Mark Plotkin is an ethnobotanist, studying the traditional uses for plants in Central and South America forests. He works closely with shamans, community leaders who practice traditional healing techniques using plants and animals, learned over uncounted generations. But when forests are disrupted (by illegal logging, for instance), that knowledge risks being lost. Plotkin's work helps to collect and share shamanic learning, with a twofold goal: to preserve the rainforest by showing its value as a source of yet-to-be-discovered pharmaceuticals.
Plotkin pioneered his research working with the Trio Indians of southern Suriname, and has also worked with elder shamans from Mexico, Panama, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Brazil. He's the author of the best-selling book Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice. With his wife, Liliana Madrigal, he co-founded the Amazon Conservation Team, a group that helps indigenous people purchase and protect their sacred sites.