Stephanie K. Smith, MPS

Plant Science & Ethnobotany Working Group
Conservation Professional Development

Email: smith@tropicalcc.org

Education
MPS, Conservation Biology/Plant Sciences and Biotechnology
SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
BA, Zoology, Botany and Plant Biotechnology
Miami University of Ohio

Research Interests
My passion in life centers on plants, especially those of the medicinal variety. My research interests lie in the fields of ethnobotany- to study, explore, and immerse in cultures and ways of being that are currently being lost, as well as in conservation biology. As a graduate student, my interests have evolved in these disciplines through various research projects I have had the opportunity to take part in.

As a Rosen Research Fellow I set out on an ethnobotanical expedition to study the medicinal plants among the Ngöbe indigenous communities in the Ngöbe-Bugle Comarca of Panamá. I journeyed to remote, isolated regions of La Comarca to immerse in the Ngöbe culture to learn their traditional ways of being and sacred beliefs. I explored indigenous health systems- specifically focused on female and child ailments, in an attempt to conserve and preserve local customs, transcend gender bias in research, and to understand the dynamic relationship found between people and plants over time and space.

As a SUNY ESF graduate student I have worked on several conservation projects. I am currently project lead working for the New York State Parks, promoting the recovery and conservation of the federally-listed threatened American Hart’s Tongue Fern in Central NY. My role is two-fold: conducting a semi-in vitro propagation and transplantation project; as well as coordinating with students and the local community to protect and restore the ferns’ native habitat through invasive species removal management projects and through environmental awareness programs.

As a plant biotechnology student at SUNY ESF I also worked on the recovery of the American chestnut tree. The aim of our study was to transform and overexpress proteins in the American chestnut to elicit resistance to the chestnut blight, which nearly extirpated the species over the past century. The underlying vision of plant transgenics to rescue genetic diversity serves as a model to promote the recovery of our global biodiversity.

The Tropical Conservation Consortium essentially reinvents learning. Rather than being in a classroom setting, lost in the ordinary, it gives students the opportunity to experience the essence of life from a different cultural perspective, to explore new places, and study the rich biodiversity that the tropics has to offer. TCC allows the student to escape into the wild world of biology.

Teaching Experience
Invited guest lecturer to co-teach the Ethnobotany field course held at the SUNY ESF Cranberry Lake Biological Station in the Adirondacks. I was involved in giving presentations on my research entitled “Green Medicine in Panamá”, methodology, origin and uses of medicinal plants. I also led students on ethnobotanical hikes and assisted with student independent projects.