Kate Magargal portrait
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, Anthropology Department
  • Assistant Professor (Lecturer), Honors College


  • BA, Anthropology, University of Arizona
  • MS, Anthropology, University of Utah
  • PhD, Anthropology, University of Utah. Project: Subsistence fires mediate human ecological relationships.


Kate is a Postdoctroal Research Associate in the University of Utah Anthropology Department. Her research examines how human economic decisions contribute to ecological disturbance regimes, primarly via the human use of fire. Specifically, she studies how landscape and cooking fires influence human subsistence decisions and create ecological consequences. Her current research is focused on understanding the contemporary social and ecological drivers and impacts of Tribal firewood harvesting on the Colorado Plateau. Additionally, Kate is a has long conducted research and education on dark skies and light pollution, which she frames as an important contemporary dimension of human ecology. As a Dark Sky Scholar, she teaches a course as part of the new Dark Sky Studies minor at the University of Utah.

Community engagement is fundamental to Kate's teaching and research philosophy. In an effort to synthesize the goals of applied teaching and research, Kate focuses on community engaged projects to maintain important relationships between contemporary social issues, students, and research projects. Kate has facilitated such connections in the classroom, in the research lab, during field work at places like the Bonderman Field Station at Rio Mesa, and in communities throughout Utah and Navajo Nation. 

Kate earned her PhD in 2019. Previously, she earned her MS in Anthropology at UU in 2014 and a BA in Anthropology at University of Arizona, Tucson in 2004. She spent the intervening years working for the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management. Issues in public land management, traditional knowledge, and energy heavily inform her research and teaching.

Current Research

Interests: Archaeology, paleoecology, ethnoarchaeology, palynology, Behavioral Ecology, ecological disturbance, anthropogenic fire, science outreach and education.


Firewood Harvesting and Traditional Livelihoods

The collection and use of biomass fuels is part of humaity's global ecological legacy. Today, a third of the world's population still relies of this fuel source for daily energy needs. This project examines the specific cultural, economic, and ecological relationships between traditional firewood collectors and nearby woodlands in the four-corners region.


This research is part of CNH-L: Dynamic Impacts of Environmental Change and Biomass Harvesting on Woodland Ecosystems and Traditional Livelihoods.



Intermountain Foraging Strategies

The Intermountain West was occupied by speakers of Numic languages who lived small sociopolitical groups called bands. These populations thrived by adopting a unique strategy that included intensive pine nut processing, private property, and the management of resources with fire.

For more, see Magargal et al. (2017) The ecology of population dispersal: Modeling alternative basin-plateau foraging strategies to explain the Numic expansionAmerican Journal of Human Biology. DOI: 10.1002/ajhb.23000.


Research Summary

My goal is to apply the tools of human behavioral ecology to better understand the past in a way that helps addresses contemporary social and environmental issues. I do this with a particular focus on current and ancient land management regimes, Indigenous ecological knowledge, and land tenure.