Answers to the following Frequently Asked Questions are given below.
Does UH have an undergraduate degree in ethnobotany?
The University of Hawai'i is the first University in the United States to offer a BS Degree in Ethnobotany. The program of study officially began in January 2006. Undergraduate students admitted to UH may study ethnobotany in any department with faculty members interested in supporting their studies and research. Currently most ethnobotany students are in the departments of Anthropology, Biology, Botany, Geography and Hawaiian Studies. However, in order to earn the BS in Ethnobotany degree a student must declare the major and be advised by faculty in the Botany Department.
Does UH have a graduate degree in ethnobotany?
The Botany Department offers a graduate study track in ethnobotany for M.S. and Ph.D. students. The following is a partial discussion of the program possibilities at UH.
Graduate students admitted to UH may study ethnobotany in any department with faculty members interested in supporting their studies and research. Currently most ethnobotany students are in the departments of Anthropology, Botany and Geography. Applications are separate for each department through the graduate school and admission to one does not imply admission to all.
Prior to admission to the graduate school and acceptance into one of the instructional departments, a student should contact prospective departments and faculty members in order to learn more about each faculty member. Successful students are most often those who have taken the time to explore the university courses, faculty and research opportunities with selection of one or more potential faculty advisors, prior to submission of their graduate school applications.
Expectations of a graduate program vary significantly between departments and between faculty members and graduate committees in each department. Since ethnobotany is a multi-disciplinary field, greater course work and training loads should be expected. Students usually need to complete advanced courses in both biological and social sciences as well as acquiring additional language skills.
Do I have to be a botanist to be admitted to the ethnobotany program?
No. Students are encouraged to apply from any discipline, but students who choose to earn their ethnobotany degree through the Department of Botany, will be expected to become competent botanists. Therefore, students entering from non-botany/biology programs will have to endure some catch-up work. We feel that this is quite reasonable since the ethnobotany students that we are producing are qualified as botanists with additional cultural expertise. Students with a non-botanical/biology background not wishing to take additional botany courses should consider applying to the Departments of Geography or Anthropology, where different, although equally tough expectations exist. Students who wish to receive "an education" without becoming educated are discouraged from applying to the University of Hawaii. Students who enjoy learning and are not intimidated by educational and experiential challenges are encouraged to apply to the University of Hawai'i.
Each ethnobotany graduate student is expected to demonstrate a set of ethnobotany track proficiencies. These are usually met through courses. The purpose of the competencies is to insure that all graduates are qualified botanists. These can be completed before admission or after, but the chances of admission and receipt of financial support do increase if the courses have been taken prior to application and admission.
What educational background should an ethnobotany student possess?
There is probably no single answer to this question. Perhaps a better way of asking the question is to phrase it in light of the kinds of research or future occupations that a student might consider. For each of these occupational research areas, course work could be completed after entering graduate school, but any prior appropriate courses would speed up the process.
Students who are interested in conducting successful medicinal plant studies have the greatest need for a broad educational background. These students should have at least minimum course work in the following areas prior to conducting field studies: Systematic Botany, Plant Anatomy, Human Physiology and Anatomy, Biochemistry, Organic Chemistry, Ethnography, and Medical Anthropology. Documentational and comparative projects in this area include: Cultural medicinal system studies, Epidemiological studies of non-western medicinal practices, etc. Hypothesis testing studies in this area include: Sampling and testing of biochemically active plants, Dietary health studies reviewing unusual patterns of plant consumption/distribution/or usage, etc.
Students who interested in Ethnoecology or Traditional Agriculture should have at least minimum course work in the following areas prior to conducting field studies: Ecology, Agronomics, Systematic Botany, Biochemistry, Ethnography, and Soil Science or Hydrology.
Documentational and comparative projects in this area include: Traditional fishing practices, Traditional land tenure and land management strategies, Cultivar diversity, Human impacts on ecosystems, etc. Hypothesis testing studies in this area include: Sustainable agriculture, Plant-human agonism/antagonism, Ecosystem services, etc.
