Herbs In Action!

A weekly radio series featuring

the Botany in Action Fellows,

discussing herbs from around the world.


A program of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, the Botany in Action Fellowship (BIA) provides PhD students from the U.S. who conduct plant-based scientific field research with funding, training and opportunities in public science engagement, placing them at different locales around the world.  BIA Fellows’ research includes ethnobotany, diversity and conservation, restoration, and sustainable landscapes, strengthening the connection between environmental and human well-being.

Through their travels, BIA Fellows encounter native species of herbs that are plentiful, have cultural or special significance, and have interesting or unusual uses.   Listen as they share their knowledge of and experiences with these herbs as botanists of the world.

2017

Jonathan Flickinger –

“Saw Palmetto”

Florida International University (FL)

Locale: Florida

Study: Diversity and classification of the Myrtle Family in the Caribbean Islands Biodiversity Hotspot.

Saw palmetto is a palm-like plant with berries. The berries were a staple food and medicine for the Native Americans of the southeastern United States. In the early 1900s, men used the berries to treat urinary tract problems, and even to increase sperm production and boost libido. Today, the primary use of saw palmetto is to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland.

 

Download Audio File
Jonathan Flickinger – Saw Palmetto

 

Betsabé Castro-Escobar –

“Broadleaf Plantain”

University of California, Berkeley

Locale: California

Study: Calabash Trees: Uses, selection and phenotypic variation in the Caribbean Island of the Greater Antilles.

Broadleaf plantain is probably the second most common broadleaf weed of turf after dandelion. It is extremely well adapted to most sites including dry or wet conditions, heavy soils and very low mowing heights. It is as much of a weed of roadsides and pastures as it is of manicured landscapes.

Download Audio File
Betsabe Castro-Escobar – Broadleaf Plantain

 

Toby Liss –

“Sassafras”

SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

Locale: New York

Study: How plant assemblage diversity affects green root function.

Sassafras is a deciduous North American tree with aromatic leaves and bark. The leaves are infused to make tea or ground into filé.

Download Audio File
Toby Liss – Sassafras

 

Sarick Matzen –

“Gray’s Licorice-Root”

University of California, Berkeley

Locale: California

Study: Plant-based soil remediation: the effects of soil characteristics on arsenic uptake in Pteris vittata.

Ligusticum grayi is a species of flowering plant in the carrot family known by the common name Gray’s licorice-root. It is native to the western United States from Montana to California, where it grows in moist, mountainous habitat, such as meadows and forest floors.

Download Audio File
Sarick Matzen – Gray’s Licorice-Root

 

Ashley McGuigan –

“Goatweed”

University of Hawaii

Locale: Hawaii

Study: Agroforest resilience and contributions to nutritional diversity in Fiji.

It is a deciduous perennial growing to 30 cm (12 in), with bright red stems with green heart-shaped leaves (copper-tinged when young) which are slightly hairy on the bottom. In spring it produces pink, white, yellow or purple long-spurred flowers.

Download Audio File
Ashley McGuigan – Goatweed

 

Nicole Tiernan –

“Aloe Vera”

Florida International University

Locale: Florida

Study: Endemic Plumeria in Cuba.

Aloe vera is a plant species of the genus Aloe. It grows wild in tropical climates around the world and is cultivated for agricultural and medicinal uses. Aloe is also used for decorative purposes and grows successfully indoors as a potted plant.

Download Audio File
Nicole Tiernan – Aloe Vera

 

2016

Jonathan Flickinger – cuban-oregano

“Cuban Oregano”

Florida International University (FL)

Locale:  Caribbean Islands

Study:   Diversity and classification of the Myrtle Family in the Caribbean Islands Biodiversity Hotspot.

The Caribbean Islands qualify as a hotspot of biodiversity due to their wealth of unique species at risk of extinction. The myrtle family, a large group of tropical trees and shrubs, includes over 500 species in the Caribbean. Mr. Flickinger’s research aims at discovering the relationships between species in the myrtle family across the region to better understand this significant component of tropical forests.

