Robin W. Kimmerer
Distinguished Teaching Professor and Director, Center for Native Peoples and the Environment
351 Illick Hall
1 Forestry Dr.
Syracuse, New York 13210
Dr. Kimmerer is a mother, plant ecologist, writer and SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York. She serves as the founding Director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment whose mission is to create programs which draw on the wisdom of both indigenous and scientific knowledge for our shared goals of sustainability. Her research interests include the role of traditional ecological knowledge in ecological restoration and the ecology of mosses. In collaboration with tribal partners, she and her students have an active research program in the ecology and restoration of plants of cultural significance to Native people. She is active in efforts to broaden access to environmental science education for Native students, and to create new models for integration of indigenous philosophy and scientific tools on behalf of land and culture. She is engaged in programs which introduce the benefits of traditional ecological knowledge to the scientific community, in a way that respects and protects indigenous knowledge.
Dr. Kimmerer has taught courses in botany, ecology, ethnobotany, indigenous environmental issues as well as a seminar in application of traditional ecological knowledge to conservation. She is the co-founder and past president of the Traditional Ecological Knowledge section of the Ecological Society of America. Dr. Kimmerer serves as a Senior Fellow for the Center for Nature and Humans. Of European and Anishinaabe ancestry, Robin is an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.
As a writer and a scientist, her interests in restoration include not only restoration of ecological communities, but restoration of our relationships to land. Dr. Kimmerer is the author of numerous scientific papers on the ecology of mosses and restoration ecology and on the contributions of traditional ecological knowledge to our understanding of the natural world. She is also active in literary biology. Her essays appear in Whole Terrain, Adirondack Life, Orion and several anthologies. She is the author of “Gathering Moss” which incorporates both traditional indigenous knowledge and scientific perspectives and was awarded the prestigious John Burroughs Medal for Nature Writing in 2005. Her latest book “Braiding Sweetgrass: indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the teachings of plants” was released in 2013 and was awarded the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award. She has served as writer in residence at the Andrews Experimental Forest, Blue Mountain Center, the Sitka Center and the Mesa Refuge.
She holds a BS in Botany from SUNY ESF, an MS and PhD in Botany from the University of Wisconsin and is the author of numerous scientific papers on plant ecology, bryophyte ecology, traditional knowledge and restoration ecology. As a writer and a scientist, her interests in restoration include not only restoration of ecological communities, but restoration of our relationships to land. She lives on an old farm in upstate New York, tending gardens both cultivated and wild.
Links to Video, Speeches,Programs
- TED talk TEDx Sitka: Reclaiming the Honorable Harvest)
- Bioneers 2014 Keynote Address: Mishkos Kenomagwen: The Teachings of Grass https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cumEQcRMY3c
- What Does the Earth Ask of Us? Center for Humans and Nature Questions for a Resilient Future https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4nUobJEEWQ
- Address to the United Nations in Commemoration of International Mother Earth Day http://harmonywithnatureun.org/content/documents/302Correcta.kimmererpresentationHwN.pdf
- Commencement Address: Northland College http://www.northland.edu/commencement2015
- Profiles of Ecologists at Ecological Society of America http://www.esa.org/education/ecologists_profile/EcologistsProfileDirectory/
- SACNAS Biography Project http://188.8.131.52/biography/Biography.asp?mem=133&type=2
- Authors Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/braidingsweetgrass?ref=bookmarks
- Center for Native Peoples and the Environment
- EFB 446/646 Ecology of Mosses (3 credit hours). Two hour lecture and one three hour laboratory or field trip. A study of taxonomic diversity, ecological adaptations and the roles of bryophytes in ecosystems.
- EFB 305/605 Indigenous Issues and the Environment (3 credit hours). This integrative course examines the management of natural resources and environmental problem- solving from a Native American perspective. The goal of the course is to provide students with a basis for comparing Native and Western cultural patterns of natural resource utilization. Natural resource use on Native lands is considered in a cultural and historical context. The course will first introduce students to fundamental ideas concerning Native American history, religions, political organization and traditional economies. Tribal sovereignty, as well as Federal Indian Law are described as the framework in which tribes make decisions about environmental issues. The contrasting perspectives of indigenous environmental knowledge and western scientific knowledge are examined. Case studies are used to analyze Native resource management strategies, within the context of the larger American society. Case studies will include Ojibwa fishing rights controversy, Menominee forest management philosophy and practice, ecological restoration initiatives, environmental toxins in traditional subsistence patterns, energy development on Native lands and others. The course is designed to introduce students to the unique cultural context of natural resource management on Indian lands and provides an opportunity for students to integrate in-depth scientific knowledge, resource management policy and cross cultural perspectives. Experimental, interdisciplinary, or special coursework in biology for undergraduate students.
