Ethnobotany at the Preserve

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We are excited to introduce Liliana Ramirez, a research student working with us while she studies with the Smithsonian Mason School of Conservation!

Liliana will be working with me for the next five weeks, creating a methodology to survey vegetation in the Preserve at our cultural sites. She will be analyzing our vegetation’s possible significance to the mountain’s historical inhabitants, exploring the culture of our diversely peopled past.

Her work folds into our overarching Cultural History Project, creating opportunities for ethnobotanical discoveries at our cultural sites. 

Ethnobotany is the “scientific study of dynamic relationships among people, plants, and their environment.” (Salick, 1995)

Liliana and I will be conducting vegetation surveys, identifying plants at some of our cultural sites during her five weeks. The hope is to better understand vegetation diversity surrounding our cultural sites, helping inform us of the life histories of people inhabiting the mountains. Plants will be identified, documented, and then analyzed through an ethnobotanical lens; researching into their possible significance for human use, such as medicinal, spiritual, or decorative purposes.  

We will not be able to survey all of our cultural sites and capture every plant within the time Liliana is here. However, the methodology that Liliana creates will establish a framework for a long-term ethnobotanical study of the Preserve’s vegetation.

Liliana Ramirez, UMW student

Liliana is a sophomore at the University of Mary Washington, where she is double majoring in Conservation Biology and Spanish with a minor in Applied Mathematics. She hopes to use these skills in a career dedicated to preserving our world’s precious biodiversity.

Her fascination with nature started at a young age with fossil hunting in her grandparents’ creek, and quickly grew to become her academic focus as well as a personal passion. When not learning about the natural world, she observes it on hikes and runs through the gorgeous Shenandoah mountains; she can also be seen completing a crossword puzzle and sketching in her notebook.


The Smithsonian Mason School of Conservation is based out of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia. The program has been established to offer students from high school to graduate programs opportunities to engage in hands-on, interdisciplinary conservation programs. We are thrilled to be partnering with SMSC and bringing more research projects to the Preserve.

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