School of Anthropology & Conservation

Excellence in diversity Global in reach

Centre for Biocultural Diversity (CBCD)

The Centre's overall mission is to undertake research, education and community outreach on the links between cultural and biological diversity. 

The Centre’s staff conduct international research, coordinate postgraduate degrees, provide international training for capacity building, engage in community outreach, offer consultation services and edit a publication series. 

About the centre

The Centre draws on staff and students from across the School of Anthopology and Conservation.

Research projects conducted by CBCD members include:

CBCD has collaborative links with a number of institutions for research, education and community outreach purposes, including the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, the Eden Project, the Henry Doubleday Research Association and the Global Diversity Foundation.

Education and training at the Centre involves the  MSc in Environmental Anthropology and the  MSc in Ethnobotany, which is run jointly with the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. DICE offers MSc degrees in Conservation BiologyConservation and Tourism, Conservation and Rural Development, Conservation and Biodiversity Law,and  Conservation and International Wildlife Trade.

CBCD staff are also involved in International Training Courses in association with University degree programmes, research projects and capacity building of NGOs in Europe and elsewhere, such as ERASMUS Intensive Programme on Biocultural Diversity: Concepts and Interdisciplinary Methods.

The Centre hosts the series 'Studies in Environmental Anthropology and Ethnobiology', published by Berghahn Books.

We also have an Ethnobotanical Garden created by staff and students. The garden was funded by a grant obtained by the CBCD.


9 Botanical drawings by Audrey Hardcastle have been dontated to the school and are currently on display in the Ethnobiology Laboratory.



CBCD Director participates in MEDPLANT kick-off meeting

CBCD Director participates in MEDPLANT

From Left - Raj Puri (Director - CBCD), Meadh Costigan (Alumni - Ethnobotany MSc programme), Gary Martin (Honorary Researcher at CBCD - Director of the Global Diversity Foundation)

Raj Puri, as Director of the Centre for Biocultural Diversity, participated in the kick-off meeting of the MEDPLANT Initial Training Network, an EU Marie Curie Action, in Copenhagen on March 24-25th. MedPlant is supporting a new generation of science researchers in biodiversity driven drug lead discovery. The network will be running for four years from October 2013 to 2017, and will enable 13 PhD and 2 postdoctoral researchers to work collaboratively across disciplines to develop new approaches and technologies for selection and sustainable use of biodiversity resources for lead discovery and to develop new plant derived leads. The CBCD is an associate partner in this network, providing training in Ethnobotanical Methods together with Gary Martin (right), Honorary Researcher at CBCD and Director of the Global Diversity Foundation. One of the funded PhD students is Meadh Costigan, alumni of Kent's Ethnobotany MSc programme (centre).

Dario Novellino Wins Fellowship

Dr Dario Novellino, PhD in environmental anthropology at Kent and Research Fellow in the Centre for Biocultural Diversity, has won the very prestigious Darrell Posey Fellowship 2014-16 from the International Society for Ethnobiology. He has been working in the Philippines for many years among the Batak of Palawan Island, a highly endangered group of forest people who are struggling against various incursions and threats from modern development activities.

Lectures and Seminars

CBCD Guest Lectures and Seminars

The Centre for Biocultural Diversity is delighted to announce the Spring term programme of guest lectures and seminars.

View the Spring term programme

Dario Novellino wins Prize...

Dario Novellino wins Prize for work in Philippines

Dario Novellino wins Prize for work in Phillippines

Dr. Dario Novellino, Kent alum in environmental anthropology (2003) and Research Fellow in SAC's Centre for Biocultural Diversity has won the 2013 Paul Feyerabend Laureate award for his 25 years of dedication to helping the last remaining hunter-gatherers, the Batak, of Palawan Island in the Philippines, who have faced threats from logging, mining and now oil palm plantations.

