An innovative collaboration between two University System of Maryland institutions is paving the way for a unique research and education center in western Maryland. The Appalachian Center for Ethnobotanical Studies (ACES), a partnership between Frostburg State University (FSU) and the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute (UMBI), as well as West Virginia University (WVU), looks to study and preserve the plant culture of Appalachia.
Jennie Hunter-Cevera, president of UMBI, has been a driving force behind ACES. "The market for herbal supplements and remedies generates $20 billion worldwide each year, but the scientific community has done very little research on these products. With ACES, we hope to be able to provide scientific documentation for many of the herbal remedies derived from plants native to Appalachia."
Currently a virtual center, ACES was established in late 2002 between FSU, UMBI, and WVU after conducting a baseline feasibility study. Within the next five years, ACES's goal is to develop a physical center in western Maryland that would house a conference center, museum/education center, and a research center.
Beginning in Fall 2007, Frostburg State University will also offer an undergraduate major in ethnobotany, the only program of its kind in the continental United States. "I've heard from people all over the country expressing interest in the program," says Linda Lyon, program coordinator and a faculty member in FSU's Department of Biology. "Local residents have also been expressing interest in taking individual courses in the program, which has been a pleasant surprise and allows us to reach into the local community in a way that we hadn't expected."
ACES researchers are also drawing significant national attention. Maryland Senators Paul Sarbanes and Barbara Mikulski have assisted ACES in receiving research funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study the use of black cohosh in alleviating menopausal symptoms and ironweed in the treatment of breast cancer. Jim McGraw, an ACES researcher on the faculty at West Virginia University, was awarded a grant by the National Science Foundation to fund his work on wild ginseng.
"With ACES, we hope to provide something for anyone with an interest in Appalachian botany whether they are researchers, local farmers, or someone who just wants to learn about how certain medicinal herbs work," says Lyon. To this end, ACES is building collaborations with other institutions, such as the Tai Sophia Institute in Columbia, Maryland, which offers graduate degrees in herbal medicine. ACES also held its first seminar for the general public last summer, offering area residents the opportunity to learn about the uses of wild ginseng and the possibilities of cultivation for pharmaceutical use. A follow-up workshop to be held in conjunction with Allegany College is planned for fall 2007.
For more information on ACES, visit its website at: http://www.frostburg.edu/aces/.
About the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute: With research centers in Baltimore, Rockville, and College Park, the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute is the newest of 13 institutions forming the University System of Maryland. UMBI has 85 ladder-rank faculty and a 2006 budget of $60 million. Celebrating the institution's 20th year of service to Maryland and the world, UMBI is led by microbiologist and former biotechnology executive Dr. Jennie C. Hunter-Cevera. For more information visit www.umbi.umd.edu/.
About Frostburg State University: Situated in the mountains of Allegany County, Frostburg State University is one of 13 institutions in the University System of Maryland. FSU is a comprehensive, residential regional university and serves as an educational and cultural center for Western Maryland. For more information, visit the Web site at www.frostburg.edu or call Admissions at (301) 687-4201.