Why a postgraduate program in Ethnobiology?

The idea of ​​a postgraduate program in ethnobiology has always been cherished by Dr. Darrell Posey, an ethnobiologist who worked in the northern region of Brazil since the 1970s, and deceased in 2002. He understood the need to train human resources capable of transitioning through the dichotomy of nature and society, considering the inherent peculiarities of each of these elements. Today, the Brazilian scenario allows us to concretize this former ideal, especially in the northeast region, due to the concentration of specialized human resources in various fields of ethnobiology, making this the first stricto sensu interdisciplinary postgraduate program of the kind in Brazil and Latin America. Because it is the first in Brazil, PPGEtno emerged with the challenge of training human resources in the field and increase the Brazilian scientific production that is already leading in Latin America considering the number of articles published in journals indexed by Scopus and Web of Science. In Brazil, there is no postgraduate course (stricto sensu) that trains human resources specifically in Ethnobiology. Thus, this is the first initiative to design a training in the area. What exists are postgraduate courses that offer the opportunity to develop research in the field. The lack of specific training in ethnobiology is a clear contradiction to the fact that we are a country with high biodiversity and socio-diversity.


How did PPGEtno come about?

The Department of Biology of the Federal Rural University of Pernambuco (UFRPE), led by the Laboratory of Ecology and Evolution of Socioecological Systems (LEA), in cooperation with the State University of Paraíba-UEPB and Regional University of Cariri-URCA presented the proposal of a PhD program in association, in the modality Partial Association in Ethnobiology and Nature Conservation in 2011. This is the first proposal of a PhD course aimed at training professionals in the interface nature/culture. Similar programs, to the best of our knowledge, are offered in Europe and in the United States. Thus, the proposal represented the first PhD program with this profile in Latin America, whose demand for trained professionals is growing steeply, especially with a view to dealing with the complex and delicate issues that involve society, nature and culture. In 2015, in the face of great demand, the proposal to open the master's degree course was approved, with the first class opening in 2016.

The current scenario urgently requires the training of professionals with sensitivity to address these issues, for several reasons: 1. The recognition that issues related to nature conservation can not be solved only with the view of Ecology and Biological Sciences; Acknowledgement of the role of diverse cultures and societies as partners in wildlife conservation and management projects; The concern with cultural property rights associated with traditional knowledge and genetic resources, since it is identified that many pharmaceutical products and/or industries are developed based on socio-diversity knowledge.

In Brazil, over the last 20 years, concerns about these issues has fostered a new generation of professionals interested in this training. The PPGEtno sought to connect professionals and institutions that, although they had the classic formation in disciplinary areas, carry out research with philosophical orientation based on the idea of knowledge exchange, true articulation and interdependence. In the program proposal, ethnobiology will become a mediator between the different disciplines and professionals, in order to give unity to the scientific production and the training of professionals.

Our proposal includes professionals from the following areas: Agricultural Sciences, Biological Sciences (Zoology, Botany, Ecology, Phytochemistry), Health Sciences (Pharmacology, Microbiology) and Ethnobiology. Although with different backgrounds, most professors develop their research in dialogue with ethnobiology (as in the case of pharmacologists, who start from the traditional knowledge to advance the discovery of new medicines). Or even the classic ecologists who, although do not make direct bridges, understand that one can not speak of nature conservation without considering the role of the human being as an agent of transformation of the natural environment.

However, why a postgraduate course in association? Due to the great demand throughout Brazil, especially in the northeast region, of professionals with a good training in the field and the fact that the professors with training and/or sensitivity to such questions find themselves dispersed in different regions of the country. A PhD in association allowed the challenging of building a human resources training network, while it also strengthens partner institutions that do not yet have sufficient human resources to open their own PhD programs. The inauguration of the PPGEtno consolidated the position of the northeast region of Brazil as an international reference center in the training of human resources and scientific production in ethnobiology and nature conservation.