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Paul W. Leslie, Ph.D., Pardue Distinguished Professor, Anthropology

Curriculum in Environment and Ecology

Paul Leslie pursues research on human ecology, primarily in East Africa, as part of a series of long-term interdisciplinary projects. A principal focus of his work has been how local peoples respond -- biologically, behaviorally, and demographically -- to environmental change and unpredictability. His current work focuses on the causes and social and ecological consequences arising from the adoption of agriculture and labor migration by semi-nomadic Maasai livestock herding communities in northern Tanzania.

Paul Leslie pursues research on human ecology, demographic anthropology, and population biology, primarily in East Africa. His work explores the interface of biology and culture in an ecological context. Leslie has studied the demography and reproductive ecology of nomadic Turkana herders in northwest Kenya as part of a long-term multidisciplinary study of the regional ecosystem. A principal focus of this project has been the biological and behavioral consequences of seasonal and longer term environmental fluctuations. His current work entails another collaborative project to study the demographic, social, health, and environmental changes associated with new land use patterns in the vast savanna lands of East Africa, with an eye toward how these changes are likely to affect the viability of households and communities, and the implications for biodiversity and wildlife conservation. With support primarily from NSF, Leslie and his collaborators are studying the environmental and socioeconomic causes and consequences of livelihood diversification (especially adoption of agriculture and labor migration) of Maasai communities in northern Tanzania. Fieldwork for specific studies within this broader project is generating a growing longitudinal database on household livelihoods and demography within the social-ecological system embracing one of Tanzania's iconic national parks. This work probes the relationship between patterns of response to constraints and opportunities associated with conservation areas and policies and to environmental perturbations on the one hand, and the resilience of the social-ecological system on the other. It will also contribute better integration of evolutionary perspectives (evolutionary ecology, behavioral ecology) with current work on resilience and complex adaptive systems.

Research Interests:

Human population ecology and demography: population-environment interactions; reproductive ecology; evolutionary perspectives on reproduction; biosocial determinants of fertility; modeling fertility decisions and reproductive strategies; historical and genealogical demography; interaction among social, demographic, and genetic structures of human populations

Sub-Saharan African pastoralism: causes and consequences of changing livelihood patterns; cultural and biological responses to environmental fluctuations and uncertainty

Related Projects

Last Updated: 2020-08-04