Kirra Swenerton

Founder & lead scientist


"I am a scientist, animist and edge-walker."

I teach about the wisdom of nature, ethnobotany and ecology and have dedicated myself to conserving rare species and protecting wild places. I lead devotional journeys and ritual for those who seek deeper guidance from nature and their own ancestral roots.


MY STORY...

My ancestors came to California as both colonizers and refugees. They traveled across the seas and settled on the unceded traditional territories of Patwin-speaking Suisuni, Ulato and Coast Miwok peoples in the early 1900's. Originally, my people came from the British Isles and Ireland, the mountains of Northern Italy and the Caucasus mountains of Western Armenia. My family are farmers, gardeners, teachers, ministers, priests, artists, laborers, scientists and conservationists. I’ve been exploring wild places and growing plants alongside my elders since I was a small child and propagating native and medicinal plants professionally for over 20 years. I can't remember a time that I didn't have dirt under my fingernails.

My expertise flows from many ways of knowing and from plant, spirit and human teachers alike. My teachings bridge the worlds of science and the sacred, merging rigor and ethics with herbal wisdom and ancestral traditions. I'm an expert in the indigenous flora of the San Francisco Bay Area and am currently a consulting scientist working on citizen science and endangered species recovery projects for the Mission blue butterfly and Bay checkerspot butterfly. I also speak, teach and write about entheogen conservation with a focus on Peyote and Sonoran Desert toad habitat protection. My current offerings include a plant medicine apprenticeship program, ritual Cannabis nature journeys, ancestral healing sessions, mentoring and ceremonial services.

I earned my Bachelor's degree in Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley (1998) and a graduate degree in Restoration Ecology at the University of Washington (2003). In 2012, I was initiated into the Temple of Awakening Divinity, am an ordained Minister and hold a Doctorate of Divinity from the Universal Life Church. I've directed and produced award-winning documentary films on topics from spider monkey sexual behavior Out There (1998) to cultural appropriation and body modification An Urban Tribe (1997). Winner of the William Hammond Hall Award for Excellence in Horticulture and the Byron and Alice Lockwood Graduate Fellowship, I have had the honor to care for beautiful public lands and environmental preserves with the National Park Service, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Golden Gate Park, The Nature Conservancy, San Francisco State University and the University of Washington's Center for Urban Horticulture.

I am privileged to have trained directly with some incredible mentors and elders including nature advocate and California Native Plant Society fellow, Jake Sigg; master horticulturalist and conservationist, Betty Young; professor and anthropologist, Dr. Katharine Milton; scholar and ethnobotanist, Kathleen Harrison of Botanical Dimensions; Dr. Daniel Foor of Ancestral Medicine; Izoceño elder, Don Odon; and ecologists and botanists, Doctors Kern Ewing and Sarah Reichard. I continue to learn directly from master plant teachers and my own ancestors. I am a member of United Plant Savers, Botanical Dimensions, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, the Society for Ecological Restoration, the Women's Visionary Council and the psychedelic risk reduction team at the Zendo Project.

I have also enjoyed decades of connecting to spirit through ritual and dance. My personal dance practice, emerging from 90's rave culture, grew into a lifelong study and practice of sacred, classical and folk dance traditions from my own heritage spanning the SWANA region and Central Asia. Over the years I have studied and performed with Ballet Afsaneh, Miriam Peretz, Helene Eriksen, Katarina Burda and Amelia Moore and enjoy modern, free-form, ecstatic movement traditions. My current works explore themes of death and other shared human experience through the medium of immersive theater with Ritual Death Experience, House of the Quivering Heart and Malaise Airways™.