Download Audio FileJonathan Flickinger: Cuban Oregano

Chelsie Romulo – turtlehead

“Turtlehead”

George Mason University (VA)
Locale: Peru
Study: Working to conserve and sustainably mange the ecologically, culturally, and economically important palm tree Mauritia flexuosa (aguaje) in the Peruvian Amazon.

The aguaje palm tree covers approximately 10% of the Peruvian Amazon. Its fruit supports many different animal species in the Amazon rainforest. The fruit is harvested from the wild and sold in the city of Iquitos. Using satellite images from the NASA Landsat program, Ms. Romulo’s dissertation research proposes to produce recommendations for the conservation and sustainable management of this threatened palm and the forest.

Download Audio FileChelsie Romulo: Turtlehead

Andrea Drager –cola-nut

“Cola Nut”

Rice University
Locale: African rainforests
Study: Staying connected: How pollination relates to tree density in the Afrotropics.

Ms. Drager studies plant-pollinator interactions in the Congo Basin rainforest. These forest communities have hundreds of tree species and this means many of them are rare. She wants to understand how rare trees compete for pollinators and whether or not they are as successful as common species.

Download Audio FileAndrea Drager: Cola Nut

 

Sarick Matzen – tulsi

“Tulsi”

University of California, Berkeley (CA).

Locale: CA

Study:   Plant-based soil remediation: The effects of soil characteristics on arsenic uptake in the brake fern, Pteris vittata.

Soil contamination is a common barrier to urban agriculture. Mr. Matzen works on affordable, sustainable soil remediation methods. H studies plant-based soil clean-up methods, using the brake fern, Pteris Vittata, which accumulates high concentrations of arsenic in its fronds. He then harvests the fronds to remove arsenic from the site, leaving the soil in place. He investigates how soil characteristics affect arsenic uptake in the fern.

Download Audio FileSarick Matzen: Tulsi

Morgan Roche – jewelweed

“Jewelweed”

University of Tennessee (TN)

Locale:  Tennessee

Study:   Mechanisms of Biodiversity loss following the spread of an invasive plant.

 

Invasive plants cause immense damage to our natural ecosystems, including the loss of native plants, animals, and microbial organisms. Ms. Roche’s research works to understand how and why we are losing this important native diversity.

Download Audio FileMorgan Roche: Jewelweed

 

Rebecca Dalton – red-clover

“Red Clover”

Duke University (NC)

Locale:  Rocky Mountains, CO

Study:   Understanding how climate change affects plant-pollinators and plant-plant interactions.

 

With earlier and earlier snowmelt due to global warming, subalpine flowering plants are blooming earlier than they have in the historical past. Although warming affects all plants and their pollinators, each species responds slightly differently. Ms. Dalton studies how changes in timing of flowering and insect emergence affect species interactions.

Download Audio FileRebecca Dalton: Red Clover

2015

Jessica B. TurnerJessica - Bay Laurel

“Bay Laurel”

West Virginia University
Locale: West Virginia
Study: The Root of Sustainability: Understanding and Implementing medicinal plant conservation strategies in the face of land-use change in Appalachia.

Medicinal plants are economically and socially important plants throughout Appalachia.  Due to unethical harvesting and human-caused habitat loss, these plants are becoming increasingly rare. Ms. Turner seeks to understand whether or not reintroduced ginseng and goldenseal will survive and grow on mined lands, as compared to land that was previously used for agriculture and a mature forest.

Download Audio FileJessica B. Turner: Bay Laurel


Chelsie Romulo
Chelsie - Elderberry

“Elderberry”

George Mason University (VA)
Locale: Peru
Study: Working to conserve and sustainably mange the ecologically, culturally, and economically important palm tree Mauritia flexuosa (aguaje) in the Peruvian Amazon.

The aguaje palm tree covers approximately 10% of the Peruvian Amazon. Its fruit supports many different animal species in the Amazon rainforest. The fruit is harvested from the wild and sold in the city of Iquitos. Using satellite images from the NASA Landsat program, Ms. Romulo’s dissertation research proposes to produce recommendations for the conservation and sustainable management of this threatened palm and the forest.

Download Audio FileChelsie Romulo: Elderberry

Andrea DragerAndrea - Moabi

“Moabi”

Rice University
Locale: African rainforests
Study: Staying connected: How pollination relates to tree density in the Afrotropics.