Students interested in Economic Botany studies should have at least minimum course work in the following areas prior to conducting field studies: Plant Anatomy, Micro-Economics, Ethnography, and Microscopy or Plant Morphology. Documentational and comparative projects in this area include: Canoe, house, or other artifact construction studies, etc. Hypothesis testing studies in this area include: New crop/product identification and commercialization, Process improvement studies based upon traditions, etc.
Courses of study and additional skills that are highly beneficial include Cultural Anthropology, Languages and Language Skills, Geography, Botanical Taxonomy, Photography, and Wilderness Survival, etc.
How may I receive a graduate application packet?
The graduate programs no longer distribute paper application packets but instead distribute information over the internet and use a centralized application system through the University of Hawaii graduate school.
Instructions and on-line application forms are available from the Graduate School.
The University maintains an on-line version of the Course Catalog. This is well worth reviewing to see what kinds of courses are offered by the different programs and departments.
What research projects are available for students?
At many graduate training institutions, students apply to work on projects that are developed by the faculty. This is mostly not the case with the ethnobiology research at University of Hawaii. The students who are accepted are usually those who propose in their applications to work on their own creative projects testing their own hypotheses that that have been developing from either the literature or prior field work. Faculty members function more as mentors, working with students to assist them in achieving the student's research objectives rather than the faculty member's objectives.
Undergraduate students are also encouraged to work with faculty members in similar ways although some do assist with on-going projects. It is best to read the publications of each faculty member in order to learn about their research and see their personal web pages to keep up with their current work.
What is expected of a graduate student at UH?
Expectations vary between departments and between faculty members. For example ethnobotany students in the Department of Botany conduct original research using social and biological scientific methodologies. These students must also complete (or have previously completed) sufficient course work to be considered as a qualified botanist. Students will learn how to carry out the necessary collateral aspects of research such as applying for research grants and securing permits, as well as the more traditional scientific activities.
M.S. students normally complete their work in two years, unless they have a substantial number of course work deficiencies. In this case, taking these courses may extend the degree program by at least one year. Generally, a well-prepared student will spend one year doing course work and the subsequent year doing field work and writing up the research results. Summers are a busy time and most students are fully occupied with their field activities and participation in National and International scientific conferences.
Ph.D. students are generally expected to have completed an M.S. degree. Occasionally, students who have a superior background of studies, research experiences, and publications are admitted directly to the Ph.D. program. Ph.D. students are expected to complete their program in three to five years. This generally involves at least one year of course work and preparation followed by several years of field work, analysis and writing.
Each graduate student is treated as an individual and is guided through the requirements and research by a graduate advisor and a committee consisting of members of the Botany Department and others who bring a broader set of expertise to the research problem.
What funding opportunities are available for ethnobotany study at UH?
Graduate student funding is available in two principal forms: teaching assistantships and research assistantships. Most of these are competitively assigned based upon prior experience, potential, demand, and availability.
Teaching assistantships in the Department of Botany are available primarily in the Departments of Botany and Biology, but students with backgrounds in other disciplines such as Chemistry are currently supported as botany graduate students with teaching assistantships in chemistry. The specifics of each teaching assistantship varies from department to department and course to course. Many provide a tuition wavier, a stipend and health benefits. Assistantships may last from one to six semesters. Assistantship salaries and benefits vary between departments and between positions. Students who apply for, and are offered a teaching assistantship, should ask for specific written details as part of their acceptance of such an offer.
Research assistantships in the Department of Botany are available to superior students with outstanding research projects. Assistantships are available through research grants of individual faculty members, therefore students seeking a research assistantship should develop contacts with faculty members working in their area of interest. Students are especially encouraged to work with faculty members to apply for their own research funding through grant applications. Admitted students may contact individual faculty members for assistance in applying for research grants. Alternatively, some national and local grants and scholarships may be applied for without support of specific faculty or university advisors.
How are graduate student applications evaluated by the Department of Botany?
Graduate applications to the Department of Botany (including those for ethnobotany) are evaluated by all members of the Department. Each faculty member evaluates each applicant in three areas:
Other general areas that are considered to be important are:
The faculty of the Department of Botany want to produce balanced scholars who can teach, conduct research, and be successful leaders in their fields of choice. The applicant's task is to prove that among all of the applicants, they are the ones who will best represent the Department prior to and after graduation.