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Fadiman was raised in Palo Alto and is the daughter of documentary filmmaker, Dorothy Fadiman, and psychologist and published author, James Fadiman. Clifton Fadiman was her great uncle, and she is a distant cousin of Professor Anne Fadiman. She received her BA from Vassar College, her MA from Tulane University and her PhD from the University of Texas at Austin. She was the recipient of an NSF Grant in 2000-2001 which she used for her dissertation research in Ecuador.
In 2006, she was recognized as an Emerging Explorer by National Geographic. According to the National Geographic website, Fadiman was one of only eight Explorers honored by National Geographic in 2006.
Fadiman's research specializes in Latin American and African ethnobotany, with a focus on rainforest cultures. Fadiman's research and publications examine the various ways that indigenous peoples interact with plants in their daily lives, with particular emphasis on the economy and on gender roles.
In Starbucks The Way I See It No 233 she said "I used to think that going to the jungle made my life an adventure. However, after years of unusual work in exotic places, I realize that it is not how far off I go, or how deep into the forest I walk that gives my life meaning. I see that living life fully is what makes life – anyone’s life, no matter where they do or do not go – an adventure."
- 2005, Cultivated Food Plants: Culture and Gendered Spaces of Colonists and the Chachi in Ecuador. Journal of Latin American Geography 4(1): 43-57.
- 2004, Management, Cultivation and Domestication of Weaving Plants: Heteropsis and Astrocaryum in the Ecuadorian Rain Forest. The California Geographer 44:1-19.
- 2001, Hat weaving with Jipi, Carludovica palmate, (Cyclanthaceae) in the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico. The Journal of Economic Botany 55(4):539-544.
- Fadiman, Maria, Prof. Maria Fadiman's Page, Boca Raton, Florida: Florida Atlantic University, retrieved Mar 29, 2012
- "Concentric Media - The Film Team". Concentric Media. Retrieved August 28, 2013.
- Wolfe, Tom (1968). The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Farrar Straus Giroux. p. 6.
- "William Fadiman, 90, Writer and Producer accessdate=November 3, 2013". New York Times.
- Fadiman, Maria (August 2003), The Committee-Approved Version of Maria Grace Fadiman's Dissertation Entitled: "Fibers from the Forest: Mestizo, Afro-Ecuadorian and Chachi Ethnobotany of Piquigua (Heteropsis ecuadorensis, Araceae) and Mocora (Astrocaryum standleyanum, Arecaceae) in Northwestern Ecuador"(pdf), Austin, Texas: University of Texas, Austin, p. 6, retrieved Mar 29, 2012
- "Maria Fadiman Ethnobotanist Emerging Explorer". National Geographic. Retrieved March 26, 2012.
- Early Morning Starbucks, Life in the Vast Lane, April 2, 2007, retrieved March 29, 2012