The hum of student activity quiets as you get closer to the Eckerd College Community Farm, replaced by the gentle sounds of chirping birds and branches swishing in the wind. The first meeting of the Ethnobot N’Tea Club—inspired by ethnobotany, a discipline that focuses on the way humans interact with the environment—took advantage of this idyllic setting.
The new student club aims to build a strong relationship between plants and people and plans to focus its energy on various tea and botany projects on campus and off.
Several projects are currently in the works, including establishing a tea garden at the Eckerd farm. The tea garden will be designed by Club President Cameron Dasher, a senior environmental studies and anthropology student from Akron, Ohio, as part of his Environmental Studies Methods internship. He intends to create permaculture, a sustainable space where the chosen plants interact and support one another to make a self-sufficient ecosystem. Cameron also wants the tea garden to be a communal, casual space where people can gather and celebrate nature.
Knowledge and learning are fundamental parts of the Ethnobot N’Tea Club—one of their biggest projects will be digitizing Eckerd College’s herbarium housed in the Armacost Library. Herbariums are collections of preserved plants that can be used for botanical research. Eckerd’s herbarium contains specimens reaching back to the founding of the College in 1958; however, many of these specimens are delicate and not available for campuswide use. Digitizing the herbarium will immortalize it, vastly increase access and make it available for professional research in the future. Students also can add their specimens to the collection, for the club will hold seminars on collecting and pressing plants to be found on its weekly plant walks.
Cameron and Club Treasurer Thomas White, a junior marine science and environmental studies student from Danvers, Massachusetts, have worked together since they were first-year students, when they founded Eckerd’s Tea Club.
Then they decided to transition into a club with a stronger focus on ethnobotany, bringing in Vice President Ansley Jacobs, a senior marine science student from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and Social Media Manager Andrew Wynn, a senior communication student from Tallahassee, Florida.
Cameron decided to include more of an ethnobotanical focus after he grew interested in the subject while researching teas. “Why are we limiting ourselves to just tea when we could be opening this up to the whole world of plants and people?” he says. “Instead of just being like a little social club that kind of sits out there, let’s do something … let’s get people to learn and teach.”