Department of Anthropology


Human Behavioral Ecology

Theory, method, and application in anthropology. How theory in behavioral ecology developed to understand animal behavior is applied to questions about human economic decision making in ecological and evolutionary contexts. Topics include decisions about foraging and subsistence, competition and cooperation, mating, and reproduction and parenting.

Environmental Change and Emerging Infectious Disease

The changing epidemiological environment. How human-induced environmental changes, such as global warming, deforestation and land-use conversion, urbanization, international commerce, and human migration, are altering the ecology of infectious disease transmission, and promoting their re-emergence as a global public health threat. Case studies of malaria, cholera, hantavirus, plague, and HIV.

Demography and Life History Theory

Problems in demography and theoretical population biology applied to human systems. Emphasis is on establishing relationships between models in theoretical population biology and empirical demographic methodology. Topics include philosophy of models and model building, population dynamics, stable population theory, species interactions in human ecology, models of infectious diseases and their control, cultural evolution. Prerequisites: HUMBIO 137 or consent of instructor.

Signaling Theory

Why does the peacock have such a large elaborate tail? Why does conspicuous consumption serve to create markers of distinction? How does the pursuit of social capital generate prestige? Answers to these questions from convergent scholarship in social theory, economic theory, and evolutionary theory. The use of signaling theory to explain disparate social and material phenomena. Authors include Veblen, Bourdieu, and Zahavi. Prerequisite for undergraduates: consent of instructor.

Conservation and Evolutionary Ecology

Environmental degradation resulting from human behavior, and what can be done about it. Patterns of interaction between people and environments, and why they vary over time and space. Topics include adaptation and behavior, resource acquisition and utilization, conflicts of interest, collective action problems, conspicuous consumption, waste, land management, and public policy.

Cultural Evolution and Coevolution

Upper division/graduate seminar on recent approaches to the study of cultural evolution and coevolution. Critical evaluation of Darwinian and non-Darwinian theories, with special attention to the interplay of culture, genes, environment and society. Students will undertake projects of their own design to review, test, or improve current theoretical formulations. Prerequisite: a university-level course in evolution, ecology, or human behavioral biology.

Indigenous Peoples and Environmental Problems

The social and cultural consequences of contemporary environmental problems. The impact of market economies, development efforts, and conservation projects on indigenous peoples, emphasizing Latin America. The role of indigenous grass roots organizations in combating environmental destruction and degradation of homeland areas.

Social and Environmental Sustainability: The Costa Rican Case

This seminar focuses on issues of tropical sustainability with a particular emphasis on the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica. Offered in conjunction with the Osa-Golfito Initiative in the Wood’s Institute for the Environment, the course highlights issues of human development in the tropics, through such means as agricultural development, conservation efforts, ecotourism, private and indigenous reserves, and mining. The course draws from diverse disciplines in the natural and social sciences, specifically to examine connections between social and environmental sustainability.

Darwin, Evolution, and Galapagos

This course uses the Galapagos Islands as a “living laboratory” for the study of evolution and conservation. Part of the course is historical, focused on the history of scientific research in Galapagos ever since Darwin, and part is contemporary, assessing ongoing research on evolution and conservation in the Galapagos today. A key theme of the class is that evolution and conservation are closely related sciences in Galapagos: time and time again the course shows that evolution has left the indigenous organisms of Galapagos with special vulnerabilities that are a challenge to their conservation today.

Parks and Peoples: Dilemmas of Protected Area Conservation in East Africa

The course is designed to explore the pros and cons of parks and protected areas as they impact flora, fauna, and human inhabitants in East Africa. We will use a case study approach to ask: (1) How successful has the protected area been at achieving its conservation goals? (2) What are the benefits of the PA to people and who receives them? (3) Where benefits are not commensurate to costs what, if anything, is being done to address the imbalance? (4) What are the prospects for “integrated conservation-development projects” or is that just wishful thinking? Thanks to a special endowment, the course includes an expedition to Tanzania to observe firsthand the dilemmas of parks and peoples.

Political Ecology of Tropical Land Use

The state, private sector, development agencies, and NGOs in development and conservation of tropical land use. Focus is on the socioeconomic and political drivers of resource extraction and agricultural production. Case studies used to examine the local-to-global context from many disciplines. Are maps and analyses used for gain, visibility, accountability, or contested terrain? How are power dynamics, land use history, state-private sector collusion, and neoliberal policies valued? What are the local and extra-local responses?

Data Analysis for Quantitative Research

This course develops a statistical toolkit appropriate for anthropologists. The emphasis is on practical data analysis and a problem-solving approach to inference through the use of maximum likelihood. Specific topics include: the R statistical programming language, statistical graphics, probability distributions and maximum likelihood estimation, linear and generalized linear models, event-history analysis, and hierarchical models. Students taking the course will also significantly improve their ability to read quantitative arguments in an informed, critical way; use computers to manage and analyze anthropological data and convey quantitative arguments in scholarly publications; design research projects to generate data that can be quantitatively analyzed. No extensive prior knowledge of statistics or computers is assumed, but a reasonable background in anthropology and/or archaeology is.