The field of human ecology

The subject of human ecology is currently being advocated and examined by a number of institutions throughout Austria. Homo sapiens should certainly be the central research object of this scientific discipline. However, human beings are often only attributed a trigger role. At times the role of homo sapiens is even completely eclipsed in favor of discussions concerning merely human impact on their environment.

In this regard the human ecological research group of the Institute for Anthropology forms an exeption because the very subject of human ecology combines integral components of both nature and culture, human beings and their surroundings. Ecological perspectives have repeatedly been treated even in the classical subjects e.g. hominid evolution, formal and population genetics, osteology, social anthropology and of course within human ecology during the curriculum of anthropology. In the second part of the curriculum more in-depth informations are presented. Here, also an attempt is made to demonstrate in an “environmental-history” sense important phases of human development also as a product of complex interactions in terms of evolutionary and cultural processes. Naturally, in this widely ranging field of research, certain aspects must be specifically focused on. Nevertheless within this branch of research intense cooperations with numerous institutions have been realised, so that the research projects which have been conceptualized over several years, can truly be termed interdisciplinary, and gives consideration to an ecological-system-theoretical concept of description and analysis of natural processes.

To quote the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford for us human ecology is not only the field of research but also methodology we apply:

“It is a way of thinking about the world, and a context in which we define our questions and ways to answer those questions, before we set out to find the answers. That means that not only is human ecology interdisciplinary (trying to integrate lessons from biology, development studies, political ecology, psychology, anthropology among others), it is also participatory, experiential and reflexive. We are part of the ecosystem we are studying: it changes when we study it, and so do we. These changes help us and our research partners to gain insights into our own values, and perhaps to change them as a result. They can help different stakeholders to understand each other, respect each other's knowledge and plan more synergistically, in ways that bring benefits to all, including the non-human world.”


Institute for Anthropology

Last modified 12 January, 2005 -