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Frostburg State University Launching Unique Interdisciplinary Major in Ethnobotany

Only Program of Its Kind in Continental U.S. Integrates Science, Culture

Starting in the fall of 2007, Frostburg State University undergraduate students will have the opportunity to major in ethnobotany, a unique interdisciplinary program that examines the connection between people and plants. Currently the only undergraduate program of its kind in the continental United States, the major was approved by the University System of Maryland Board of Regents in June.

FSU's ethnobotany major will allow students to integrate science and culture as a way of understanding human reliance on plants and the environment. The foundation of the program provides students with a solid background in plant sciences, biogeography and cultural studies. Students then choose one of three concentrations within the major depending on their particular career interest: pharmacological ethnobotany, biogeographical ethnobotany or cultural perspectives in ethnobotany.

Within the pharmacological ethnobotany concentration, career possibilities include becoming an herbalism consultant for holistic veterinarians, doctors and alternative health settings; being employed at drug detoxification programs or detention centers; and working in laboratory technician positions in research settings.

By specializing in biogeographical ethnobotany, students will be qualified to work in environmental consulting; native and non-native plant mapping programs, plant nurseries, landscaping, invasive plant management research teams and arborist positions for private gardens.

Those focusing on the cultural perspectives would have the skills needed to work within profit and non-profit organizations dealing with community environmental health; community garden/nursery organizations; summer camps for children; as a community coordinator with Native American reservations; or as a park naturalist.

“While ethnobotany as a professional field is gaining notice worldwide, its roots lie in some of the earliest human practices as people learned to interact with their environment,” said Dr. Linda Lyon, the program’s coordinator and a faculty member in the FSU Department of Biology.

“I’m thrilled that this unique program provides such a well-rounded, interdisciplinary perspective,” said FSU’s Provost, Dr. Stephen Simpson. “FSU’s ethnobotany major allows students to develop career paths that draw upon the rich culture and ecological diversity of Appalachia.”

The objectives of the major include imparting knowledge of the biological and chemical principles of plants; familiarizing students with their unique natural environment; provide a learning environment that integrates both biological and social science theories; involving students in legitimate scientific research with applications that directly benefit environmental communities where the plants are used; and instilling an appreciation for the interdependence of humans and plants. Students will be encouraged to learn other languages and participate in study abroad experiences to help them become scientists with a global perspective.

For more information about FSU's ethnobotany program, contact Lyon at or (301) 687-4213. For more information about Frostburg State University, visit the Web site at

Web Address for More Information:

For further information on this release, contact:

Office of News and Media Services
Frostburg State University
101 Braddock Road
Frostburg, MD  21532-2303

Telephone: 301-687-3171
Fax: 301-687-7589