My research and teaching focus on understanding factors that shape how people make a living, how our livelihoods are constituted in social and ecological interactions, and the ways we can measure the environmental and archaeological signatures of those interactions. Currently my research partner and spouse Rebecca Bliege Bird (Professor of Anthropology, Penn State) and I head up a large interdisciplinary research team investigating the dynamics of subsistence practices, their role in shaping ecosystem function and socio-political relationships, and their implications for questions about sustainability, Indigenous livelihoods, and conservation in arid lands. My work not only explores how people respond to environmental variation, but how individuals shape their own social and ecological environments, and how those modified environments interact with decision-making to shape material patterns at different spatial and temporal scales.
My training (BA University of Utah, PhD UC Davis) is in behavioral ecology and archaeology, but most of my fieldwork is ethnographic and ethnoarchaeological in nature. I've spent many years working closely with Martu, Aboriginal groups in Western Australia whose homelands comprise over 150,000 square km of remote desert country. My fieldwork is based mostly out of the community of Parnngurr in Karlamilyi National Park. The principle focus of my current work is on the conservation implications of understanding links between Indigenous hunting practices, traditional fire regimes in arid grassland habitats, and patterns of endemic plant and animal populations.