Dario is currently international campaign coordinator for ALDAW (Ancestral Land/Domain Watch) of Palawan. He is supporting mutual solidarity of indigenous peoples in Palawan and Mindanao against the dangers of oil palm monoculture on their lands.

The Paul K. Feyerabend Foundation promotes the empowerment and well being of disadvantaged human communities. By strengthening intra and inter-community solidarity the Foundation strives to improve local capacities, promote the respect of human rights, and sustain cultural and biological diversity.

Paul K. Feyerabend Foundation Laureate 2013

Kew Distinguished Ethnobotanist Lecture 2013

Annual Kent -Kew Distinguished Ethnobotanist Lecture 2013

Date: Tuesday 22 October, 2013

Location:Venue: Jodrell Lecture Theatre, Kew Gardens (entry via Jodrell Gate on Kew Road from 4.30pm) All welcome - no ticket/booking required

Time: 17:00


CBCD General Meeting 23rd October 2013

CBCD General Meeting

Date: Wednesday October 23rd

Location: Stirling library, School of Anthropology and Conservation, Marlowe Building, The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NR

Time: 16:00 to 18:00


MSc Competition Winner

Ethnobotany MSc student Emma Cooper has won a competition by writing an entry for the Encyclopedia of LIfe on Origanum syriacum, Syrian oregano, or Bible Hyssop. Her prize is a behind-the-scenes tour of the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC.

Emma is currently working on her dissertation project entitled Co-production and transformation of knowledge regarding novel crops among digitally-literate homegardeners and allotmenteers in the UK, and is the author of The Alternative Kitchen Garden: An A-Z and the Allotment Pocket Bible. 


Research Award for PhD Student

Nejm Benessaiah, a second year PhD student in Ethnobiology, has won a research award from the Royal Anthropological Institute's Emslie Horniman Fund, to support his research project in Algeria, entitled Authority, Anarchy or Equity: How Algerian agrarian households organise to manage change in a desert oasis. Nejm is spending the summer in Canterbury, analyzing his results and preparing for a final three months of fieldwork in September. 

Society of Economic Botany Conference

More than 20 staff, students and alumni of Kent's Ethnobotany programme attended the 54th Annual Conference of the Society of Economic Botany in Plymouth June 27-July 2nd, including co-founder of the programme, Sir Iain Prance, former Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. Along with presented papers by many Kent participants, Phd Students, Laura Rohs and Jan van der Veld organized a well attended workshop on Trade in Medicinal Plants, and many attended the meeting of the European Chapter of the SEB.

Graduations 2013

Doctoral students in Environmental Anthropology at SAC, Saskia Dijk, Gotzone Garay and Oana Ivan, all graduated in July 2013. Saskia is now a Research Fellow at Canterbury Christ Church University, Gotzone is at the Packard Foundation in Palo Alto, and Oana is finishing a film about her research site in the Danube Delta, while presenting her research results at numerous locations around Europe and also hunting for a postdoc.


Annual Kent-Kew Lecture, October 2013

Dr Pablo Eyzaguirra, Senior Scientist at Bioversity International in Rome, will be our Distinguished Ethnobotanist at our Annual Kent-Kew Lecture at Kew in October 2013.  


Welcome Prof. Rufino Acosta

Biocultural Diversity


At the Centre for Biocultural Diversity, we are welcoming environmental anthropologist Prof. Rufino Acosta from the University of Seville, who will be here all summer working on a research project on wild plant resources in Spain with our postdoc Dr. Pablo Dominguez. Prof. Acosta and I will be working together next week in Seville, laying the groundwork for a research project on the dynamics of biocultural diversity in the cork-oak woodlands of Iberia. Climate, invasive species, changing economics and EU policies are all drivers of change in these marvellous multifunctional landscapes. I'm looking forward to "stripping" some cork and interviewing cork collectors about how they are coping with all these changes. We hope that next year's Ethnobotany students will have chance to join this project. 



