Nancy Turner

Nancy Turner
Distinguished Professor
Environmental Studies


Office: DTB B260

Distinguished Professor and Hakai Professor in Ethnoecology, Nancy Turner is an ethnobotanist whose research integrates the fields of botany and ecology with anthropology, geography and linguistics, among others. She is interested in the traditional knowledge systems and traditional land and resource management systems of Indigenous Peoples, particularly in western Canada.

Nancy has worked with First Nations elders and cultural specialists in northwestern North America for over 40 years, collaborating with Indigenous communities to help document, retain and promote their traditional knowledge of plants and habitats, including Indigenous foods, materials and medicines, as well as language and vocabulary relating to plants and environments. Her interests also include the roles of plants and animals in narratives, ceremonies, language and belief systems. 

Currently, Nancy is working on several research and writing projects. In 2011, she was named to a new position as Hakai Chair in Ethnoecology and was awarded a $1.25 million grant from the Quadra Island-based Tula Foundation to support her ongoing work.

This funding and new role allows her to participate more fully in community-based learning and research, especially as it pertains to critical issues facing Canadians today around the importance of sustaining biocultural diversity in an ever-changing world. She remains active in organizations such as Global Diversity Foundation, The Hakai Institute, Society of Ethnobiology, Society for Economic Botany, and Slow Food International.

Dr. Turner has authored, co-authored or co-edited over 20 books (most recently a two-volume book, Ancient Pathways, Ancestral Knowledge: Ethnobotany and Ecological Wisdom of Indigenous Peoples of Northwestern North America, and Saanich Ethnobotany: Culturally Important Plants of the WSÁNEĆ People - co-authored with Richard Hebda, a textbook, Ethnobiology (E. N. Anderson, first editor); Plants of Haida Gwaii; The Earth’s Blanket; and “Keeping it Living”: Traditions of Plant Use and Cultivation on the Northwest Coast of North America – this last co-edited with Douglas Deur), and over 150 book chapters and peer-reviewed papers, and numerous other publications, both popular and academic.

Dr. Turner has received a number of awards for her work, including: Richard Evans Schultes Award in Ethnobotany from the Healing Forest Conservancy, Washington DC (1997); Order of British Columbia, and elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (both 1999); Slow Food Award in Biodiversity, Bologna, Italy (2001); Honorary Citizen of Victoria Award (2001); Confederation of University Faculty Associations of British Columbia Academic of the Year Award, and Canadian Botanical Association’s Lawson Medal for lifetime contributions to Canadian Botany (2002); UVic’s Alumni Association Legacy Distinguished Alumna award (2003); Lieutenant Governor’s medal for best BC Historical non-fiction of the year (Plants of Haida Gwaii, 2005); Craigdarroch Gold Medal, University of Victoria (2006); William L. Brown Award for Excellence in Genetic Resource Conservation, Missouri Botanical Garden (2008); Member of the Order of Canada(2009); Freedom of the Municipality of Saanich (2011); and Honorary Doctorates, Vancouver Island University and University of British Columbia (both 2011), the University of Northern British Columbia (2014) and Simon Fraser University (upcoming 2015).

Faces of UVic Research video

In this video, Dr. Nancy Turner discusses the importance of ethnobotany and ethnoecology in modern sustainability and the modern use of resources.