Ms. Drager studies plant-pollinator interactions in the Congo Basin rainforest. These forest communities have hundreds of tree species and this means many of them are rare. She wants to understand how rare trees compete for pollinators and whether or not they are as successful as common species.

Download Audio FileAndrea Drager: Moabi

 

Ryan Unks

Ryan - Pushirooti

“Pencil Euphorbia/Pushirooti”

University of Georgia
Locale: Kenya
Study: An interdisciplinary approach to explore how livelihoods and landscape-level ecological processes are related in Laikipia, Kenya.

Mr. Unks research focuses on recent changes in herding practices and vegetation in East Africa. He’s using an interdisciplinary approach to explore how livelihoods and landscape-level ecological processes are inter-related in Laikipia, Kenya. He’s also interested in understanding how different herders view changes in plant communities and how these changes are impacting livelihoods.

Download Audio FileRyan Unks: Pencil Euphorbia/Pushirooti

Rebecca DaltonRebecca - Spring Beauty

“Spring Beauty”

Duke University
Locale: Colorado
Study: Ecology and evolution of flowering plants in a changing climate.

Due to human consumption of natural resources and production of industrial pollutants, global changes are occurring. One noticeable change in our ecosystem is earlier appearance of vegetation and flowers and these changes may influence how plants and their pollinators interact. Ms. Dalton seeks to examine how flowering species in Colorado are affected by earlier flowering and if and what the consequences may be for future population growth.

 

Download Audio FileRebecca Dalton: Spring Beauty

 

 

 

2014

Jessica B. Turnerlavender

“Lavender”

West Virginia University
Locale: West Virginia
Study: The Root of Sustainability: Understanding and Implementing medicinal plant conservation strategies in the face of land-use change in Appalachia.

Medicinal plants are economically and socially important plants throughout Appalachia.  Due to unethical harvesting and human-caused habitat loss, these plants are becoming increasingly rare. Ms. Turner seeks to understand whether or not reintroduced ginseng and goldenseal will survive and grow on mined lands, as compared to land that was previously used for agriculture and a mature forest.

Download Audio FileJessica B. Turner


 

Anna Johnson

“Anise Hyssop”

University of Maryland Baltimore County (MD)
Locale: Maryland
Study:   Novel Urban Plant Communities: Causes and Consequences of Diversity.

Ms. Johnson is an urban ecologist whose research involves looking at vacant lots in Baltimore and trying to understand what the combination of human and natural processes are that create the plant communities we see. Her research looks to explore how restoring the diversity of the regional pool of possible species interacts with variation in local environmental conditions caused by legacies of human land-use. Her work will help to inform future urban restoration efforts.


Download Audio FileAnna Johnson

 

 

 

 

Chelsie Romulo –

“Jerusalem Artichoke”

George Mason University (VA)
Locale: Peru
Study: Working to conserve and sustainably mange the ecologically, culturally, and economically important palm tree Mauritia flexuosa (aguaje) in the Peruvian Amazon.

 

The aguaje palm tree covers approximately 10% of the Peruvian Amazon. Its fruit supports many different animal species in the Amazon rainforest. The fruit is harvested from the wild and sold in the city of Iquitos. Using satellite images from the NASA Landsat program, Ms. Romulo’s dissertation research proposes to produce recommendations for the conservation and sustainable management of this threatened palm and the forest.

Download Audio FileChelsea Romulo



Stephen J. Murphy –

“Teaberry/Wintergreen”

The Ohio State University (OH).
Locale: Pennsylvania
Study:   Forest landscape change in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Mr. Murphy seeks to resample a subset of the forested landscape of southwestern Pennsylvania in order to increase understanding and change the misconception that forests are static entities, remaining relatively unchanged through time unless subjected to a severe disturbance such as fire or logging. Understanding this dynamic nature of forests is extremely important for predicting how they will look in the future.

Download Audio FileStephen J. Murphy


 

Aurelie Jacquet –

“Red Clover”

Purdue University (IN)
Locale:  Nepal, United States
Study:   Neuroprotective effects of Nepalese and Native American traditional medicine on Parkinson’s disease models.