Welcome Dr Ros Bennett

New Ethnobotany lecturer Dr Ros Bennett is going to join us on staff, and teach our Introduction to Botanical Ethnobotany module. She is a very experienced field botanist who is looking forward to teaching plant identification and leading botanizing trips into the ancient Blean Woods and other beautiful places around Canterbury.


Recent Publications of Interest


Alexiades, Miguel, Peters, C. M., Laird, S. A., Binnquist, C. L. and P. Castillo, 2013. The Missing Skill Set in Community Management of Tropical Forests. Conservation Biology, 27: 635–637.

Barnes, J., Dove, M., Lahsen, M., Mathews, A., McElwee, P., McIntosh, R., Moore, F., O'Reilly, J., Orlove, B., Puri, Raj, Weiss, H. and K. Yager. 2013. Contribution of anthropology to the study of climate change. Nature Climate Change Vol. 3: 541-544.

Domínguez, Pablo, 2013. Culturally mediated provision of ecosystem services: The AGDAL of Yagour. In Continuity and Change in Cultural Adaptation to Mountain Environments (pp. 379-393). Springer: New York.

Ellen, Roy, S. Johns and S. Lycett, eds., 2013. Understanding cultural transmission: a critical anthropological synthesis. Oxford: Berghahn Books.

Ellen, Roy and Komaromi, Reka, 2013. Social exchange and vegetative propagation: an untold story of British potted plants. Anthropology Today, 29: 3-7.

Fischer, Michael. and Lyon, S.M. and Sosna, D. et al., 2013. Harmonizing Diversity: Tuning Anthropological Research to Complexity. Social Science Computer Review, 31: 3-15.

Montanari, Bernadette, 2013. The Future of Agriculture in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco: The Need to Integrate Traditional Ecological Knowledge. In The Future of Mountain Agriculture, pp. 51-72. Springer: Berlin.

Ouarghidi, A., Gary J. Martin, B. Powell, G. Esser, A. Abbad, 2013. Botanical identification of medicinal roots collected and traded in Morocco and comparison to the existing literature. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 9:59.

Puri, Rajindra K., 2013. Transmitting Penan basketry knowledge and practice. In Understanding cultural transmission: a critical anthropological synthesis, eds. Ellen, R.F., S. Johns and S. Lycett. Oxford: Berghahn Books.

Soselisa, Hermien L. and Roy Ellen, 2013. The management of cassava toxicity and its changing sociocultural context in the Kei Islands, Eastern Indonesia. Ecology of Food and Nutrition, 52 (5). pp. 427-450.



Roy Ellen, 2012. Nuaulu religious practices: the frequency and reproduction of rituals in a Moluccan society. Leiden: KITLV Press.

Roy Ellen and H Soselia, 2012. A Comparative Study of the Socio-ecological Concomitants of Cassava (Manihot esculenta) Diversity, Local Knowledge and Management in Eastern Indonesia. Ethnobotany Research and Applications 10, 15-35.

Roy Ellen, 2012. Studies of swidden agriculture in Southeast Asia since 1960: an overview and commentary on recent research and syntheses. Asia Pacific World 3(1), 18-38.

Sheyda Ahayeri and Helen Newing, 2012. Meat, markets, pleasure and revenge: Multiple motivations for hunting in Bamu National Park, Fars Province, Iran. Parks 18.1:125-33.

Dario Novellino and ALDAW, 2012. Palawan: Our Struggle for Nature and Culture. Online at: or 

Douglas Sheil, Iman Basuki, Laura German, Tom Kuyper, Godwin Limberg, Rajindra K. Puri, Bernard Sellato, Marieke van Noordwij, and Eva Wollenberg, 2012. Do Anthropogenic Dark Earths occur in the interior of Borneo? Some initial observations from East Kalimantan. Forests 3: 207-229.

