The Art and Science of Biocultural diversity

Jeanine in East Sierra

Our collective ecological and cultural heritage represents a dynamic, kaleidoscopic encyclopedia for understanding, valuing, and stewarding the world our children will inherit. At issue is the sustainability of life: our existence and identity as humans on a fragile planet.

Worldwide, we have more endangered languages and more threatened cultural traditions than endangered biological species and habitats. The concept of sustainable cultural systems goes hand-in-hand with the concept of sustainable ecological systems.

As a researcher, scholar, professor and practitioner I work in landscapes and seascapes with traditional and contemporary cultures throughout the world. My work investigates how human beliefs, knowledge systems, and cultural practices have co-evolved with the surrounding environment.

This co-evolution of humans with our environment is encapsulated by the term biocultural diversity, which posits an intrinsic and synergistic relationship between the natural world (biological diversity) and the cultural world (cultural diversity).

From a scientific viewpoint, the concept of biocultural diversity implies an interdisciplinary approach: to study cultures, one must also study the environment in which those cultures are based.

The links below provide more details about how we do this.


Terralingua, the world’s premier organization devoted to conserving endangered languages, covers our collaborative work: http://www.terralingua.org/

The Global Diversity Foundation, a research, training and education organization working in Africa, the Americas and Asia: http://www.global-diversity.org/

The Christensen Fund, a private organization that crafts its grant making and other activities on the conviction that worldwide diversity – both cultural and biological – is hugely valuable and should be cared for: http://www.christensenfund.org

MY WORK with Northern California coastal communities:

On April 6, 2011 I was invited by the California State Fish and Game Commission to provide expert testimony on the role of indigenous (Native) science in setting marine policy. A video of that session, which includes tribal testimony, is archived here:  http://www.cal-span.org/cgi-bin/archive.php?owner=CFG&date=2011-04-06

In 2009-10, I moderated a controversial process that involved Mendocino community constituents in coastal marine resource policy planning: http://theava.com/archives/3629

MY WORK with the Tado Community of East Indonesia:

The Tado Community is featured on the West Flores Tourism website:  http://www.floreskomodo.com/

In 2010, a Dartmouth College student, Charles Grant, spent his mid-semester internship with the Tado Community. Read about his experience:  http://tadoblog.wordpress.com/

Tado handicrafts featured in an exhibit at the National Museum of Ethnology in Japan: http://www.minpaku.ac.jp/english/

Tado cultural [eco]tourism: http://tadoecotourism.wordpress.com/about/

MY PUBLICATIONS on Biocultural Diversity:

After my meta-analysis of how biological invasions and biocultural diversity were related was published (Pfeiffer & Voeks 2008), international websites picked up the story: http://www.digitaljournal.com/ and http://www.labspaces.net/

Prior to publishing the meta-analysis, my work was described by a journalist reporting for the American Institute of Biological Sciences:  http://www.aibs.org/

Academic Links to My Teaching and Research:

UC Davis Faculty Mentoring Faculty lecture:  http://fmfp.ucdavis.edu/spring_07_speakers.php

UC Davis Press release for National Institutes of Health International Collaborative Biodiversity Group grant:   http://news.ucanr.org/storyshow.cfm?story=1158&printver=yes

2 thoughts on “About

  1. Hello Dr. Pfeiffer,

    My name is Kevin Curran, I’m a biology professor at USD in San Diego, teaching Cell Biology and an Ethnobotany course called, Plants and People.

    I’m reaching out because I stumbled onto your ethnobotany/Bio-diversity blog while I was researching various plant properties/uses.

    I found your site very informative, so thanks!

    I’ve recently put together a new ethnobotany website. On this site, I delve into the cultural history and health benefits of various medicinal plants. I also provide a mini-review of the latest clinical results that either support or refute the health claims of these plants.

    I’d like to get some traction going for my website, so I was hoping you would include a link to my home page somewhere on your site.

    Here’s the link to my home page.


    If you like, I can include a link to your site on the Resources page of my ethnobotany site.

    Thanks a bunch for your consideration.

    Dr. Kevin Curran

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