Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology

Benjamin Fitzhugh

Professor, Anthropology
University of Washington
Tel: 206-543-9604 Box: 353100

CSDE Research Areas:

  • Demographic Measurements and Methods
  • Environments and Populations
  • Migration and Settlement

Ben Fitzhugh’s research over the past decade has focused on human biogeography, demographic history (paleodemography), human-environmental interaction, maritime subsistence ecology, and climate change, all from a deep-time/archaeological perspective. Through his career, his interests have been focused on human-environmental dynamics in the Holocene history of the North Pacific from Alaska to Japan. Fitzhugh’s research examines the interrelationships of human-natural ecological co-evolution in the context of relatively insular geographies and geologically, oceanographically, and climatically dynamic environments. In recent years, this work includes tracking population trends as a baseline for understanding the causal factors underlying long term cultural changes in these regions. In the last decade, he and co-authors have published on these and related topics in journals such as American Anthropologist; Geoarchaeology; Journal of Archaeological Science; Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports; Quaternary International; Quaternary Research; and World Archaeology as well as in chapters of peer reviewed volumes, including the 2020 Smithsonian Scholarly Press volume “Arctic Crashes: People and Animals in a Changing North” (Krupnik and Crowell, eds). Fitzhugh’s “Kuril Island Biocomplexity Project” (KBP) formally concluded in 2012, but the large, 7-year, international and interdisciplinary project continues to generate new results and publications. This project includes archaeologists, geologists, paleoecologists, oceanographers, climatologists, and modelers from the US, Russia, and Japan. That project spawned a number of expanded research network collaborations created to compare case studies and share lessons on long-term human-environmental dynamics across the North Pacific from the Kurils to Alaska, and ultimately between the subarctic Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic Ocean Basins.  In 2014, Fitzhugh co-founded the Paleoecology of Subarctic and Arctic Seas (PESAS) working group. PESAS brings together paleo- climate scientists, oceanographers, fisheries and marine ecologists, archaeologists and historians to better understand changes to the subarctic and Arctic coupled human-marine ecosystem over century to millennial time scales. In 2018, PESAS joined forces with the global Oceans Past Initiative (, a group centered on marine environmental history, archaeology, marine paleo-ecology and policy studies. PESAS members are currently planning a 5-year effort to bring together marine paleo-ecologists and neo-ecologists to explore and improve methods for integrating paleo and neo ecological data sets together to better incorporate the lessons of long-term change for contemporary policy and management. In addition to continuing to work to unite natural science, social science and humanities research of the past throughout subarctic and Arctic regions, Dr. Fitzhugh’s Lab recently returned to the Kodiak Archipelago to expand on community-based archaeological research he started in the 1990s, this time with a focus on the experiences of Indigenous communities under Russian contact/colonialism. Inspired by student Hollis Miller’s dissertation goals, the new project expands Fitzhugh’s earlier research into the Russian contact/colonial period and facilitating greater research continuity from the deep past (7000 years ago) to the present.