Ryan Huish

Ryan D.

Associate Professor of Biology

Courses Taught

  • Principles of Biology
  • Introduction to Biological Diversity
  • General Botany
  • Ecology
  • Ethnobotany
  • Medicinal Plants
  • Field Botany Research
  • Local Flora
  • Tonga Field Study
  • Appalachia: People, Place, and Plants
  • Plants in Poetry and Art
  • End of the World: Perspectives from Science, Religion, and Culture
  • Cultural Anthropology

Research Interests

With a background in botany and sociocultural anthropology, my research interests incorporate an interdisciplinary approach to address basic and applied questions in ethnobotany, ecology, plant conservation, public health, and the humanities. Each research project is coupled with cultural conservation and community development, using plants as a common thread. I am currently engaged in the following research projects:

  • Appalachian Ethnobotany: Documenting traditional uses, stories, and lexicon of plants and fungi through ethnographic research.
  • Experimental harvest of goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis): Improving sustainable management through research and community partnerships.
  • Increasing landscape-scale adoption of agroforestry systems in Central Appalachia through market-based incentives.
  • Phytomedicine and public health in the South Pacific Kingdom of Tonga: Does a traditional medicinal plant show clinical activity against drug-resistant infections?
  • Climate effects on the culture and ecology of sugar maple and maple syrup production.
  • Southern Appalachian Maple Research and Activities (SAMaRA): Socio-economic potential through maple syrup research and educational activities.
  • Collaborative efforts in economic botany: Capitalizing on rich botanical resources and heritage in Appalachia.
  • The Oak Conservation Alliance: A multi-dimensional community collaboration to protect the forests from “sudden oak death” and other threatening diseases affecting trees in the culturally, ecologically, and economically valuable oak family (oakconservationalliance.org).
  • Arapesh Ethnobotany: Biocultural linguistics and ethnotaxonomy in Papua New Guinea

Professional Organizations and Appointments

  • Member of The Native and Indigenous Relations Community at the University of Virginia
  • Society for Economic Botany
  • Society of Ethnobiology
  • Advisor for the Tongan Indigenous Pharmaceutical Society
  • Member of the Research Working Group for the Culturally Significant Plant Species Initiative (a collaboration between the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indian Natural Resources Program and UNESCO’s Southern Appalachian Man and the Biosphere Cooperative.)
  • Founder and Director of the Oak Conservation Alliance
  • Curator of the J. Rex Baird Herbarium and Ethnobotanical Archives

Selected Awards

  • The Environmental Resilience Institute, Collaborative Laboratory (CoLab) seed grant, Co Principal Investigator. “Documenting and Preserving Indigenous Ethnobotanical Knowledge in Papua New Guinea—and Beyond” 2022–2024, $30,000
  • Outstanding Faculty Award 2020, State Council of Higher Education for Virginia
  • American Herbal Products Association Grant Award, “Experimental harvest of goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis): Improving sustainable management through research and community partnerships” Co-PI, 2020–2025, $50,000
  • Natural Resources Conservation Services, National Conservation Innovation Grant Award, “Increasing Landscape-Scale Adoption of Agroforestry Systems in Central Appalachia through Market-Based Incentives” Co-PI, 2020–2023, $773,255
  • Appalachian Prosperity Project Fellowship, University of Virginia, “Collaborative efforts in economic botany: Capitalizing on rich botanical resources and heritage in Appalachia” Co-PI, 2019–2020 $5,000
  • 2020 Richard and Minnie Windler award in Ecology, from the Southern Appalachian Botanical Society
  • USGS Northeast Climate Science Center (CSC) Grant, “Climate effects on the culture and ecology of sugar maple” Co-PI, 2015–2017, $149,608

Selected Publications

Ahmed, S., D. Lutz, J. Rapp, R. Huish, B. Dufour, A. Brunelle, T. Morelli, K. Stinson, T. Warne. 2023. Climate change and maple syrup: Producer observations, perceptions, knowledge, and adaptation strategies. Frontiers in Forests and Global Change, section People and Forests, Vol. 6.

Pieroni, A. et al. 2020. Taming the pandemic? The importance of homemade plant-based foods and beverages as community responses to COVID-19. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 16:75. 

