International Society of Ethnobiology Congress Merges Anthropology and Biology

Photo: Edmond Dounias

By Sasha Rabin Wallinger, International Society of Ethnobiology

Montpellier, France–Indigenous custodians, educators, and students traveled from around the world to attend the week-long meeting of the 13th Congress of the International Society of Ethnobiology held May 20 – 25, 2012 in Montpellier, France. The over 600 participants met in sessions throughout the week to discuss implications of cultural and biological diversity encountered in the ethical pursuit of sustainable development.

Jordi Servile, Artist for Peace (UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador) and EU Ambassador for Intercultural Dialogue, performed an opening concert to welcome participants from over 70 countries to join together in the pursuit for diversity through the arts. This set the tone for a conference full of sensory stimulation with great food, conversation, and an important meeting place for the foremost minds in ethnobiology.

Ethnobiology–a fusion of anthropology and biology–examines relationships between biota and people. Since its inception in 1988, the International Society of Ethnobiology (ISE) has acted as a network and advocate for indigenous people and land rights through it’s biannual Congresses, Fellowship programs, and efforts to foster ethics in Ethnobiological research. One such tool, the Society’s Code of Ethics, has global relevance and applications across environmental, political, and social sectors, with long-standing implications on issues pertaining to nature and culture.

Helene Mandroux, mayor of Montpellier, noted that the city has been recognized as “the capital of biodiversity in France as well as capital of biodiversity in all of Europe.” Mandroux was so inspired by ISE’s work that she formally offered to share their work when she heads to Rio +20 next month.

Important issues pertaining to sacred spaces and their custodians, climate change, and the ethics of research were discussed at ISE’s13th Congress and it is likely that conversations will continue at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. With the 14th ISE Congress scheduled for 2014 to be held in Bhutan, there will be many opportunities for a wide range of ethnobiological news and activities.


Sasha Rabin Wallinger works on social media and communications with the International Society of Ethnobiology.

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The ISE actively promotes the inextricable linkages between biological and cultural diversity and the vital role of Indigenous and local peoples in stewardship of biocultural diversity as part of their cultural heritage.