Betsabé D. Castro Escobar

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¡Hola! I am a second year graduate student with Paul Fine and Thomas Carlson in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley . My general research interests lie in the intersection of the fields of tropical ecology and ethnobotany. I am especially interested in how humans can promote evolutionary responses to culturally significant plants. I attempt to compare the phenotypic variation and plasticity of ethnobotanical plants in different islands of the Caribbean Basin. I am also interested in establishing research sites in Northern California and the Amazon.

Through my academic development, I have learned the importance of a holistic approach in research through my coursework in Botany, Ecology, and Anthropology. By applying mixed methods, my efforts as an interdisciplinary scientist have also sparked my interest for understanding mechanisms that drive biocultural loss through studying the relationships between people and their environments; how people use plants and for what purposes; and how to best preserve traditional botanical and ecological knowledge. I am a strong advocate for promoting diversity within STEM fields in academia and encouraging outreach activities to communicate our science to the general public. I am currently a graduate fellow for the NSF GRFP (Graduate Research Fellowship Program). I am also a recipient for the UC Berkeley Chancellor’s Diversity fellowship. If you have any questions in regards to my interests, past projects, Berkeley, or want advice about applying to the NSF GRFP feel free to can contact me.


Waser NM, Price MV, Blumstein DT, Arózqueta R, Castro Escobar BD, Pickens R, Pistoia A. 2014. Coyotes, deer & wildflowers: Diverse evidence points to a trophic cascade. Naturwissenshaften. DOI: 10.1007/s00114-014-1172-4. PDF

Past projects:

Evaluating linguistic endangerment worldwide from a socioecological approach (2013 – 2015).

Dr. Robert Walker, University of Missouri.

With my master’s thesis, I aimed to expand on socio-ecological predictors that can drive human language endangerment and develop spatial models that shed light into mechanisms of language loss.

Ethnobotanical benefits of invasive plant species in Puerto Rico (2012 – 2013).

Dr. Gladys Nazario, University of Puerto Rico.

In this study I helped to identify ethnobotanical flora in Puerto Rico with edible, medicinal, and toxic properties that were non-endemic to the island.

Approximations to biocultural conservation of plants & birds in Puerto Saavedra, Chile (2011 – 2012).

Dr. Victoria Castro from University of Chile & Dr. Ricardo Rozzi from University of North Texas.

As part of an international research experience for students program, I explored the biocultural diversity and traditional ecological knowledge of a Mapuche Lafkenche (“people of the sea”) in the community of Puerto Saavedra in Chile’s Ninth Administrative Region.

A possible trophic cascade involving humans, coyotes, mule deer, and native wildflowers (2010).

Dr. Mary Price & Dr. Nick Waser, Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory.

In this research experience for undergraduates, I examined potential trophic interactions between people, coyotes (Canis latrans), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), and native wildflowers at Gothic, Colorado.

Variation in Native and Cactaceae Seeds in the Soil as a Function of an Invasive Exotic Grass (2009 – 2010).

Dr. Elvia Meléndez-Ackerman, University of Puerto Rico.

An undergraduate research project designed to understand the ecological role of the invasive African grass Megathyrsus maximus on native plant communities and seed bank dynamics on Mona Island, Puerto Rico.

Contact info: 

Betsabé D. Castro Escobar

PhD Student, PIs. Fine & Carlson

Department of Integrative Biology

University of California, Berkeley

NSF Graduate Research Fellow