- EFB 337 Field Ethnobotany (3 credit hour). A field-based introduction to the identification and traditional cultural uses of plants in the Adirondack region for food, medicine and fiber. Topics include plant identification, traditional ecological knowledge and use of ecological and ethnobotanical methods. Satisfies elective field study requirement in Environmental and Forest Biology. Appropriate for upper and lower division undergraduate students. Two hours of lecture, and eight hours of field work and discussion each day for two weeks. Summer; Cranberry Lake Biological Station.
- EFB 496 Plants and Culture The goal of the course is to provide students with an opportunity to explore the interactions between plants and people, in aspects of both material and non-material culture. This sophomore level survey course draws upon multiple disciplines including botany, ecology, genetics, evolution, anthropology, chemistry, religion, history and economics to survey the breadth of economic, socio-cultural and ecological interactions with plants. Students will be introduced to basic botany and ethnobotany through a survey of plants which are used in both traditional and contemporary cultures. Examples are drawn from a range of biomes and peoples, with a primary focus on the plants which are cultural keystone species for indigenous peoples of the Great Lakes. We will examine topics from traditional aboriginal subsistence patterns to issues of plant biotechnology to highlight diverse ecological and cultural patterns. The course is intended as a broad survey of ethnobotanical topics appropriate for sophomore level students who have completed general biology or equivalent.
- Ecology of mosses;
- Restoration of culturally significant plants to Native American communities;
- Environmental partnerships with Native American communities;
- Traditional Ecological Knowledge;
- Disturbance ecology;
- Recovery of epiphytic communities after commercial moss harvest in Oregon
Projects and Programs
- Founding Director, Center for Native Peoples and the Environment
- Director, Native Earth Environmental Youth Camp in collaboration with the Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force
- Co-PI: Helping Forests Walk:Building resilience for climate change adaptation through forest stewardship in Haudenosaunee communities, in collaboration with the Haudenosaunee Environmenttal Task Force
- Co-PI: Learning from the Land: cross-cultural forest stewardship education for climate change adaptation in the northern forest, in collaboration with the College of the Menominee Nation
- Director: USDA Multicultural Scholars Program: Indigenous environmental leaders for the future
- Steering Committee, NSF Research Coordination Network FIRST: Facilitating Indigenous Research, Science and Technology http://www.ipsr.ku.edu/cfirst/first/
- Project director: Onondaga Lake Restoration: Growing Plants, Growing Knowledge with indigenous youth in the Onondaga Lake watershed
- Curriculum Development: Development of Traditional Ecological Knowledge curriculum for General Ecology classes
- past Chair, Traditional Ecological Knowledge Section, Ecological Society of America www.esa.org/tek
Kimmerer, R.W. 2003. Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses. Oregon State University Press. Winner of the 2005 John Burroughs Medal
Kimmerer, RW 2013 The Fortress, the River and the Garden: a new metaphor for cultivating mutualistic relationship between scientific and traditional ecological knowledge. in, “Contemporary Studies in Environmental and Indigenous Pedagogies” (Sense Publishers) edited by Kelley Young and Dan Longboat.
Kimmerer,R.W. 2104 “Returning the Gift” in Minding Nature:Vol.8. No.1. Center for Humans and Nature
Kimmerer, R.W, 2014. “Am I paying enough attention to the incredible things around me?” “Twenty Questions Every Woman Should Ask Herself” invited feature in Oprah Magazine 2014
Kimmerer, R.W. 2013 Where the Land is the Teacher Adirondack Life Vol. XLIV no 4 p. 36–41
Kimmerer, R.W. 2013: Staying Alive :how plants survive the Adirondack winter . Adirondack Life Vol. XLIV no 8 p. 18–22
Kimmerer, R. W. 2013 “What does the Earth Ask of Us?” Center for Humans and Nature, Questions for a Resilient Future. http://www.humansandnature.org/earth-ethic---robin-kimmerer response-80.php
Current Graduate Advisees
Former Graduate Students
Daniela Shebitz 2001 Population trends and ecological requirements of sweetgrass, Hierochloe odorata (L.) Beauv.: integration of traditional and scientific ecological knowledge
Dave Kubek 2000 The effect of disturbance history on regeneration of northern hardwood forests following the 1995 blowdown.
Tom Touchet, thesis topic: Regeneration requirement for black ash (Fraxinus nigra), a principle plant for Iroquois basketry.
Marcy Balunas, thesis topic: Ecological restoration of goldthread (Coptis trifolium), a culturally significant plant of the Iroquois pharmacopeia.
Aimee Delach, thesis topic: The role of bryophytes in revegetation of abandoned mine tailings.
Mauricio Velasquez, thesis topic: The role of fire in plant biodiversity in the Antisana paramo, Ecuador.
Amy Samuels, thesis topic: The impact of Rhamnus cathartica on native plant communities in the Chaumont Barrens