Gary Paul Nabhan
Born (1952-03-17) 17 March 1952 (age 72)
Alma materPrescott College, University of Arizona
Known forNatural/Cultural History writings
Cofounding "Native Seeds/SEARCH"
Pollinator Decline
Local foods
Seed saving
Collaborative conservation
AwardsJohn Burroughs Medal
MacArthur Fellowship, Pew Conservation Scholar
Southwest Book Award, Lannan Literary Award
Kellogg Endowed Chair
Scientific career
FieldsEcology, ethnobotany
InstitutionsNative Seeds/SEARCH
Sabores Sin Fronteras Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Northern Arizona University
University of Arizona.

Gary Paul Nabhan (born 1952) is an agricultural ecologist, Ethnobotanist, Ecumenical Franciscan Brother,[1][2] and author whose work has focused primarily on the plants and cultures of the desert Southwest. He is considered a pioneer in the local food movement and the heirloom seed saving movement.


A first-generation Lebanese American, Nabhan is the grandson of Lebanese and Syrian refugees. He was raised in Gary, Indiana.[3][4][5] He excelled in high school which gave him the opportunity to attend Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa for 18 months. He then transferred to Prescott College in Arizona, earning a B.A. in Environmental Biology in 1974, and has remained in-state ever since. He has an M.S. in plant sciences (horticulture) from the University of Arizona (1978), and a Ph.D. in the interdisciplinary arid lands resource sciences also at the University of Arizona ("Papago Fields: Arid Lands Ethnobotany and Agricultural Ecology", 1983).[6] During this time he started working with, and learning from, the Tohono O'odham American Indians.[7]

He co-founded Native Seeds/SEARCH while working at the University of Arizona. It is a non-profit conservation organization which works to preserve indigenous southwestern agricultural plants as well as knowledge of their uses (1982–1993). He then served as director of science at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (1993–2000), before becoming founding director of the Center for Sustainable Environments at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ (2000–2008). In 2008 he moved back south to Tucson and joined the University of Arizona faculty as a research social scientist with the Southwest Center, where he now serves as the Kellogg Endowed Chair in Southwestern Borderlands Food and Water Security. He sits on several boards of conservation organizations.

As detailed in his writings, he married at a young age and had a family, but he was divorced in the late 1980s, later marrying a second time, this time with Caroline Wilson in the early 1990s. He is currently married to his third wife, Laurie Monti (formerly of Northern Arizona University, sister of Madeleine, Benjamin, Daniel, Jeffery, and Rebecca Smith. Through this marriage, he has been an amazing uncle to many nieces and nephews. Notably: Fiona Dam and Natasha Smith) and lives near Patagonia, Arizona on a five-acre homestead to the southwest of town.[8] He farms a diverse set of heirloom fruit and nut varieties from the Spanish Mission era and from the Middle Eastern homelands of his Lebanese ancestors, as well as heritage grains and beans adapted to arid climates.[8]


The unifying theme of Nabhan's work is how to avert the impoverishment and endangerment of ecological and cultural relationships, while celebrating the traditional ecological knowledge of the agrarian communities. He has played a catalytic role in the multicultural, collaborative conservation movement, being one of the co-authors of its populist manifesto, "An Invitation to the Radical Center".[9] Nabhan was among the first creative non-fiction writers to link the loss of biodiversity to the loss of cultural diversity. In his book with Stephen Trimble, The Geography of Childhood, he was among the first popular writers to show concern with the loss of children's access to the natural world. He has been a significant contributor in calling attention to the environmental issue of pollinator decline. He founded the Forgotten Pollinators Campaign, the Migratory Pollinators Conservation Initiative, and attempts to restore nectar corridors for pollinators in bi-national watersheds around his home in Patagonia, Arizona, which he calls the "pollinator diversity capitol of the United States."

In addition to the articles and books on pollination ecology for which he has been sole author or editor, he co-authored with Stephen L. Buchmann one of the key works on the topic The Forgotten Pollinators from Island Press (1996).

He is a champion of rainwater harvesting, which he implements in his own orchard and gardens, and he has written introductions on this topic in permaculture books by Bill Mollison and Brad Lancaster.[10][11]




  1. ^ Bock, C.Metamorphosis author profile: Gary Paul Nabhan, 6th paragraph, Whole Terrain, Franciscan Action Network, October 5, 2015
  2. ^ Wake Forest University School of Divinity
  3. ^ webmaster. "Ethnobotanist Gary Paul Nabhan on embracing the 'wisdom of the desert'". Gary Nabhan. Retrieved 2023-12-22.
  4. ^ webmaster. "An Interview with Author Gary Paul Nabhan". Gary Nabhan. Retrieved 2023-12-22.
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Gary Nabhan papers1978-1995 (Bulk 1969-2008) Nabhan (Gary) papers".
  7. ^ [bare URL PDF]
  8. ^ a b "Our Farm : Gary Nabhan". Archived from the original on 2014-02-02. Retrieved 2014-01-23.
  9. ^ Nabhan, Gary Paul, and 19 others (February 2003). "An Invitation to the Radical Center". Quivara Coalition website. Retrieved 15 April 2017.
  10. ^ Harvest the Rain. Sunstone Press. p. 222. ISBN 978-1-61139-114-5.
  11. ^ Hemenway, Toby (2009). Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, 2nd Edition. Chelsea Green Publishing. pp. xi. ISBN 978-1-60358-223-0.
  12. ^ "Gary Paul Nabhan".
  13. ^ "MOCA Local Genius Awardees | Tucson AZ". Archived from the original on 2014-01-23. Retrieved 2014-01-23.
  14. ^ "Gary Paul Nabhan: Mother Nature's Foodie". Utne Reader, November–December 2011. Retrieved 19 October 2011.