Michael A. Cole earned a bachelor’s of science degree in ethnobotany from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa in 2015 and was a recipient of the Richard Evans Schultes Research Award from the Society of Economic Botany in 2016 for his research on ayahuasca. In 2018, he obtained a master’s degree in botany with a focus on evolution, ecology and conservation biology from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. In 2019, he received a Ph.D. in botany with a focus on evolution, ecology and conservation biology from the same university. He is the co-author of The Therapeutic Potential of Ayahuasca (Springer, 2017), Theories and Major Hypotheses of Ethnobotany (Economic Botany, 2017), and author of Most cultural importance indices do not predict cultural keystone status (Human Ecology, 2020). Michael’s research has focused on understanding the patterns and processes surrounding medicinal plant use by testing several theories and hypotheses in ethnobotany.


Michael’s work has tested if the fundamental components of species cultural keystone designation were predicted by cultural importance indices, which factors are strong predictors of medicinal plant species use-pressure, and if the current rate of harvest of ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis caapi) is sustainable in a localized area of the Peruvian Amazon basin. His work also aims to facilitate a greater understanding of the demography and population dynamics of ayahuasca in response to harvest pressure and novel approaches toward sustainable ayahuasca production. Michael’s current research interests include the ritualistic and therapeutic use of ayahuasca and other teacher plants in ethnomedicinal contexts aimed at improving physiological, psychological, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

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