Michael J. Balick, Ph.D.

For nearly three decades, Dr. Michael Balick has studied the relationship between plants and people.  Most of his research is in remote regions of the tropics, where he works with traditional cultures seeking to document their uses of plants, understand the ethnomedical systems that involve plants and traditional beliefs, and help develop sustainable utilization systems for local plant resources—while ensuring that benefits from such work are always shared with local communities.  In addition to ethnobotany, Dr. Balick is an expert on the uses of the palm family, an economically important family of tropical plants. 

He has been active in ethnopharmacological investigations—the search for plants with medicinal properties—particularly in Belize where his research aided in the formation of the world’s first ethnobiomedical forest reserve.  He co-founded the Ix Chel Tropical Research Foundation, a center in Belize devoted to traditional healing and cultural preservation.  From 1986 to 1996 he helped lead the New York Botanical Garden’s collaboration with the US National Cancer Institute to survey the flora of Central and South America and the Caribbean for plants with potential activity against cancer and AIDS. Currently, he is working with traditional cultures in Micronesia to document their use and management of plant resources. 

Dr. Balick has authored 16 scientific and general interest books and monographs, and published more than 120 scientific papers.

He currently serves as an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University, New York University, Yale University, and City University of New York. 

Dr. Balick has received numerous awards and honors for his scientific research and achievements.  He is a former President of the Society for Economic Botany, has been a Visiting Fellow at Green College, Oxford University; and serves on the boards of numerous scientific and cultural organizations.

In 1981 he co-founded The New York Botanical Garden’s Institute of Economic Botany with Sir Ghillean Prance.  It has become the largest and most active such program of its kind in the nation.  The Institute is devoted to furthering knowledge of the relationship between plants and people, and includes an interdisciplinary staff of biological and social scientists

Dr. Balick holds a B.Sc. degree from the University of Delaware and he received his AM and Ph.D. degrees in biology from Harvard University.