Department of Anthropology

Ecology and Environment


Australian Desert Environment and Ecology is an area of special focus for both declared undergraduate majors and matriculated PhD students in the Department of Anthropology. This concentration focuses on the dynamic relationship between the human organism and its natural and social environment. Coursework and research opportunities associated with this emphasis provides students with a fundamental theoretical and methodological foundation for investigating processes that shape temporal and spatial distributions and interactions of people, land, and the resources they utilize.

The emphasis in Environment and Ecology is a cross-disciplinary, theoretical approach to the ecology of human-environmental dynamics, including behavioral ecology, political ecology, evolutionary ecology, zooarchaeology and ethnoarchaeology, the human dimensions of global change, demography, biological anthropology, and human population ecology. We focus on how processes of evolutionary change, both biological and cultural, create variability and plasticity in human behavior, bodies, culture and social systems and on the ways that such variability interacts dynamically with biotic and social environments at various spatial scales. Students interested in applying to the concentration should demonstrate how their research interests fit with the program’s primary objectives, and how they might contribute to or complement existing faculty research projects.

With an emphasis in Environment and Ecology, students will move beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries in the study of human environmental interaction, using empirical data on individual agents collected through multi-sited quantitative and qualitative research to answer questions about real issues relating to population, community, and individual level processes of ecological and social change and adaptation. Students focusing in this area are expected to gain expertise in formal methodologies; the Anthropology department offers advanced methodological training in demographic analysis, statistical methods, spatial methodologies, and both qualitative and quantitative ethnographic research, and students can take advantage of a broader range of formal methods available from the MAPSS program (Methods of Analysis in the Social Sciences).