Rob Winthrop is a cultural anthropologist specializing in the environment, natural resources, and energy.  He has been a member of the Anthropology Department’s professional-track faculty since 2008.

Winthrop’s career has centered on professional practice, in both the private and public sectors.  From 2002 to 2017 he was Senior Social Scientist at the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management in Washington, DC.  He led BLM’s Socioeconomics Program, with responsibility for guiding the application of economics, anthropology, and other social sciences to land and resource management decisions from northern Alaska to the Mexican border. In 2000 - 2001 Winthrop directed the Environmental Anthropology Project, a program to increase anthropological expertise across the Environmental Protection Agency. From 1981 to 2000 he was a principal of Cultural Solutions, providing social impact assessment, ethnography, and conflict resolution – primarily concerning disputes over American Indian rights and interests and the development of natural resources.

His research and professional practice involve four areas:

(1) The social impacts of environmental change, including resource development and climate change –

  • Explaining differential vulnerability to climate change: A social science review (co-author), Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 2018. URL:
  • Environment and resources.  In: A Handbook of Practicing Anthropology, 2013. 

(2) Stewardship and other frameworks for environmental decision-making –

  • Building Theory from Practices: Design Principles Underlying Culturally Reflexive Stewardship. Presentation, Advances in Socio-Environmental Systems Research, National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), June 2018. URL:
  • Culturally Reflexive Stewardship: Conserving Ways of Life. In: The Oxford Handbook of Public Heritage Theory and Practice, 2018.
  • The Strange Case of Cultural Services: Limits of the Ecosystem Services Paradigm.  Ecological Economics, 108:208-214, 2014. 

(3) Culture, heritage, and human rights —

  • Defining a Right to Culture, and Some Alternatives. Cultural Dynamics 14 (2):161-83, 2002.
  • Persistent Peoples: Mechanisms of Cultural Survival in Southern Oregon and Northwestern California. In: Living With the Land: the Indians of Southwest Oregon, 1990. 

(4) The application of anthropological theory to public policy –

  • From Global Change Science to Action with Social Sciences (co-author).  Nature Climate Change 4:656-659, 2014.   
  • Trade Liberalization and Culture (co-author).  Global Economy Journal 14(1):57-78, 2014. 


NAPA Career Profiles: Robert Winthrop

REAL WORLD ARCHIVES: columns on anthropology & public policy [under development]

Areas of Interest

  • Ecological anthropology, economic anthropology, climate change, social impact assessment, human/cultural rights, environmental and resource policy, conflict resolution.


  • Degree Type
    Degree Details
    Elliott School, George Washington University - International Policy and Practice, 2002
  • Degree Type
    Degree Details
    University of Minnesota, Minneapolis - Anthropology, 1981
  • Degree Type
    Degree Details
    University of California, Berkeley - Anthropology, 1972
Head shot picture of Robert Winthrop
rwinthro [at]