Anthropology (ANTH) 491

Ethnobiology: Traditional Biological Knowledge in Contemporary Global Context (Revision 3)

ANTH 491 Course Website

Delivery Mode: Individualized study online with video component*.
*Overseas students, please contact the University Library before registering in a course that has an audio/visual component.

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Social Science

Prerequisite: ANTH 275 or introductory biology or consent of the instructor.

Precluded Course: ANTH 591 (ANTH 491 may not be taken for credit if credit has already been obtained for ANTH 591)

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

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This course examines ethnobiology—cultural knowledge of plants, animals, and ecology—and the nature of traditional knowledge. The course consists of introduction to ethnobiology and the nature of traditional knowledge, followed by sections on cultural knowledge and use of plants (ethnobotany), animals (ethnozoology) and ecology (ethnoecology and traditional resource management), ending with an examination of contemporary issues (traditional versus commercial intellectual property rights to genetic and ecological diversity and medicinal plants, conservation and traditional societies, and sustainable development). It is cross-listed as ANTH 591 and can be taken as a graduate course in the cultural studies component of the Master of Arts—Integrated Studies program.


Part 1: Introduction and Classification

  • Unit 1: Introduction to Ethnobiology
  • Unit 2: Ethnobiological Classification

Part 2: Ethnobotany

  • Unit 3: Ethnobotany and Plants as Foods
  • Unit 4: Plants as Medicines
  • Unit 5: Plants for Technology

Part 3: Ethnozoology

  • Unit 6: Ethnozoology
  • Unit 7: Animals and World View: Canadian First Nations and Native Alaskans

Part 4: Ecological Knowledge and Contemporary Issues

  • Unit 8: Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Traditional Environmental Management
  • Unit 9: Contemporary Issues: Traditional Cultures, Resource Management and Conservation, and Traditional Knowledge and Intellectual Property


To receive credit for ANTH 491, you must achieve a grade of at least 50 percent on the research paper or final exam, and “D” (50 percent) for the overall course mark.

Journal Tutor Quiz Essay 1 Essay 2 Research Paper or Final Exam Total
20% 5% 20% 20% 35% 100%

To learn more about assignments and examinations, please refer to Athabasca University's online Calendar.

Course Materials


Balick, Michael J., and Paul Alan Cox. 1997. Plants, People, and Culture: The Science of Ethnobotany. New York: Scientific American Library.

Hunn, Eugene S., with James Selam and Family. 1990. Nch'i-Wána “The Big River”: Mid-Columbia Indians and Their Land. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Johnson, Derek, Linda Kershaw, Andy MacKinnon, and Jim Pojar. 1995. Plants of the Western Boreal Forest and Aspen Parkland. Edmonton: Lone Pine Publishing.

Nelson, Richard K. 1983. Make Prayers to the Raven: A Koyukon View of the Northern Forest. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Other Materials

ANTH 491 Reading File: a book of readings from a variety of sources which form a major part of the required readings for this course.

ANTH 491 Selected Ethnobiology Bibliography: a list of articles, booklets, and texts organized by topics.

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 3, June 3, 2009.

Updated March 17 2016 by Student & Academic Services