Brian F Codding

Brian F Codding portrait
  • Associate Professor, Anthropology Department



  • PhD., Anthropology, Stanford University
  • M.A., Anthropology, Stanford University
  • B.S., Social Sciences, California Polytechnic State University

Recent Research

My work combines ecological approaches in ethnography and archaeology to explain variation in present and past human behavior, focusing on the dynamic interactions between human decisions and the local environment. Selections of recent research findings are summarized below.

Interests: human ecology, behavioral ecology, hunter-gatherers, ethnoecology, ethnoarchaeology, anthropogenic impacts, data analysis, spatial analysis; Australia & North America.


Intermountain Foraging Strategies

The Intermountain West was occupied by speakers of the Numic language family who lived small sociopolitical groups called bands. Results of a novel ecological model suggest that these populations thrived in this rugged landscape by adopting a unique Numic strategy that included intensive pine nut processing, private property, and the management of resources with fire, all of which provided a significant advantage when compared to proposed pre-Numic strategies.

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


Plant Domestication in Eastern North America

Initial domestication in Eastern North America was preceded by significant population growth, illustrating that agricultural practices emerge during times of scarcity when human populations outstrip their food supply.

For more, see Elic M. Weitzel and Brian F. Codding (2016) Population growth as a driver of initial domestication in Eastern North America. Royal Society Open Science 3: 160319. DOI: 10.1098/rsos.160319. Also see the press release and story by Utah Public Radio.


Lives and Livelihoods in Aboriginal Australia

Foraging for wild resources is a viable part of hybrid economies in the remote Aboriginal communities of Western Australia, where many individuals increase the amount of time spent foraging in order to provide for dependent offspring.

For more, see Codding, Brian F., Rebecca Bliege Bird, Douglas W. Bird and David W. Zeanah (2016) Alternative Aboriginal Economies: Martu Livelihoods in the 21st Century. In Why Forage? Hunters and Gatherers in the 21st Century, edited by Brian F. Codding and Karen L. Kramer. School for Advanced Research and University of New Mexico Press, Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Also see our short articles in Cultural Anthropology and Arena Magazine.


Origins of Acorn Economies in California

Prehistoric populations on the central California coast increasingly settled in oak woodlands as a result of greater competition in more productive estuarine environments, suggesting that demographic pressure drove the onset of Native California's famous acorn economies.

For more, see Codding, Brian F. and Terry L. Jones (2016) External Impacts on Internal Dynamics: Effects of Paleoclimatic and Demographic Variability on Acorn Exploitation along the Central California Coast. In The Archaeology of Human-Environment Interactions, edited by Daniel Contreras, pp. 195-210. Routledge, Oxford. Also see related results.


Ecological Effects of Firestick Farming

Hill kangaroo, an important prey item, are more abundant where Australian Aboriginal populations burn the landscape through a practice known as firestick farming, a strategy that increases vegetation diversity.

For more, see Codding, Brian F., Rebecca Bliege Bird, Peter G. Kauhanen and Douglas W. Bird (2014) Conservation or Co-evolution? Intermediate levels of Aboriginal burning and hunting have positive effects on kangaroo populations in Western Australia. Human Ecology 42:659-669 [link] [pdf]. Also see the press release and a visualization comparing Aboriginal and wildfire regimes.


Colonizing California and Developing Diversity

The first Californians chose to live in highly productive coastal environments, only settling in less productive locations once the best spots were already occupied; subsequent populations displaced some of these early colonists, resulting in the most diverse linguistic patchwork in North America.

For more, see Codding, Brian F. and Terry L. Jones (2013) Environmental productivity predicts migration, demographic and linguistic patterns in prehistoric California. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110:14569-14573 [link] [pdf]. Also see the press release.