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"Understanding the linkages between Caribbean plant diversity, cultural heritage, and human health," by Ina Vandebroek, LASP Seminar Series, 26 March

Monday, March 26, 2018 at 12:15pm to 1:10pm

Uris Hall, 153
Central Campus

As a cornerstone of human livelihoods and cultural traditions, plant diversity has a critical role to play in addressing global medicinal and nutritional needs. Many communities living in biodiverse areas around the world have developed an impressive repertoire of botanical knowledge that exemplifies their close relationships with, and continued reliance on, local plant resources. The Caribbean region is a tropical plant diversity hotspot with high priority for conservation, based on indicators such as biodiversity richness, degree of endemism, and loss of habitat. Given the plant-culture nexus, and the fact that Caribbean social history is characterized by an intense (forced and voluntary) movement of peoples, the region also has a rich history of use of plant diversity for healthcare and food security. In spite of the Caribbean being one of the earliest Neotropical regions studied by Western science, this ethnobotanical information remains incomplete and largely scattered to date. Very few studies have systematically analyzed and compared plant use across rural, urban, and transnational study areas within individual Caribbean islands, between these islands, and between the islands and Caribbean Diaspora localities such as New York City. We have developed a model for comparative Caribbean ethnobotanical research that seeks to answer questions such as: Is Caribbean plant knowledge homogenous across rural-urban territories or political boundaries?; Which health conditions are prevalently treated with plants?; How is plant knowledge affected by migration? Understanding cultural variation in plant knowledge adds depth and richness to ethnobotanical data sets and contributes to hypothesis testing and theory building in ethnobotanical research.

Dr. Ina Vandebroek is the Matthew Calbraith Perry Assistant Curator and Caribbean Program Director at The New York Botanical Garden. She has conducted ethnobotanical research and outreach in Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and New York City with Caribbean and Latino immigrants. Her research is at the intersection of plant diversity, cultural heritage, and community health. Ina uses the results of her research to develop training activities with healthcare providers in New York City to promote culturally sensitive healthcare


Event Type



Human Ecology Sloan Program, Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Latino Studies Program, Plant Biology, Latin American Studies Program (LASP), Global Cornell, Natural Resources


LSPCAL, Latin American Studies

Contact E-Mail


Ina Vandebroek

Speaker Affiliation

The New York Botanical Garden

Disability Access Information

Wheelchair Accessible

Open To

Free and Open to the Public

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