Christian Gamborg, Reg Parsons, Rajindra K. Puri, and Peter Sandøe. 2012. Ethics and research methodologies for the study of traditional forest-related knowledge. In Traditional Forest-Related Knowledge: Sustaining Communities, Ecosystems and Biocultural Diversity, edited by J.A. Parrotta and R.L. Trosper. World Forests, Volume 12: 535-562. New York: Springer.

Thomas Ibarra, Antonia Barreau, Carlos del Campo, Claudia Camacho, Gary Martin, Susannah McCandless, 2011. When formal and market-based conservation mechanisms disrupt food sovereignty: impacts of community conservation and payments for environmental services on an indigenous community of Oaxaca, Mexico. International Forestry Review 13(3): 318-37.

D. Vinyet and Pablo Dominguez, 2012. “Anàlisi d’una deriva agro-ecològica des de la Història i la Teoria Crítica en el Pensament Antropològic”, Peripheria, nº 16 : 24 p.<>.

Pablo Dominguez, et al., 2012. Culturally mediated provision of ecosystem services: The agdal of Yagour. Environmental Values Journal, 21: 277-96.

Isabel Ruiz-Mallen, Pablo Dominguez, Laura Clavet, Marti Orta & Viki Reyes-Garcia, 2012. Investigación aplicada en etnoecología: experiencias de campo. Revista de Antropología Iberoamericana 7(1): 9-32.


Stuart Harrop, 2011. 'Living In Harmony With Nature'? Outcomes of the 2010 Nagoya Conference of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Journal of Environmental Law, 23, 117-128.
Stuart Harrop, 2011. Deciding what to save: trade-offs in conservation. In Whales and Dolphins Cognition, Culture, Conservation and Human Perceptions, P Brakes and MP Simmonds (eds), Earthscan.

Roy Ellen and Simon Platten, 2011. The social life of seeds: the role of networks of relationships in the dispersal and cultural selection of plant germplasm. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.) 17(3): 563-84. [Results of the Leverhulme funded UK Homegardens Project.]

Peter Giovannini, Viki Reyes-Garcia, Anna Waldstein and Michael Heinrich, 2011.  Do Pharmaceuticals Displace Local Knowledge and Use of Medicinal Plants? A Study in an Indigenous Rural Community, Mexico. Social Science and Medicine 72: 928-936.

Gotzone Garay and Rajindra Puri, 2011. Smelling the monsoon: Senses and traditional weather forecasting knowledge among the Kenyah Badeng farmers of Sarawak, Malaysia. Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge. Special edition: Traditional knowledge and Climate Change. 10 (1): 21-30.

Patricia Howard, 2010. Culture and agrobiodiversity: Understanding the links. In: Pilgrim, S. and J. Pretty (eds.), Nature and Culture: Rebuilding Lost Connections. Pp. 163-184.London & Washington DC: Earthscan Books.

Helen Newing, ed, 2011. Conducting Research in Conservation: A Social Science Perspective. Routledge.

Dario Novellino, 2011. Towards a ‘Common Logic of Procurement’: Unraveling the Foraging–Farming Interface on Palawan Island (The Philippines).  In M. Janowski and G. Barker (eds.) Why Cultivate? Anthropological and archeological perspectives on foraging-farming transitions in island Southeast Asia. McDonald Institute Monographs: University of Cambridge.

Lisa Philander, N. Makunga and Simon Platten, 2011 Local medicinal plant knowledge in South Africa preserved by Apartheid. Human Ecology 39 (2), 203-216.

See also the latest from our Berghahn Book series on Environmental Anthropology and Ethnobiology.

What are Ethnobiology and Biocultural Diversity?

Ethnobiology and biocultural diversity issues have become increasingly important globally, attracting considerable interest. The importance of ethnobiology and of biocultural diversity studies can be summarised thus.

