Meet the Team


Yota Batsaki, Executive Director, Principal Investigator for Plant Humanities Initiative

Anatole Tchikine, Curator of Rare Books, Co-Investigator for Plant Humanities Initiative

Courtney Randolph, Program Coordinator for Plant Humanities Initiative

Taylor Johnson, Rare Book Collection Assistant

Courtney Randolph, Taylor Johnson, Ashley Buchanan, Yota Batsaki, and Anatole Tchikine



Ashley Buchanan, Postdoctoral Fellow in Plant Humanities

Ashley Buchanan is a historian of the early modern world, with a particular interest in plants, recipes, and medicinal cultures in 17th- and 18th-century Europe. She received her PhD in early modern history from the University of South Florida in 2018. Her research spans many topics which includes the history of science and medicine, women, and politics as well as the dynamics of gender and authority. Her current book project, coming out of her dissertation, investigates the social, cultural, and political significance of pharmaceutical experimentation as well as the medicinal and botanical patronage at the court of the last Medici Princess, Anna Maria Luisa de Medici (1667–1743). Her goal is to broaden the global dimension of recipes by studying the numerous exotic plants imported into Tuscany from the New World, East Africa, and Southeast Asia in the late 18th century. In addition to almost a decade of teaching and working with undergraduates both in the United States and in Italy, Buchanan has been a junior fellow in residence with the Medici Archive Project at the Archivio di Stato di Firenze and an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow at The Huntington.

2019–2020 Research fellows

Rebecca Friedel

Rebecca Friedel is currently a PhD candidate and lecturer in anthropology at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). Her research takes a multiscalar approach to reconstructing a history of ancient Maya human-plant relationships in the Mopan River valley of Belize. This work has led to may interdisciplinary collaborations with many research institutions, including the National Lacustrine Core Facility at the University of Minnesota and El Colegio de la Frontera Sur in Chetumal, Mexico. Friedel has been the project paleoethnobotanist for the Mopan Valley Archaeological and Preclassic Projects in Belize since 2013. As part of these projects, she has established a reference collection of modern plant parts, including leaves, wood, seeds, fruits, and pollen, to aid in the identification of ancient plant remains. Rebecca has also coauthored and published an archaeologically informed, trilingual children’s book that features information about the importance of native plants and their uses.

Victoria Pickering

Victoria Pickering joins Dumbarton Oaks from the British Museum, where she was a postdoctoral researcher working on the Leverhulme Trust–funded project “Enlightenment Architectures: Sir Hans Sloane’s Catalogues of His Collections” (2016–19). The project, combining traditional and digital humanities, focused on making catalogues of natural history collections machine readable in order to understand how the physician Sir Hans Sloane (1660–1759) and his contemporaries collected, organized, and classified the world. Pickering’s AHRC-funded PhD at Queen Mary University of London, entitled “Putting Nature in a Box: Hans Sloane’s ‘Vegetable Substances’ Collection,” explored how these 12,523 botanical specimens, brought together between the 1680s and 1750s,  played a role in the production, exchange, and circulation of natural knowledge. In late 2017, she curated an exhibition at the British Museum entitled A Physician’s Cabinet. Most recently, Pickering has coauthored a chapter for the volume Curious Encounters: Voyaging, Collecting, and Making Knowledge in the Long Eighteenth Century, edited by Adriana Craciun and Mary Terrall (University of Toronto Press, 2019).