Merlin, Mark D.

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My research has focused on the cultural histories of human-plant interactions with special emphasis on the pan-global, traditional use of psychoactive species. I also study the human impact on native vegetation in tropical island ecosystems, both past and present, with a general interest in the natural history of Remote Oceania. My most important career object has been to contribute to and foster environmental education and preservation of traditional ecological and ethnobotanical knowledge.

Research Interests: Ethnobotany, Plant Ecology, Environmental History, Natural History of Remote Oceania, Human Impact on Hawaiian and other Tropical Pacific Islands


Dr. Mark Merlin
Professor of Botany
PhD 1979, University of Hawai'i at Manoa


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 5 of 7
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    Kava cultivation, native species conservation, and integrated watershed resource management on Pohnpei Island
    (University of Hawaii Press, 2005-04) Merlin, Mark David ; Raynor, William
    For many centuries, the kava plant, Piper methysticum, a series of sterile clones of a truly wild Piper species, has been used in several high islands in remote Oceania, including Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia. Until modern times, its use on all of these islands was largely restricted to chiefly, priestly, and medicinal use. Because of colonial suppression and/or the use of other nonindigenous psychoactive drugs, its use was abandoned on some of these islands. On other islands, such as Pohnpei, its use has increased greatly, with substantial changes in rank, gender, motivation, time, and place. This steep rise in its use has resulted in a large increase in its cultivation. On Pohnpei, intensification of cropping in upland environments is largely responsible for more than 70% loss of the remaining native, tropical rain forest since 1975. This impact and other human activities endanger the unique upland biodiversity of this remote tropical island. Recent historical trends in forest exploitation, threats to biodiversity, and watershed disturbance on Pohnpei are discussed in this paper. The Watershed Conservation Plan and management benefits of the proposed Pacific-Asia Biodiversity Transect (PABITRA) are emphasized with permanent plot establishment for long-term monitoring.
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    Human perception of the Hawaiian endangered species: a preliminary report on a three-year random survey
    (Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Department of Botany, 1978-06) Merlin, Mark David ; Smith, Clifford W
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    Report of the Kipahulu Bicentennial expedition
    (Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Department of Botany, 1976-09) Lamoureux, Charles ; Stemmermann, Lani
    An expedition through Kipahulu Valley was organized to evaluate the frequenly implied negative environmental impact of the 1967 Kipahulu Valley Expedition. On the 1976 expedition four people trekked down through the valley from June 26 through 29, along the 1967 Expedition route, where possible. There is little evidence of the 1967 expedition remaining in the valley. The trails are difficult to locate and the campsites are recognizable only to those people who were on the expedition. There is no evidence of weeds being introduced into the valley along the 1967 trails. There is serious pig damage in the area between Basecamp 1 and Palikea.
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    The flora and vegetation of Laysan Island
    (National Museum of Natural History, The Smithsonian Institution, 1963-11-15) Lamoureux, Charles H.
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    A History of Ethnobotany in Remote Oceania
    (University of Hawai'i Press, 2000-07) Merlin, Mark D.
    Ethnobotany has had a relatively short history as a scientific or scholarly discipline, and according to R. L. Ford still lacks a unifying theory. In this paper the history of ethnobotany in Remote Oceania is reviewed. In sequence, the roots of Pacific ethnobotany in European exploration and colonial expansion are discussed, then the contributions of early foreign residents, and finally the rapidly growing field of scientific ethnobotany during the latter part of the twentieth century. Examples of key research from the disciplines of botany, anthropology, archaeology, and geography, as well as major trends in ethnobotanical research in Remote Oceania, are described.