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The majority of my research is conducted in collaboration with Martu hunter-gatherers in the Western Desert of Australia, where I spend much of my time. This long-term ethnographic project began as Martu were compiling their Native Title Claim (finally won in 2002). Our research focuses on social and ecological factors that influence the ways in which people use natural resources and landscapes, and how changes in those practices affect ecological interactions in the vast regions around Martu communities of Parnngurr, Punmu (both in Karlamilyi National Park) and Kunawarritji (Well 33 on the Canning Stock Route). In addition to so many Martu Traditional Owners, my collaborators on this project include Rebecca Bliege Bird at Stanford; Brian Codding , U.Utah; David Zeannah, Cal State U. Sacramento; Peter Veth, U. Western Australia; Eric Smith, U. Washington; Brooke Scelza, UCLA; Jamie Jones, Stanford; Luis Fernandez, Carnegie Institute; and Risa Wechsler, Stanford. The research is sponsored by grants from NSF and the Wood’s Institute for the Environment

I am also the director of the Comparative Wests Project, an inter-institutional project concerned with understanding the construction and transformation of environments that emerge from interaction between Native peoples and invading settler colonialism. With funding from NSF and the Mellon Foundation we have assembled a dynamic intertribal and interdisciplinary research team, currently investigating the role of traditional burning practices in maintaining species composition, stand structure, watershed health, and ecosystem function in California’s Klamath Mountains, the Central Valley, and the Sierra Nevada. Collaborators on this project include Ron Goode, Tribal Chair North Fork Mono; Don Hankins, Cal State U. Chico; Jared Dahl Aldern, Prescott College; Frank Lake, US Forest Service; Brian Codding, U. Utah; Jon Christensen, UCLA; and Rebecca Bird, Stanford.

Previously, I spent many years in Australia’s Torres Strait working with Meriam Islanders. My research there focused on the ecology of marine subsistence practices, the ways in which they interact with social and natural environments, and how they are expressed in the archaeological record. 


Land Use, Livelihoods and Biodiversity

A comprehensive summary of the Martu Ecological Anthropology Project can be downloaded here.

Follow these links for more details about our research, Martumili Artists, exhibitions and projects.