The natural and social diversity of Nepal and the United States represents a great opportunity to research a wide range of traditional medical treatments. Ms. Jacquet focuses her research on the discovering whether the plants used in Nepalese and Native American traditional medicine have a high potential to alleviate neuron death and changes in brain cells associated with Parkinson’s Disease. Her study is designed to meet the United Nations’ Millenium Development Goal #1: “Eradicate poverty and hunger,” by initiating new discussions in the field of public health policy, and the preservation of traditional practices.

Download Audio FileAurelie Jacquet


 


 

Aurelie Jacquet

“Sage”

Purdue University (IN)
Locale: Nepal, United States
Study: Neuroprotective effects of Nepalese and Native American traditional medicine on Parkinson’s disease models.

The natural and social diversity of Nepal and the United States represents a great opportunity to research a wide range of traditional medical treatments. Ms. Jacquet focuses her research on the discovering whether the plants used in Nepalese and Native American traditional medicine have a high potential to alleviate neuron death and changes in brain cells associated with Parkinson’s Disease. Her study is designed to meet the United Nations’ Millenium Development Goal #1: “Eradicate poverty and hunger,” by initiating new discussions in the field of public health policy, and the preservation of traditional practices.

Download Audio FileAurelie Jacquet – Sage

2013

Anita Varghese

“Black Pepper”

University of Hawaii (HI)
Locale: India
Study: Community based ecological monitoring and its implications for conservation in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.

Ms. Varghese’s valuable case study links science-based research with traditional plant knowledge to assess the status of the frankincense tree found in the forests of India’s Western Ghats region. By studying the biology of the trees in response to harvesting and understanding the motivations and practices of indigenous harvesters of medicinal plants products like frankincense, her research will yield direct insight for improved conservation of ecologically and culturally important medicinal plants and their habitats. Her research seeks to involve local harvesters of wild plants in the long term monitoring of forests, thereby bringing their observations and knowledge on board for conservation action.

Download Audio FileAnita Varghese – Black Pepper

 

Anna Johnson

“Chicory”

University of Maryland Baltimore County (MD)
Locale: Maryland
Study: Novel Urban Plant Communities: Causes and Consequences of Diversity.

Ms. Johnson is an urban ecologist whose research involves looking at vacant lots in Baltimore and trying to understand what the combination of human and natural processes are that create the plant communities we see. Her research looks to explore how restoring the diversity of the regional pool of possible species interacts with variation in local environmental conditions caused by legacies of human land-use. Her work will help to inform future urban restoration efforts.

Download Audio FileAnna Johnson – Chicory

 

Jessica B. Turner

“Ginseng”

West Virginia University (WV)
Locale:West Virginia
Study:The Root of Sustainability: Understanding and implementing medicinal plant conservation strategies in the face of land-use change in Appalachia.

 

Medicinal plants are economically and socially important plants throughout Appalachia.  Due to unethical harvesting and human-caused habitat loss, these plants are becoming increasingly rare. Ms. Turner seeks to understand whether or not reintroduced ginseng and goldenseal will survive and grow on mined lands, as compared to land that was previously used for agriculture and a mature forest.

Download Audio FileJessica B. Turner – GingerGinseng

 

George Meindl

“Sheep’s Sorrel”

University of Pittsburgh (PA).
Locale: Pennsylvania and California
Study: Assessing the potential for cascading effects of heavy metal soil pollution: plants and pollinators.

Mr. Meindl focuses his research on phytoremediation, which involves the study of certain plant species that absorb soil metals and store them in above ground tissues, such as stems and leaves. Human land use, including agriculture, mineral mining, and industry, has resulted in toxic levels of heavy metal contamination in many areas.  His project seeks to determine the potential risks phytoremediation poses to local insect populations, particularly pollinators.

Download Audio FileSushma Shrestha – Stinging Nettles

 

Samantha Davis

“Two-Leaved Toothwort”

Wright State University
Locale: Ohio
Study: The direct and indirect effects of plant invasion on a rare woodland butterfly

Ms. Davis documents how the rampant spread of garlic mustard contributes to the decline of the rare “West Virginia White” butterfly, driving out native host plants on which this woodland pollinator depends. She is among the first to document such a relationship. Her work serves as a model for other conservation and habitat restoration studies.

