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Kelly Zepelin

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About me

Ph.D. Candidate at University of Colorado Boulder

Alongside eating wild edibles on the trails near my house, I am also conducting research that examines the connections between plants, personal wellbeing, cultural resilience, and local ecosystems. I research ethnobotany, microbiology, and foraging practices in Southwest North America. 

Using soil samples, human gut microbiome data, and qualitative ethnography, I examine how eating wild plants can be a form of stewardship - for both local ecosystems and human health. In this work, it is clear that the macro-biome (plants, animals, insects, fungi, soil)  and  the microbiome (commensal and pathogenic microorganisms) are two inseparable ecological systems. Damaging one will damage the other. 

My academic work asks how different cultural paradigms, including traditional ecological knowledge and modern microbiome science, are being transmitted within and between groups of people in a changing climate. I am passionate about sharing awareness of the edible plants of one’s bioregion and working to cultivate a greater awareness of the precious and precarious biodiversity of an area.

Outside of my academic research, I lead foraging workshops in Colorado - come rain or come shine- and am almost always experimenting with wild food recipes in my home kitchen with my husband and dog Kaya!  I feel that first-person experience with the edible landscapes around you is vital to cultivating a connection and  sense of responsibility to these spaces.

I have seen how learning how to identify, acquire the skills to ethically harvest, cook, eat and protect these plants can lead to a newfound relationship to the environment, energizing us to become healthier and better participants in a larger ecosystem. 

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