Torben Rick is Curator of Human Environmental Interactions and North American Archaeology and former Chair of the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. Rick obtained his BA in Anthropology at the University of California Santa Barbara and his MS and PhD in Anthropology at the University of Oregon. Prior to joining the Smithsonian Institution, Rick was Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Southern Methodist University. Rick is a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Research Interests

Dr. Rick’s research focuses on the archaeology and historical ecology of coastal and island peoples. Through analysis of animal bones and shells obtained from coastal archaeological sites, Rick’s work seeks to understand the long-term interactions between people and marine ecosystems (kelp forests, bays and estuaries, and rocky intertidal habitats), investigating a continuum from sustainable stewardship to overexploitation. This research is collaborative and interdisciplinary, integrating the biological sciences, conservation and environmental management, and archaeology. In this framework, information from the past helps understand how we arrived at present day conditions and plan for future environmental change. A wide variety of techniques ranging from identification of archaeological animal remains to stable isotope analyses and ancient DNA research have explored the effects of human hunting on marine mammals, birds, fishes, and shellfish, the introduction and movement of ancient wild and domesticated animals to offshore islands, and a variety of other topics.

Membership Type


Election Year


Primary Section

Section 51: Anthropology

Secondary Section

Section 64: Human Environmental Sciences