University of California, LA Max Planck Institute
I am an evolutionary anthropologist and my research focuses on the behavioral ecology and demography of hunter-gatherers. I am interested in learning how basic problems of survival and reproduction that arise from life as a hunter-gatherer have shaped human biology, behavior, and culture. Since 2004, I have been carrying out research with the Hadza of northern Tanzania.
My work is field-based and highly interdisciplinary, employing ethnographic research coupled with state-of-the-art methods of behavioral measurement and quantitative analysis. I seek to understand the demographic, ecological, and social processes that guide Hadza hunter-gatherers in their choices of who they live with, how they acquire and share foods, and the consequences of these arrangements. Subsistence strategies and food sharing systems are central themes of my research. I am interested in these subjects because of their importance to the Hadza, and because they may shed light into selective pressures that have long shaped human societies.
I teach classes on the topics of human ecology, hunter-gatherers, evolutionary theory, human behavioral ecology, demography, and quantitative analysis.The field of human behavioral ecology (HBE) employs the assumption that humans, like other organisms, have evolved the tendency to act in ways that maximize inclusive fitness. This field views human behavior as jointly influenced by 1) our species’ deep evolutionary history and evolved drive to survive and reproduce, and 2) the challenges and opportunities posed by particular ecosystems and cultural contexts. HBE theory is used to make predictions about behavior that can be tested with a variety of data sources, including interviews, naturalistic observations, experiments, historical records, and archaeological datasets. Classic problems and themes addressed by human behavioral ecologists include nutrient acquisition / subsistence, mating, family formation and kin investment, cooperation, space use, technological change, and diverse forms of social competition.In any given context, there exists several evolutionary and non-evolutionary perspectives that can be fruitfully applied to the study of how people think and behave.
Human behavioral ecology is an important sub-field within a larger set of evolutionary and ecological approaches to human behavior. Cultural evolutionary theory and evolutionary psychology are two important 'sister-traditions' in evolutionary anthropology that often compliment and/or form alternatives to human behavioral ecology. All of these perspectives share a commitment to standard scientific practices, including the specification of hypotheses and predictions, clarity about one's methods of data collection and analysis, and a preference for replicable, quantitative measures. These practices allow research in our field to articulate with other traditions in the sciences in often mutually-informative ways.