MacArthur Fellows Program

Gary Paul Nabhan

Ethnobotanist and Nature Writer | Class of 1990

Ethnobotanist and Nature Writer
Phoenix, Arizona
38 at time of award
Area of Focus
Food and Agriculture
Published August 1, 1990

About Gary's Work

Gary Nabhan is an ethnobotanist and nature writer whose studies of indigenous farming, wild-food gathering, and land management focus on conserving ancient cultural traditions.

Nabhan’s work offers important insights into the relationship between culture and land, especially with respect to the constraints of limited, natural resources that all societies eventually face.  In 1983, Nabhan co-founded Native Seeds/SEARCH, a nonprofit organization working to preserve native Southwestern crops.  He has studied native agricultural traditions of the Southwest, and has led a multicultural research team to inventory the endangered, useful plants of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands.  His work has led directly to conservation of the genetic and cultural heritage of the region.


Nabhan is the director of the Center for Sustainable Environments at Northern Arizona University and a professor in the Department of Applied Indigenous Studies and the Center for Environmental Sciences and Education.  He is the author of several books, including The Desert Smells Like Rain (1982), Gathering the Desert (1985), Enduring Seeds (1989), The Geography of Childhood (1994), Desert Legends (1995), The Forgotten Pollinators (1996), Coming Home to Eat (2001), and Singing the Turtles to the Sea (2003).

Nabhan received a B.A. (1973) from Prescott College in Arizona, and an M.S. (1978) and a Ph.D. (1983) from the University of Arizona, Tucson.

Last updated January 1, 2005

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