SEEDing a peer network for all students: an interview with SEEDS alumna Betsabé Castro
Jun01

SEEDing a peer network for all students: an interview with SEEDS alumna Betsabé Castro

SEEDS alumna Betsabé Castro is a recipient of prestigious 2015 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Award. Castro completed her BS at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, and is currently completing her MA at the University of Missouri, Columbia. She will begin her PhD program at the University of California, Berkeley in the fall of 2015. ESA’s SEEDS program is the proud recipient of a new 4-year, $597, 643 grant to develop activities that guide students to identify ecology as a viable career option, develop a sense of personal connection with science, and surmount cultural stereotypes that hinder participation. Read more about it in the SEEDS NSF award announcement. Interview by Teresa Mourad, Director, Education and Diversity Programs,ESA   What is your research project about? My research question is: Can artificial selection of ethnobotanical plants enhance phenotypic variation?  I am interested in comparing plants selected for their medicinal and edible value in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, as well as other Caribbean islands, to examine whether the selection of those traits lead to evolutionary change and variation in phenotypes.   What shaped your project? I have always been interested in plant-people interactions.Looking back, I can trace my interest to my childhood, where I spent many hours with my grandparents while my mother worked more than one job. We could not always see a doctor when sick, but my grandparents both knew how to prepare herbal medicines using plants in their backyard. I would help them to prepare traditional herbal decoctions, infusions, and aromatherapy inhalations. I started out in college thinking I would study medicine but quickly realized that it was not for me. Then I discovered a strong curiosity towards environmental science and ecology courses in the second year of college. I also reconnected with my ethnobotanical interest after taking a workshop on medicinal plants with Maria Benedetti and a course on Puerto Rican ethnobotany with Dr. Gladys Nazario. Since then, I have been involved in multiple projects: investigating the ecological role of the invasive African grass (Megathyrsus maximus) on Mona Island in Puerto Rico; examining a trophic cascade involving humans, coyotes, mule deer, and native wildflowers in the Rocky Mountains; studying biocultural conservation of Mapuche traditional ecological knowledge in Puerto Saavedra, Chile; exploring ethnobotanical properties of invasive species in Puerto Rico; and in my most recent research project evaluating linguistic endangerment worldwide from a socioecological approach. I must say that I have fell in love with both ecology and ethnobotany! I feel that listening to the people in our communities is of great value. Our elders have traditional ecological and botanical knowledge that should not be ignored. They...

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In phenology, timing is everything
Jul02

In phenology, timing is everything

If you’ve ever thought that botany doesn’t involve enough time travel, you are not alone. Plant ecologists studying climate change and and the timing of flowering are constantly wondering ‘is this happening when it used to happen?’ My job would be infinitely easier if I had access to a time machine.

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