Download Audio FileSamantha Davis – Two-Leaved Toothwort

 

 

Kelly Ksiazek

“Nodding Onion”

Northwestern University
Locale: Illinois
Study: Conservation of forb species in urban environments: can green roofs provide sustainable habitat for native prairie plants?

Ms. Ksiazek’s research investigates the degree to which plants that grow on green roofs are inbreeding or reproducing with plants from other habitats such as those on the ground. If green roof plants are able to produce a wide genetic variety of offspring as they would in their natural habitat, then these unique green rooftops could be very helpful in providing places for plants and animals to live in the future.

Download Audio FileKelly Ksiazek – Nodding Onion

 


Sushma Shrestha

“Rhododendron”

Miami University
Locale: Nepal
Study: Integrating community forest ecological and ethno-botanical knowledge for biodiversity conservation.

Ms. Shrestha’s study applies state-of-the-art methods to address the practical question of how to scientifically map biodiversity and conservation, and at the same time map what the indigenous population knows about the landscape, its contents and its uses. The goal is to develop a scientifically and culturally informed conservation plan for a remote biodiversity hotspot in the eastern Himalayas. Her work has received the Richard Evans Schultes Award from the Society for Economic Botany and a Dissertation Fellowship from the National Science Foundation.

Download Audio FileSushma Shrestha – Rhododendron

 

2012

Anita Varghese

“Ginger”

University of Hawaii
Locale: India
Study: Community-based ecological monitoring and its implications for conservation in the Nilgiri Biospehere Reserve

Ms. Varghese’s valuable case study links science-based research with traditional plant knowledge to assess the status of two medicinally important species in India’s Western Ghat’s region. By examining the motivations and practices of indigenous harvesters of medicinal plants, and tracking the impact of harvest methods on plant populations, her research will yield direct insight for improved conservation of ecologically and culturally important medicinal plants and their habitats.

Download Audio FileAnita Varghese – Ginger

 

 

George Meindl

“Jewelflower”

University of Pittsburgh
Locale: California & Pennsylvania
Study: Assessing the potential for cascading effects of heavy metal soil pollution: plants and pollinators

Mr. Meindl focuses his research on the extent to which soil chemistry influences both plant morphology and tissue chemistry of flowering plants that vary in their affinity to serpentine soil, and whether these changes result in reproductive isolation between closely related populations through altered plant-pollinator interactions and/or gamete incompatibility.

Download Audio FileGeorge Meindl – California Jewelflower

 

 

Lisa Offringa

“Black Pepper”

City University of New York
Locale: Thailand
Study: Identifying plants used by traditional healers for the treatment of dementia

The prevalence of dementia is increasing worldwide in both industrialized and developing nations. Memory impairment, in excess of what is considered normal for age, is the most common symptom of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). Plant compounds are the starting point for many current therapies for dementia. The objective of Ms. Offringa’s research is to investigate Thai medicinal plants with the potential to slow the progression of MCI to dementia, and treat the memory loss that accompanies this disorder.

Download Audio FileLisa Offringa – Black Pepper

 

 

Aurélie Jacquet

“Himalayan Birch”

Purdue University
Locale: Nepal
Study: Neuroprotective effects of Nepalese traditional medicine on Parkinson’s Disease models

The natural and social diversity of Nepal represents a great opportunity to research a wide range of traditional medical treatments. Ms. Jacquet focuses her research on the discovering whether the plants used in Nepalese traditional medicine have a high potential to alleviate neuron death and changes in brain cells associated with Parkinson’s Disease. Her study is designed to meet the United Nations’ Millenium Development Goal #1: “Eradicate poverty and hunger,” by initiating new discussions in the field of public health policy, and the preservation of traditional practices.

