The Course

Why associate ethnobiology with nature conservation?

Ethnobiology is a growing and prominent field, especially in developing countries in face of the great biological and cultural diversity that can be found in these regions. Besides that, environmental issues related to the management and conservation of natural resources, and the need to develop and discover new products of nature, in order to meet the ever growing need of humanity for biological resources, gives rise to the need to form human resources to deal with these issues in an appropriate manner from a theoretical and methodological point of view.

Nowadays, one can not speak of nature conservation without considering all the dimensions involved, whether scientific, political and ideological. Including humans in this discussion, as landscape and natural resources transforming agents, has become something so obvious but unfortunately neglected. Usually, the human being is viewed as something that affects ecological processes, but not as an element that is part and interacts historically with living beings and different ecosystems. In this sense, ethnobiology emerges as a discipline that, in fact, can contribute to the training of professionals who can view relations between human beings and nature as an object of research. At the same time, in the program of ethnobiology, a professional focused solely on the biological issues of conservation may have its sensitivity developed or awakened to comprehend the human dimension. Therefore, the program is defined around two major axes, ethnobiology and nature conservation.

However, what is ethnobiology? Moreover, admitting a plurality of meanings for this term, how does PPGEtno stand? Ethnobiology seeks to observe, understand, and record relationships between people (whether of traditional or non-traditional populations) and the environment in which they live. Despite being a recent discipline compared to other scientific branches, ethnobiology has been contributing on relevant topics such as biodiversity conservation and the discovery of new molecules with pharmacological activity. Due to its interdisciplinary nature, ethnobiology is understood by many as a frontier discipline that allows the dialogue with different disciplines. Therefore, it is common to see anthropologists, ecologists, biologists, geographers, agronomists, pharmacists, etc., working in the area, and defining their research interests based on their training. In Latin America, for example, most researchers working in the field come from the life sciences, and this is particularly evident in Brazil.

Therefore, in the strict sense of the term, the proposal of the postgraduate program in Ethnobiology and Nature Conservation is not interdisciplinary since ethnobiology is already an "interdiscipline", as well as to recognize that in Brazil most professionals have a background in Biology or Agronomy. This does not limit the training intended for graduate students, but it adds a strong biological and ecological component in the advising of these professionals. Nevertheless, professionals working in the field have to deal with the concepts and methods of the human and social sciences, and for this reason, they learn to dialogue with these areas to make possible their practice, borrowing the instruments and references that truly matter to formulate their research subjects.

Thus, among other things, ethnobiology allows the understanding of how we human beings understand and manipulate natural resources, thus contributing to: 1 - The conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity; 2 - Inclusion of traditional and non-traditional peoples in the formulation of public policies, regarding the conservation of natural resources; 3- Bioprospecting of new pharmaceutical or food products, based on the traditional and popular use of biodiversity; 4- Development of educational strategies to work on themes related to ecology and biology with local communities; 5- As a tool for teaching biology.