Students of Ethnobotany: Himalayan blackberry, my favorite invasive plant


Foraged blackberries. Photo by Amy J.

This new series of Students of Ethnobotany: Round 2 starts off with a bang and a paradox – a plant that is both wonderfully useful and terribly invasive – thanks to the keen observations of human nature by Amy J.

When I first moved to Vancouver, I was thrilled to discover that blackberries grow wild along the sides of roads and on the edges of forests here.

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Students of Ethnobotany: Round 2!


Photo from Wikimedia Commons by Canadian2006.

Students of Ethnobotany has returned, with a fresh batch of writers to wax scientific and poetic about the curiosities of the ethnobotanical world. Once again, students from UBC’s BIOL 343 Plants and People course (taught by Dr. Michael Hawkes, and TA’d by myself), have written their own blog posts about ethnobotanically interesting plants. Some of them are even invasive! I will upload these over the next few weeks. Standard disclaimer: Opinions expressed belong to the student. I haven’t rigorously fact checked every detail in every post, so certainly, if you have new or better information on a topic, please share with us!

Nuts and Bolts: Squishing columns together to get rid of NAs in R


Zipper picture from Wikimedia Commons, by Rabensteiner – Bearbeitet von Rainer Z

I found my self in a bit of a quandry. I had a data frame which contained many columns that needed to be squished together – each contained a few values, but mostly NAs, and none of the values were overlapping. They represented the same variable, but broken apart across several columns. I needed to condense several columns into one.

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Introducing: Nuts and bolts



So, long time, no talk, gentle reader. That’s because I’ve been writing a paper (my first first-authored paper, if you must know) and I feel really guilty about extraneous writing activities, like somehow I am cheating on my paper. How can I justify reading up on a tasty tuber or invasive insect and crafting its story and biology into an intriguing knowledge nugget, when mountains of data await re-analysis for the billionth time, and co-authors deserve satisfaction? How indeed?

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Students of Ethnobotany: The Mystery of the Killer Bean

physostigma_venenosum_gb5100(2)This killer, and ultimate, edition of Students of Ethnobotany comes from the mysterious E. Green.

One of the draws of botanical research, in my opinion, is the chance that you will discover something extraordinary, some intricate mechanism, adaptation, or chemical that has implications able to expand the scope of human knowledge.  However, there are times when less information can be more exciting than a thorough chemical or physiological analysis.  These are the instances where investigation into the mystery surrounding a plant actually reveals more about humans than the plant in question.

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