Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Faces of Ethnobiology: Olivia Sylvester

Preparing heat of palm (Bactris gasipaes) in Talamanca, Costa Rica

Hi, my name is Olivia Sylvester and I am from Calgary, Canada. I am a Ph.D. candidate at the Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba, Canada. I did my Masters degree at the University of Costa Rica in the School of Biology; and, I was at the University of Calgary for my undergraduate degree in biology. 

Here are three keywords to describe my work: gender, youth, plants 

My Story: 

1) Why did you become an ethnobiologist?

Becoming an ethnobiologist was a process. I grew up gardening with my grandmother and exploring forests in Canada with my dad. Spending time outdoors with my family cultivated my interest in plants, the wild, the farmed, and the medicinal. 
Hiking in the Canadian Rocky Mountains in 1986
When I began university, I did not study ethnobotany, that came later; first, I explored classes in chemistry and Spanish. Perhaps, it was when I moved to Latin America - first for an exchange program and later for work and play - that my studies and my life-projects came together under the guise of ethnobotany. In Latin America - boating through the Peruvian Amazon and working on Costa Rican farms - I became more dedicated to the connections between people and plants. 
Boating the Peruvian Amazon from Yurimaguas to Iquitos in 2005

2) What is one of the most memorable experiences from your work?

Most memorable is a collaboration and long-term friendship I have cultivated with Bribri women in Talamanca, Costa Rica; this friendship began with my doctoral research and continues through a mutual project we developed on organic coffee farming. It is with these women I feel I have learned most of what I need to know to live - contently - in this world.  

3) What is your future plan?

In the immediate future, my plan is to finish writing my thesis. Afterwards, I hope to continue to collaborate with women and youth on ethnobotany projects and to teach ethnobiology. Right now I am brainstorming ethnobiology courses and seminars I would like to teach; these include courses on qualitative research methods and the ethnobiology of food and a seminar on cross-cultural research partnerships.

1 comment:

  1. incredibly wonderful. concrete plan and enthusiasm.