50 years of service: Mark Merlin, ethnobotanist and environmental historian

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Reading time: Four minutes

person sitting on deck with others
Merlin has a general interest in the natural history of remote areas of Oceania, studying human impacts on native vegetation in tropical island ecosystems.

The historical biogeography of mind-altering drug plants such as cannabis, kava, betel nut, ephedra, and opium poppy is the specialty of a distinguished environmental expert who has worked at American universities for more than 50 years. Hawaii At Manoa.

A person stands behind a large map of Oahu
Merlin stands large behind Oahu relief map of cent.John Plant Science Institute

Professor Mark Merlin’s pioneering research in the School of Life Sciences includes exploring how ancient cultures used plants for healing and religious purposes, as well as exploring how humans moved through time in places such as This includes investigating how the environment has changed over time. Hawaii We study other tropical Pacific island groups through agriculture and urbanization, and how traditional plant knowledge can help protect the environment and support sustainability today.

Marlin also earned a graduate degree. ah Manoa recalled the many professors he worked with and the thousands of students he taught.For example, he worked with ah Long-time Sea Grant facilitator, the late Peter Rappa (current) ah President David Lasner PhD Field of Communication and Information Science. Merlin also coached notable student-athletes, including former Jim Donovan. ah Numerous linemen and later athletic directors. ah Soccer player who made a career in NFL, as well as current Rainbow Warrior football coach Timmy Chung.To all of them, and to all of his students over the years. ah Manoah also includes a number of teaching assistants who have gone on to work in academia, and Merlin simply says, “Thank you.”

Spotlight Hawaii plant

person standing on a hiking trail
Marlin at Kaloper State Park Hawaii island

Marlin is proud to have worked with a group of scholars to replace ecological examples from the continental United States, such as pines and squirrels, long used in school textbooks in the Pacific region, with examples indigenous to Hawaii. I am. iwi (endemic species of Hawaii honeyeater), Ohia Lehua (Lehua) Hawaii) and koa (a species of native large-flowered tree) Hawaii). Merlin is also proud of his two guidebooks created in the 1970s. Hawaiian forest plants and Hawaiian coastal plants It has been used by various people for over 45 years.

“These field guides are what got so many people interested in exercising, getting outside and hiking in the first place,” Merlin said. “Secondly, it’s about recognizing native and exotic plants, and especially distinguishing between benign and invasive plants. And overall, there’s a growing interest in conservation and protection of nature. HawaiiUnique natural environment and natural history. ”

finding his passion for research

Marlin grew up in the Hollywood area. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Marlin said that during his time as a student, protests before and after the Vietnam War were rampant across college campuses, as was the use of psychoactive substances other than alcohol.

He was invited to apply for the following locations: ah Manoah offered a graduate teaching position and eventually earned a master’s and master’s degree. PhD degree in geography. Here he pursued his research interests in learning more about plants and the environment.

“I told myself that if I’m going to spend two years studying and writing a paper about something, I’d better do something interesting. I thought, ‘Let’s go back to pot, let’s go back to cannabis, let’s go back to Pakarolo.’ “,” Merlin said. “The first thing I asked was, ‘Where did this plant come from?’ Who started using it? Why did they use it? So I did a little research on it and found out… I found this to be a very versatile species, which confirmed my growing interest in botany, ecology and ethnobotany in particular.”

It was this launchpad that inspired Merlin to contribute and promote environmental education and the preservation of traditional ecological and ethnobotanical knowledge.

Some of his groundbreaking books include: humans and marijuana (1972), In the footsteps of ancient opium poppies (1984), Hippo: the drug of the Pacific (1992, co-authored) and Cannabis: evolution and ethnobotany ” (2013, co-authored) received high praise. The latter is a co-winner of the Mary Klinger Award for Best Ethnobotanical Book by the Ethnobotanical Society. Additionally, his recent co-authors include: Plants and people of the Marshall Islands ” (2018) won the Mary Klinger Award.

Merlin also received numerous honors and honors, including: government. George Ariyoshi served as an environmental specialist for the State Pesticide Board from 1980 to 1988 and received the Federal Government’s Lifetime Volunteer Award (2018). Hawaii The Nature Center would like to “thank you for your years of dedicated service, dedication, and commitment to connecting children and families with nature.”

-by Mark Arakaki

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