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Anthropology | Graduate Research in Ethnobiology

Research In Ethnobiology

With six ethnobiologists on our permanent faculty, WSU offers unsurpassed training in ethnobiology.  Our research examines past and present relationships of human societies with plants and animals. We integrate ethnobotany, paleoethnobotany, ethnozoology, paleoethnozoology and ethnoecology within broader sociocultural and archaeological dynamics of sustainability, societal scale, human health, and human evolution. Students should apply to the Cultural or Archaeology program, depending on which best aligns with their research interests. We have strong funding prospects, we seek graduate students to mentor and with whom to engage in research, and we welcome you to contact us. Please click on the names below to learn more about each of our faculty members.


Dr. Colin Grier  is a zooarchaeologist interested in past human-environment interactions, particularly as they play out in small-scale, complex hunter-gatherer societies. Working primarily on the Northwest Coast of North America, his work considers the historical and political dynamics of resource production, distribution and access, and how anthropogenic landscapes and built environments form the basis for social transformations and sustainable human systems.

Dr. Marsha Quinlan is an ethnobotanist and medical anthropologist. She examines usage, taxonomy and traditional ecological knowledge of plants and animals, with particular attention to health, ethnomedicine, and medical ethnobotany (NE Amazon, Caribbean, US, E. Africa).

Dr. Robert Quinlan is an ecological and medical anthropologist working primarily in East Africa. His most recent ethnobiological work examines livestock management practices and use of veterinary antibiotics in Tanzania, especially as these practices influence antibiotic resistance. This research is in collaboration with the Allen School for Global Animal Health, where Dr. Quinlan is a faculty affiliate. He has also initiated a collaborative, interdisciplinary study of social-ecological systems in SW Ethiopia focusing on small-holder subsistence practices and household responses to environmental perturbations. Dr. Quinlan is interested in mentoring graduate students in ecological anthropology and ethnobiology on topics directly related to development and resilience in East Africa. Students interested in studies of the culture, ecology and economics of enset (Enset ventricosum) and maize agriculture in Ethiopia, and agro-pastoralism in East Africa are especially welcomed to enquire about graduate study with Dr. Quinlan.

Dr. Erin Thornton is an environmental archaeologist with a regional focus on New World complex societies, and methodological expertise in zooarchaeology, human osteology and stable isotope analysis. Her current research is based primarily in the Maya cultural region, but she has also conducted archaeological research in Peru, the Caribbean, and the southeastern United States. Dr. Thornton’s current research addresses socio-economic questions related to subsistence, animal management, political economy and exchange, and environmental questions regarding human impacts on and responses to deforestation, climate, and changing wildlife populations.

Dr. John Bodley (retired, Professor Emeritus) is a broad sociocultural ethnoecologist with research related to cultural ecology; societal power and scale; plant, animal and other natural resource use and sustainability (Amazon, Caribbean, Northwest US).

Course Information: The Department of Anthropology currently offers undergraduate courses in Cultural Ecology, and Past Environments and Culture (Sustainability). At the graduate level we offer seminars in Zooarchaeology; Paleoethnobotany; and, Settlement and Agro-Pastoralism; and we are developing a seminar in Ecological Anthropology and Ethnobiology.


For answers to any questions not covered in these pages please email, call or write to us:

Main Office Information:

College Hall 150
PO Box 644910
Pullman, WA 99164-4910
Phone: 509.335.3441
FAX: 509.335.3999