Rapp, J.M., D. Lutz, R. Huish, B. Dufour, S. Ahmed, T. Morelli, K. Stinson. 2020. Sugar maple responses to climate change: We'll boil it down for you. Forest Ecology and Management. 458. 

Kruger, S. J. Munsell, J. Chamberlain, J. Davis, R. Huish. 2020. Projecting medicinal plant trade volume and value in deciduous forests of the Eastern United States. Forests 11(74):1–20. ‘Forest Economics and Human Dimensions’ section in Special Issue ‘Non-Timber Forest Products and Bioeconomy: Management, Value Chains, Challenges and Opportunities.’

Huish, R., J. Peters, D. Taylor, M. Munson. 2020. Comparative Analysis of Four Maple Species for Syrup Production in South-Central Appalachia. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development.

Rapp, J.; D. Lutz; R. Huish, B. Dufour; S. Ahmed; T. L. Morelli, K. Stinson. 2019. Finding the sweet spot: Shifting climate optima for maple syrup production in North America. Forest Ecology and Management 448:187–197.

Huish, R., M. Manow, A. Faivre, C. McMullen. 2019. Investigations into the reproductive biology of the Southern Appalachian endemic piratebush (Buckleya distichophylla): Pollination biology, fruit development, and seed germination. Castanea: Journal of the Southern Appalachian Botanical Society 84(1):70–80.

Huish, R., R. Klopf. 2018. Environmental correlates to population structure and health of the rare piratebush (Buckleya distichophylla) within Poor Mountain Natural Area Preserve, Virginia. Natural Areas Journal 38(2), pp. 148–153.

Huish, R., T. Faka’osi, H. Likiafu, J. Mateboto, K. Huish. 2015. Distribution, population structure, and management of a rare sandalwood (Santalum yasi, Santalaceae) in Fiji and Tonga. Pacific Conservation Biology 21(1): pp. 27–37.

Huish, R., M. Manow, C. McMullen. 2015. Floral phenology and sex ratio of piratebush (Buckleya distichophylla, Santalaceae), a rare dioecious shrub endemic to the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Castanea: Journal of the Southern Appalachian Botanical Society 80(1), pp. 1–7.

Huish, R., K. Huish, T. Walker, G. Shresthra. 2014. Traditional Tongan treatments for infections: bioassays and ethnobotanical leads for activity. Journal of Medicinal Plants Research 8(41), pp. 1215–1222.

Vougioukalou, S., K. Barfield, R. Huish, L. Shiels, S. Brosi, P. Harrison. 2014. The contribution of ethnobiology to teaching plant sciences: student and faculty perspectives. in ed. book by C. Quave, Innovative Strategies for Teaching in the Plant Sciences. Springer Publishing, pp. 33–45.

Brosi, S., R. Huish. 2014. Aligning plant identification curricula to disciplinary standards through the framework of student-centered learning. in ed. book by C. Quave, Innovative Strategies for Teaching in the Plant Sciences. Springer Publishing, pp. 83–100.

Selected Public Media Stories

  • The Appalachian Voice. “Threats to the Tree of Life”, December 2019.
  • Vermont Public Radio and New Hampshire Public Radio. “Climate Change Research: By Century’s End, Expect Much Earlier Maple Season.” October 2019.
  • Forbes. “Climate Change Is Ruining Maple Syrup By Making It Less Sweet And Affecting When We Tap It.” September 2019.
  • Martha Stewart. “Maple Syrup Season May Start One Month Early By the Year 2100, According to a New Study.” September 2019.
  • Phys.org. “Climate change study finds that maple season may come earlier.” September 2019.
  • National Public Radio. “Economic Diversity: 8 Ideas with Momentum Inside Appalachia”, by Inside Appalachia, from West Virginia Public Broadcasting March 2018.
  • National Public Radio. “Future Farming of America” by With Good Reason, March 2018.
  • Science Daily: Your source for the latest research news. “Effects of weather variability on maple syrup production studied”, March 2017.
  • The Appalachian Voice, “A Sweet Maple Harvest – making maple syrup in the Southern Appalachians and how climate change could effect the enterprise”, February 2017.
Ph.D. Biology (Plant Sciences), City University of New York and The New York Botanical Garden
B.S. Botany (minor Anthropology), Brigham Young University
Is this you? Request edits