I am an anthropologist who specializes in the study of the Pacific islands. I am particularly interested in human migration and mobility in Oceania, in people’s relationships with their natural environments, and in the development of social complexity. My applied work has involved the anthropology of law and sustainable development in island nations. I have a special relationship with the Abelam people of Papua New Guinea, with whom I’ve conducted long-term field research beginning in 1974.

Much of my work is interdisciplinary, and I enjoy working with researchers in archaeology, linguistics, law, ecology, and ethnobotany. One of my latest projects involves dispersal of the sweet potato, a new world cultivar, throughout the Pacific Islands. This research has led me to consider the possibility of pre-Columbian human contact between Polynesia and South America, and has resulted in several research projects I am undertaking in Ecuador. I have also been working collaboratively on a project to examine the Polynesian outliers, a group of small islands that lie outside the Polynesian triangle, to see what they can tell us about ancient Polynesia.

I’m employed as UCIS Research Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh. I’m also a Research Associate at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and Editor of Ethnology, an international journal of cultural and social anthropology.