Environmental Anthropology


Environmental Anthropology includes analysis of the contemporary world from a cultural and biological perspective, and the deep time depth of the archaeological record. Recent developments, both in the academy and in the world, make such an approach essential to the training of a new generation of students and citizens. As is evidenced in UN reports and academic conferences alike, humans are, more than ever before, a geological and climatological force, altering landscapes at a planetary scale.  As such, Cartesian and disciplinary approaches to understand environmental challenges, that treat the natural world as distinct from the social world, are today untenable to maintain. To better educate the next generation of citizens and scholars, it is increasingly important to provide a rigorous training to students that enables them to understand and have expertise over a world that is simultaneously social, natural, political and technical.

As a discipline that has long attended to the interaction of humans, society and the environment, using methods both of the natural and social sciences, Anthropology is well positioned to fulfill this need. By studying topics such as calories in diets, historic irrigation technologies, and legal exposure to toxins, faculty in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania have pioneered in the use of scientific and social scientific techniques to understand human-environment relations, both in the past and present.  

Environmental Anthropology @ Penn

Environmental Anthropology is critically important in making the insights of Anthropology available to society. Faculty strengths in this area include the recent addition of an archaeologist, a social anthropologist, and a biological anthropologist to an existing group of faculty researchers and teaching specialists for whom environmental anthropology is a key aspect of their work. Of the 16 members of the standing faculty in the department of anthropology, 11 offer courses approved for electives in Environmental Anthropology. New laboratories support faculty research, including the Paleoecology Lab (under direction of Prof. Kathleen Morrison), The Penn EnviroLab (under direction of Profs. Nikhil Anand and Kristina Lyons) and the Biocultural Anthropology Methods Lab (under direction of Prof. Morgan Hoke). Teaching laboratories for environmental materials are housed at the Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials (CAAM) in the Penn Museum. Four Anthropology faculty serve on the Faculty Working Group of the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities (Profs. Anand, Lyons, Petryna and Schurr); Prof. Kristina Lyons is a Core member of the PPEH. Three members of the faculty (Anand, Moore, and White) have received grants to support curriculum development in Environmental Anthropology in the Integrating Sustainability Across the Curriculum (ISAC) program through Penn Sustainability

Penn undergraduates can major in Environmental Anthropology. Penn undergrads and recent grads working with anthropology faculty in the past three years have done environmentally-themed fieldwork across the globe with funding from PURM, CURF, Fulbright, and faculty grants from NSF and NASA. Several students have used mentorship from the department to undertake environmentally-themed projects while doing study abroad. Students who have pursued these projects are in graduate programs in anthropology, archaeology, environmental science; are headed for professional study in law and medicine; and are employed in business, research administration, and consulting. 

Primary Supervising Faculty from Anthropology

Dr. Nikhil Anand: nikhil.anand@sas.upenn.edu

Dr. Clark Erickson: cerickso@sas.upenn.edu 

Dr. Kristina Lyons: krlyons@sas.upenn.edu

Dr. Kathleen Morrison: kathy.morrison@sas.upenn.edu

Dr. Adriana Petryna: petryna@sas.upenn.edu