One of the world’s leading ethnobotanists was recognized this week at Harvard for his lifelong commitment to protecting the Amazon rainforest and its tribal communities. Mark Plotkin ’79, was honored in front of more than 500 guests with the Michael Shinagel Award for Service by Harvard Extension Alumni Association at its Commencement Banquet.
The annual event held in Annenberg Hall, celebrates the Harvard Extension School (HES) alumni community and their accomplishments. Plotkin, who co-founded the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) in 1996, reflected on his time at Harvard as one of the most pivotal in his learning career. He previously served as Research Associate in Ethnobotanical Conservation at the Botanical Museum and has lectured on the travels of fellow Amazon explorer Richard Evans Schultes. Plotkin also co-taught the first Harvard course on rainforest conservation with Schultes at Harvard Extension.
“I knew I wanted to go on this path after my very first Harvard Extension class — taught by Richard Schultes,” Plotkin said. “Schultes inspired biocultural conservation as it’s done around the world today. Inspired by his example our team has been able to improve the protection of 80 million acres of ancestral lands in the Amazon.”
According to the ACT website, Plotkin “has spent almost three decades studying traditional plant use with traditional healers of tropical America.”