In the last 30 years, scientists have appreciated the fundamental centrality of the interconnections between humans, other species and ecosystems:

  • this concept goes back to Darwin's notion of the web of life
  • the methodologies and theories to make sense of the interconnection are recent

The new interest has arisen out of intellectual developments within science, especially the rise of:

  • biodiversity studies
  • ecology
  • environmental anthropology
  • human ecology
  • systems theories

It has been catalysed by a practical concern for the role of globalisation in:

  • environmental degradation
  • erosion of genetic resources
  • loss of traditional knowledge
  • marine pollution
  • poverty alleviation
  • rainforest destruction
  • sustainable development

The key concepts ethnobiologists are developing to address these challenges include:

  • Agrobiodiversity: the importance of genetic diversity of humanly-transformed systems of cultivars and domesticates
  • Biocultural diversity: the strong interlinkages between cultural and linguistic variation and biodiversity
  • Co-evolution: the interactive evolution of species, ecosystems, cultural traits and social practices
  • Historical ecology: the transformation of the environment by people

Ethnobiology and biocultural studies seek to place these interactions and concepts at the centre of an interdisciplinary research and teaching agenda, which will focus on:

  • our understanding of global processes in the twenty-first century
  • how we should respond to them to ensure a sustainable future
  • how environmental deterioration accompanies cultural erosion

History of Ethnobiology and Biocultural Diversity studies at Kent

Some notable milestones:

  • first intake of registered students in 1998
  • 80 students over the last six years from 18 countries
  • research projects in more than 26 different countries
  • support from the Commonwealth and Chevening awards
  • travel grants from the Global Diversity Foundation
  • a quarter of graduates have received distinctions
  • many have gone on to positions in International NGOs, research institutes in numerous countries (including Kew)
  • six have undertaken or are undertaking research degrees at Kent and elsewhere (Florida, McGill, Wageningen, Leeds, Kings College London, London School of Pharmacy, Oxford, Bradford, The New York Botanic Garden)

In addition:

  • we have received prestigious awards, such as the Nuffield and Darrell Posey Fellowship, both held by Miguel Alexiades
  • we have a functioning Ethnobiology Lab and research group, with 20 students registered for PhDs on ethnobiological subjects since 1997
  • we are recognised for ESRC and ESRC-NERC research degrees, and have received 7 awards since 1997
  • we have good links with the Eden Project with which we currently have an ESRC CASE studentship
  • between 1997 and 2000 we were the UK partner in a four million Euro EU research Programme, The Future of Tropical Rainforest People
  • both Anthropology and Biodiversity Management at Kent were 5 rated in the 2001 RAE, and judged Excellent in the most recent Teaching Quality Assessment
  • we hosted the largest ever meeting of the International Congress of Ethnobiology in 2004 and first ever to be held in Europe, with 516 participants from over 50 countries
  • we have recently embarked on an undergraduate teaching programme with highly successful courses in People and Plants (Raj Puri) and People and Animals (Stuart Harrop)

Previous News

Visiting Researcher Project- Alberto Groisman

Alberto Groisman from Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Brazil is a visiting researcher to SAC this year.

During his visit Alberto will be working on a project: Psychoactive Sacraments, Religion and Mental Health: knowledge, agency and legal issues.

The inspiration for this visiting scholar appointment is to approach canons of knowledge production, particularly in the field of studies which articulates anthropology, public policies, mental health and psychiatry with the studies on the use of the so called psychoactive sacraments, which are obtained generally from a ritualized processing of plants and other organic resources.


Seminar Series - Spring 2013

Come and join us for our series of guest lectures and seminars throughout the Spring term.

Programme of events

Changes at the CBCD for 2012

A new academic year at Kent, and the CBCD is growing and changing!

First, founding Director Professor Roy Ellen retired as of October 1st.

Prof. Roy Ellen retires October 1st 2012

He will become the Director of the Ethnobiology Lab and be on a part-time post till 2014. Trying to fill his very large shoes will be Dr. Raj Puri who has taken over as CBCD Director, as well as convenor of the Ethnobotany and Environmental Anthropology Postgraduate Programmes.

