Thomas J. Carlson

Thomas J. Carlson

Teaching Professor Emeritus

Phone: (510) 643-3864

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Research Description

My primary research interests are in medical/nutritional ethnobotany, ethnoecology, ethnoepidemiology, and the ecology and evolution of human disease.

I have conducted research with, and provided medical care to, forty different ethno-linguistic groups in fifteen different countries in Africa, Asia, Pacific Islands, South America, and North America. I collaborate with indigenous/local people to learn about their ethnoempirical and ethnotheoretical perspectives on medical and nutritional ethnobotany, ethnotaxonomy, ethnoecology, and ethnoepidemiology. This ethnobiological information is integrated into western empirical and theoretical frameworks to generate hypotheses and design and conduct experimental studies on medicinal and food plant species in physiology, pharmacology; molecular biology, systematics, and ecology. Population based public health and human clinical studies may be conducted to assess the contributions of ethnobotany to the medical and nutritional needs of local communities.

My research on local/indigenous ethnoepidemiological perceptions of the ecology and evolution of causes and deterrents of human disease includes assessment of the interrelationships between ecosystem ecology and human medical ecology. I work to develop systems through which the local/indigenous rural communities can be integrated into research projects and programs of ecosystem management, biodiversity monitoring, and human disease monitoring. 

Selected Publications

Carlson, T.J.S. and L. Maffi (eds.). 2004. Ethnobotany and Conservation of Biocultural Diversity. In Advances in Economic Botany, V. 15. New York Botanical Garden Press.

Carlson, T., B.M. Foula, J.A. Chinnock, S.R. King, G. Abdourahmaue, B.M. Sannoussy, A. Bah, S.A. Cisse, M. 54 Camara, and R.K. Richter. 2001. Case study on medicinal plant research in Guinea: Prior informed consent, focused benefit sharing, and compliance with the convention on biological diversity. Economic Botany 55(4):478-491.

Carlson, T.J.S. 2001. Ethnobiological knowledge, language, and the use of botanical medicines for tropical public health needs. In On Biocultural Diversity: Linking Language, Knowledge, and the Environment, ed. L. Maffi. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institute Press.

Carlson, T.J. 2000. Botanical medicines versus pharmaceuticals in tropical rural communities. Case Report in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Groups II and III, Methodological and Technological Issues in Technology Transfer, Cambridge University Press.

Gabriel, S.E., S.E. Davenport, R.J. Steagall, V. Vimal, T.J. Carlson, and E.J. Rozhon. 1999. A novel plant-derived inhibitor of cAMP-mediated fluid and chloride secretion. American Journal of Physiology 276(39):58-63.

Carlson, T.J., R. Cooper, S.R. King, and E.J. Rozhon. 1997. Modern science and traditional healing. Special Publication on Phytochemical Diversity, Royal Soc. of Chem. 200:84-95.