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Bruce P. Winterhalder


  • BA, Honors College, Independent Study, University of Oregon, 1971
  • PhD, Anthropology, Cornell University, 1977


I did an Independent Study, undergraduate major in biology, anthropology and the history of science through the U. of Oregon Honors College, followed by Cornell University for graduate work in ecological and economic anthropology, and behavioral ecology.  I was fortunate to work with faculty such as Steven Emlen, Davydd Greenwood, William Stini, Brooke Thomas and Bruce Wallace. I taught in the Department of Anthropology and Curriculum in Ecology at UNC -- Chapel Hill for 23 years before moving to UC - Davis in 2002.  I served as Associate Dean, Division of Social Sciences from 2009-2014.  I am retired from undergraduate teaching and administration but remain active in graduate advising and research.

My research Interests:

I study the behavioral ecology of hunter-gatherers and early agriculturalists, drawing on fieldwork in northern Canada, highland southern Peru, and the southern Toledo District of Belize.  My theoretical approach is evolutionary, my methods those of simple graphical or mathematical models. My goal is understanding the economic and population behavior of foragers and small-scale farmers and their effects on human evolution.  Recently I have been collaborating with archaeologists to analyze the effects of population and ecology on the evolution of centralized political authority and social stratification.  My personal website has the details.

Research by my graduate students:

I normally advise 2-3 PhD-level graduate students.  Recent dissertation topics include:  ecological adaptations of Croatian peasant farmers to European Union agriculture and development policy (Laura Dominkovic); the grazing and other impacts of Quechua herders serving trekking expeditions that venture into the Huascaran biosphere preserve in northern Peru (Brandie Sullivan); the balance of competitive and cooperative interactions in informal Beijing markets (Carl McCabe); the behavioral ecology of 19th century miners, foraging for silver in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado (Susan Glover); and the modes of culture transmission by which the youth are socialized into the skills required for honey collection in south central India (Katie Demps).

Sample of recent publications:

Bell AV, and B Winterhalder  2014  The population ecology of despotism: Concessions and migration between central and peripheral habitats. Human Nature 25: 121-135.

Puleston C, S Tuljapurkar, and B Winterhalder  2014  The invisible cliff: Abrupt imposition of Malthusian equilibrium in a natural-fertility, agrarian society. PLoS ONE 9(1): e87541.

Jazwa CS, DJ Kennett, and B Winterhalder  2013  The ideal free distribution and settlement history at Old Ranch Canyon, Santa Rosa Island, California.  In Small Islands, Big Implications: The California Channel Islands and their Archaeological Contributions. Jazwa, CS, ed.  Pp. 75-96. Salt Lake: University of Utah Press.

Kennett DJ, et al.  2012  Development and disintegration of Maya political systems in response to climate change.  Science 388: 788-791.

Bartruff J, DJ Kennett, and B Winterhalder  2012  Rapan agroecology and modeled population estimates.  In Taking the High Ground: The Archaeology of Rapa, a Fortified Island in Remote East Polynesia.  Anderson A, and Kennett, DJ,  eds.  Pp. 233-244.   Terra Australis, Australia National University Press.

Winterhalder, B., Kennett, D. J., Grote, M. N., & Bartruff, J.  2010. Ideal free settlement of California's Northern Channel Islands. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 29, 469-490.

Kennett, D. J., Winterhalder, B., Bartruff, J., & Erlandson, J. M. 2009. An ecological model for the emergence of institutionalized social hierarchies on California's Northern Channel islands. In S. Shennan (Ed.), Pattern and Process in Cultural Evolution (pp. 297-314). Berkeley: University of California Press.