July 8th, 2010
Graduate student, Alison Pankey from Michigan State University, is interning at EARTH to get hands-on experience in the field of ethnobotany and to learn how plants can benefit humans as food, medicine, and as other materials.
The two main plants Alison is focusing on are the uncommon chaya and chicasquil species.
Alison’s EARTH mentor, Professor Jorge Arce, finds these plants to be important in Latin American countries, since they are especially rich in protein, calcium, vitamins, iron, and antioxidants. However, knowledge of these plants seems to be continually declining, and so does the existence of the plant itself.
“Farmers around here just don’t know much about it anymore,” explains Alison, sharing information she gathered from local farmers. “They say it’s something their ancestors used, but they don’t really use it themselves.”
Alison and Professor Arce hope to discover the reason for the declining use of this plant through personal interviews and through lab experiments.