Environmental Anthropology track

Cross-disciplinary with the Department of Anthropology

Environmental anthropology is distinct from approaches to the environment in other social sciences. While all the social sciences share a common commitment to understanding environmental problems and issues of sustainability as, in essence, social problems, and are amenable to the tools of the social sciences, anthropology brings a number of distinct emphases and approaches to the problem. Anthropologists have long been committed to understanding the environment from others’ points of view, engaging in the kinds of deeply committed, extended, and engaged research that forms the basis of ethnographic inquiry. As a holistic science, anthropologists learn new languages, immerse themselves in other cultures, and strive to understand perceptions of the environment from wholly distinct ideological, linguistic, and cosmological perspectives. As part of their holistic approach, anthropologists have also developed models for understanding human interactions with the environment that draw on evolutionary ecology and ecosystem science, studying such things as energy and nutrient flows through systems that include humans as components of broader networks of interaction. Finally, anthropologists have worked to test the assumptions built in to various models of environmental behavior, empirically testing models from political economy or common property theory, but doing so in ways that dig deeper and overcome more social distance than can the survey-based methodologies of sociology or the econometric, sampling and statistical approaches used by social sciences focused on aggregate social action.

The Environmental Anthropology track builds on the Department of Anthropology’s focus on applied anthropology, at both the undergraduate and graduate level, and will challenge students to question their assumptions about the human relationship to the environment and the practice of environmental management. Students will be trained in methods and approaches that will allow them to understand the linkages between human cultural systems and the environment, and will be trained to contextualize human behavior within broader social, political and economic contexts. Coursework, mentoring, and independent research will address such issues as the social dimensions of sustainability, resiliency, and will emphasize anthropological approaches to environmental problems. Global Environmental Science Environmental Anthropology track graduates will be prepared to undertake applied graduate studies and to work professionally in such fields as natural resource management, applied environmental archeology, or advocacy and policymaking for environmental sustainability.

This track requires the following four Coupled Systems courses; each course is three credits.

  • ANTH 328 Food Origins, Food Culture
  • ANTH 335 Society and Environment (effective Fall 2021; formerly ANTH 415 Ecological Anthropology)
  • ANTH 459 Extinctions
  • ANTH 482 Anthropology and the Environment: Culture, Power, and Politics


Students interested in the Environmental Anthropology track should seek advising from GES and/or the Track Coordinator, Dr. Seth Quintus (ANTH faculty).