Richard Evans Schultes – ethnobotanist, taxonomist, writer and photographer – is regarded as one of the most important plant explorers of the 20th century. In December 1941, Schultes entered the Amazon rainforest on a mission to document how indigenous peoples used plants for medicinal, ritual and practical purposes. He would follow in the tradition of great Victorian era explorers, spending over a decade immersed in near-continuous fieldwork. In total, the Harvard-educated Schultes would collect more than 24,000 species of plants including some 300 species new to science.
Schultes’ geographic area of focus was the Colombian Amazon, an area that had remained largely unknown to the outside world, isolated by the Andes to the west and dense jungles and impassable rapids on all other sides. Schultes lived amongst the region’s most remote tribes, mapped uncharted rivers, and was the first scientist to explore some areas that have not been researched since. His notes and photographs are some of the only existing documentation of ancestral indigenous cultures on the cusp of change.
To celebrate the life and work of Dr. Schultes and the indigenous peoples he visited, the Amazon Conservation Team has developed a new online, interactive map journal that follows the father of modern ethnobotany through his amazing Amazonian explorations. Led by cartographer Brian Hettler and ethnobotanist Mark Plotkin, the map utilizes Esri’s innovative “story map” templates to chronicle Schultes’ journeys in an engaging, media-rich web-based environment, helping to bring the remarkable natural and cultural history of Colombia to new audiences.
“The Amazon Conservation Team is pleased and proud to be able to convey the importance and the wonder of this great explorer’s travels and research using the latest innovations in storytelling tools,” said ACT President, Dr. Mark Plotkin.
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