and a brief history of ethnobotany. The next two sets of lessons (weeks 2 and 3) focus on the botanical sciences, including plant structure and function, specimen collection, preservation and taxonomy. The first assignment will strengthen the students understanding of these basic principles by identifying the ethnobotanical value of selected wild food plants to indigenous/traditional cultures that once inhabited their local region. In Lesson 4 (week 4), we will briefly discuss the relationships that exist between the availability of local plant resources and the evolution of a culture’s primary diet, be it hunting and gathering or farming. Over the course of the next several lessons (weeks 5 to 11), we will turn our attention to the main categories of plant use that exist among the various indigenous/traditional cultures around the world. For their second assignment, students are presented with an option of submitting an online poster detailing an ethnobotanically important plant species, or submitting an online herbarium collection of ethnobotanically relevant plants from their local region. In the last 2 lessons (weeks 11 and 12), we will focus on the ethnobotany of First Nations peoples of the Great Lakes region, looking at each of the main categories of plant use including the construction of the birch bark canoe.
Textbooks and Materials
There is no required textbook for this course.
Students can expect to spend approximately 9-10 hours a week in study / practice and online activity for BIOL 319.
Moodle is Queen's online learning platform. You'll log into Moodle to access your course. All materials related to your course—notes, readings, videos, recordings, discussion forums, assignments, quizzes, groupwork, tutorials, and help—will be on the Moodle site.
About Credit Units
Queen’s courses are weighted in credit units. A typical one-term course is worth 3.0 units, and a typical two-term course is worth 6.0 units. You combine these units to create your degree. A general (three-year) BA requires a total of 90 credit units.
To take an online course, you’ll need a good-quality computer (Windows XP/Vista/7, Pentium III, or Mac OS X 10.5, G4 or G5 processor, 256 MB RAM) with a high-speed internet connection, soundcard, speakers, and microphone, and up-to-date versions of free software (Explorer/Firefox, Java, Flash, Adobe Reader). See also Preparing For Your Course.
The deadlines for new applications to Queen’s are 1 April (for May summer term), 1 June (for July summer term), 1 August (for fall term), and 1 December (for winter term). All documents must be received by the 15th of the month following the deadline. You can register for a course up to one week after the start of the course. See also Dates and Deadlines.
Tuition fees vary depending when you start, your year, faculty, and program. Fees for 2013-14 first-year Distance Career Arts & Science Canadian students are as follows: for a 3.0-unit course, $597.70; for a 6.0-unit course, $1195.40. See also Tuition and Payment.
All textbooks can be purchased at Queen’s Campus Bookstore.
All Queen’s Arts and Science Online courses are open to students at other universities. Before applying as a visiting student, request a Letter of Permission from your home university that states that you have permission to take the course and apply it to your degree. See also Apply.
Please see Queen’s policy statement on academic integrity for information on how to complete an online course honestly.