James Lucas

Program: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Current advisor: Robbie Hart, PhD

Undergraduate university: Colby College, 2015

Enrollment year: 2016

Research summary
Ethnobotany of plants used in hand papermaking traditions

Paper, a laminar, cellulosic material made from pulped or beaten plant fibers, has been used for over two millennia as a light and portable means for cultures to record knowledge. Since all plants are primarily composed of cellulose fibers, it should be possible to use just about any plant species to make paper. However, cultures around the world have converged on using only a handful of species that tend to exhibit similar characteristics, including having long cellulosic fibers, a rapid growth rate, and toxic tissues. By coupling functional trait measurements with hand papermaking techniques, I will reconstruct and quantify the ethnobotanical experiments conducted by ancient artisans to answer a question now lost to history: why are some plants used for making paper and not others?

Graduate publications