Historical ecology understands the dialectic nature between human occupation and environmental transformation through its emphasis on the active role undertaken by human societies as they mediate their landscapes in time and space. Landscapes rather than ecosystems or archaeological sites are the focus of attention in historical ecology. The anthropogenic landscape is considered as a culturally constructed and historically contingent artifact that constantly evolves in concert with human presence. This runs counter to the cyclical and equilibrial quality of the self-perpetuating ecosystem, and is best studied from a broader spatial perspective.
Binghamton faculty explore the historical ecology of lowland neotropical environments in western South America and Amazonia, emphasizing the critical analysis of bioarchaeological materials, paleoecological and taphonomic methodology, and an understanding of indigenous concepts of land management. This emphasis cross-cuts traditional disciplinary boundaries between anthropology, geography, ecology and conservation biology.