Dr Miguel Alexiades, Dr Anna Waldstein, Professor Michael Fischer, Professor Patricia Howard, Dr Dave Roberts, Dr Rachel Kaleta will be leading the teaching and supervising of this year's masters programmes.

Reka Komaromi, an Ethnobotany MSc alum, joins us as well to organize this year's fieldtrips.

Dr Helen Newing is on study leave.

Dr Pablo Dominguez, our Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow (UAB), will be between Morocco and Kent over the coming year, a description of his work can be found under current research projects.

Dr Bernadette Montanari recently completed her doctoral thesis and joins the CBCD as Honorary Research Associate.


Dr Gary Martin to give Distinguished Ethnobotanist Lecture

Dr Gary Martin (Director, Global Diversity Foundation and Rachel Carson Centre Fellow) will give the 13th Annual Kew-Kent Distinguished Ethnobotanist Lecture at Kew Gardens in London on October 9th. His talk will be on Medicinal plant trade, conservation and local livelihoods in southern Morocco. The annual lecture kicks off the Kent-Kew MSc Ethnobotany Programme. Dr. Martin joined the CBCD as an Honorary Research Fellow in 2011 after leaving Kent's staff. The CBCD works closely with GDF, one of its outreach partners, and its several regional offices around the world to provide expertise and training for community based research on biocultural diversity and its conservation.


Welcome to our 2012 PhD students

The CBCD welcomes Kent’s newest research students doing PhDs in Ethnobiology, Environmental Anthropology and Conservation: Kay E. W. Jones: The Millennium Seed Bank and Seeds as shared vital-objects of promise in ex-situ conservation; Jan van der Valk: Retracing the transformations of Tibetan medicines from Europe to their places of origin.; Anthony Turner: Oil palm agriculture: incorporating biodiversity into sustainable practice.


Congratulations to our newly completed PhDs!

Congratulations to the following School doctoral candidates who successfully completed their doctoral degrees this year! We wish them all a welcome rest and a chance to celebrate before they hit the streets looking for work! Yoshimi Osawa: The perception and representation of umami: a study of the relationship between taste sensation, food types and cultural categories; Graciela Alcantara-Salinas: A comparative study of Cuicatec and Zapotec ornithology, with particular reference to contextual variation in a time of environmental and social change in Oaxaca, Mexico. Bernadette Montanari: A critical analysis of the introduction of essential oil distillation in the High Atlas of Morocco, with reference to the role of gendered traditional knowledge. Saskia Dijk: The cultural aspects of human-nonhuman primate relationships, in the Goalpara District in Assam, India. Gotzone Garay: Come rain, water us this year: Kenyah Badeng forecasting knowledge, perceptions and responses to climatic variability in the interior of Sarawak, East Malaysia.


CBCD hosts Visiting Training Fellows

Earlier this year we were pleased to welcome Francisco Zorondo-Rodrígue (UAB) to the CBCD to complete part of his PhD with Dr Raj Puri. Francisco has since finished his PhD and is working on a jointly-authored paper entitled, Perception of ecosystem services and its determinants: a case of study among people from Western Ghats, India. This autumn we are hosting Ricardo Balzani (Brazil’s Centre for Natural Disaster Monitoring and Early Warnings) who is analyzing data for his project entitled,The warning and early warning system and resettlement policy from the perspective of the residents of Liberdade community, Complex Turano, Rio de Janeiro. In January 2013, we expect to welcome Niccolo Mazzucco (IMF Barcelona). He will be working with Drs. Raj Puri and Pablo Dominguez in connection with his doctoral research on Human occupation of mountain environments in the Central Western Pyrenees between V-IV millennium BC.


Current staff

Current Core Staff:

Associate Staff:

Associate Members:


School of Anthropology and Conservation - © University of Kent

School of Anthropology and Conservation, Marlowe Building, The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NR, T: +44 (0)1227 827056

Last Updated: 14/04/2014