Download Audio FileAurélie Jacquet – Himalayan Birch

 

 

Samantha Davis

“Jewelweed / Spotted Touch-Me-Not”

Wright State University (OH)
Locale: Ohio
Study: The direct and indirect effects of plant invasion on a rare woodland butterfly

Ms. Davis documents how the rampant spread of garlic mustard contributes to the decline of the rare “West Virginia White” butterfly, driving out native host plants on which this woodland pollinator depends. She is among the first to document such a relationship. Her work serves as a model for other conservation and habitat restoration studies.

Download Audio FileSamantha Davis – Jewelweed / Spotted Touch-Me-Not

2011

Alison Hale

“False Solomon’s Seal”

University of Pittsburgh (PA)
Locale: Pennsylvania
Study: Testing a novel mechanism of forest understory invasion by garlic mustard: short- and long-term impacts.

In Pennsylvania’s forests, about 70% of all plants rely on a cooperative relationship with a unique group of fungi (arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi) to obtain the nutrients they need to survive. Ms. Hale’s research examines how toxic chemicals produced by garlic mustard, a widespread invasive plant, disrupt this beneficial synergy and destabilize the health of our native forests.

Download Audio FileAlison Hale – False Solomon’s Seal

 

Vandana Krishnamurthy

“Cycads”

University of Hawaii (HI)
Locale: India
Study: Ethnobotany, trade and population dynamics of the endemic Cycads species.

Ms. Krishnamurthy investigates conservation issues associated with the harvesting of two endangered species of Cycads in the Western Ghats of Southern India. Increasing commercial pressures are leading to the disappearance of these ancient, slow- growing plants, which have long been used by indigenous peoples for food, medicine and ceremonial purposes. A deeper understanding of the harvesting, trade and other factors that impact cycads is crucial to their long-term preservation.

Download Audio FileVandana Krishnamurthy – Cycads

 

Lisa Offringa

“Ginger”

City University of New York (NY)
Locale: Thailand
Study: Identifying plants used by traditional healers for the treatment of dementia.

Traditional medicine in Thailand (a mix of Chinese medicine and Ayurveda from India) offers promising plants to investigate for compounds that are active against age-related memory loss. Through interviews with indigenous healers, Ms. Offringa is documenting traditional herbal medicines to treat mild cognitive impairment and slow the progress of dementia. In collaboration with Thai academic and botanical institutions, plants will be identified to species, collected, and tested for efficacy using contemporary Western laboratory methods.

Download Audio FileLisa Offringa – Ginger

 

Sushma Shrestha

“Stinging Nettles”

Miami University (OH)
Locale: Nepal
Study: Integrating community forest ecological and ethno-botanical knowledge for biodiversity conservation.

Ms. Shrestha’s study applies state-of-the-art methods to address the practical question of how to scientifically map biodiversity and conservation, and at the same time map what the indigenous population knows about the landscape, its contents and its uses. The goal is to develop a scientifically and culturally informed conservation plan for a remote biodiversity hotspot in the eastern Himalayas. Her work has received the Richard Evans Schultes Award from the Society for Economic Botany and a Dissertation Fellowship from the National Science Foundation.

Download Audio FileSushma Shrestha – Stinging Nettles

 

Olyssa Starry

“Stonecrop / Wall Pepper”

University of Maryland
Locale: Maryland, United States
Study: The role of green roof plants in urban storm water management.

Green roofs offer an important solution to the problem of urban storm water management, retaining as much as 80% of rainwater they receive from small storms. However, not enough is known about how much water these structures retain under different environmental and planting scenarios. Ms. Starry’s research examines the role of three species of Sedum in the rainwater retention of green roof systems through both careful measurement of water in the substrate and plant, as well as changes in the condition of the plants.

Download Audio FileOlyssa Starry – Stonecrop / Wall Pepper

 

Anita Varghese

“Frankincense”

University of Hawaii (HI)
Locale: India
Study: Community based ecological monitoring and its implications for conservation in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.

Ms. Varghese’s valuable case study links science-based research with traditional plant knowledge to assess the status of two medicinally important species in India’s Western Ghat’s region. By examining the motivations and practices of indigenous harvesters of medicinal plants, and tracking the impact of harvest methods on plant populations, her research will yield direct insight for improved conservation of ecologically and culturally important medicinal plants and their habitats.

Download Audio FileAnita Varghese – Frankincense