Evolutionary Anthropology is the study of the evolution and ecology of humans and other primates, grounded in an understanding of evolutionary theory. Environmental Anthropology focuses on the relations between people and environments, and extends the study of human ecology to applied subjects such as conservation and development. These sub-disciplines are united by their interest in how humans influence and have been influenced by their environments, and also by their use of quantitative and mixed methods research approaches.
The UCL Evolutionary and Environmental Anthropology section is one of the largest groups of academics in Europe that focuses on these subjects. We conduct research on several related themes that also form the core of our teaching programmes, our weekly seminar series that cut across our research areas, as well as three postgraduate taught programmes: Anthropology, Environment and Development MSc; Human Evolution and Behaviour MSc; Palaeoanthropology and Palaeolithic Archaeology MSc (with the UCL Institute of Archaeology).
The Evolutionary Anthropology research cluster researches the evolution of physiology, behaviour and culture of humans and non-human primates. There is a particular focus on human and primate behavioural ecology and the evolution of social systems, evolutionary medicine and public health, primate conservation, and the evolution of human cultural norms and cultural evolution in general. Staff interests are:
- Primate ecology, behaviour, and conservation, with current fieldwork focused at the Greater Mahale Ecosystem Research and Conservation Project in Tanzania (Alex Piel) and the Tsaobis Baboon Project in Namibia (Alecia Carter)
- Sociality and social structure, kinship, mathematical and computational modelling of social evolution, hunter-gatherer studies (Mark Dyble)
- Childrearing systems in developed populations, consequences of alloparenting, social support, applied evolutionary anthropology and public health (Emily Emmott)
- Palaeoanthropology, Pleistocene hominins, dental anthropology, human brain evolution, quantitative approaches to the study of human evolution at macro- and microevolutionary scales (Aida Gómez-Robles)
- Human evolutionary ecology, including life history, cultural evolution and kinship, currently including studies in Africa, central Asia and China (Ruth Mace)
- Evolutionary approaches to human behaviour and health: social learning and cultural evolution; social networks, childrearing practices, dietary patterns and physical activity levels in Congo hunter-gatherers and implications on the diseases of modernity (Gul Deniz Salali)
- Origins and evolution of primate radiations, including evolutionary anatomy and the interaction of primate evolution with environmental change (Christophe Soligo)
Environmental Anthropology emphasises interdisciplinary integration across different sections of the department. Our Human Ecology Research Group (HERG) focuses, on the one hand, on the impact of resource policy and management on people’s livelihoods, health and wellbeing, and on the other, on the impacts of changing resource use on the environment and biodiversity. Environmental Anthropology staff bringing a natural sciences-based approach include members having particular interest in:
- The interaction between conservation and human development, and rangeland use in sub-Saharan Africa (Katherine Homewood)
- Human ecology and aquatic resource use in Asia, with application to the management of natural resources (Caroline Garaway)
- The social dimensions of human-environment relationships, impacts of conservation on well-being, and the governance of pastoralist systems (Emily Woodhouse)
Teaching on these topics meshes with modules taught by Social Anthropology colleagues. Environmental Anthropology’s one-year taught master’s degree, the Anthropology, Environment and Development MSc, integrates Social Anthropology components on Anthropology of Development (Lewis Daly) and Forest Peoples (Jerome Lewis) with Environmental Anthropology’s more natural sciences-based approaches.
Undergraduate modules offered by members of HERG may include topics such as: Fishers and Fisheries; Humans, Ecosystems and Conservation; Ethnography of Forest People; Human Ecology.
Red-tailed monkey feeding by C. Lile/GMERC
Bayaka camp in Congo by Gul Deniz Salali