Bird, Rebecca Bliege

Associate Professor
Ph.D. UC Davis, 1996

My specialty is human behavioral ecology: the analysis of human culture, behavior, and social interaction within an evolutionary and ecological framework. My current research interests are focused on two areas in the socioecology of subsistence: one examining patterns in individual decision-making, the other focused on examining the effects of aggregate decisions on habitat structure, and how those decisions feed back over the long term to influence individual subsistence strategies. At the micro scale, I focus on gendered strategies of social and economic production, especially as these relate to altruism and public goods provisioning in strategies of competition for prestige. I'm particularly interested in how signaling theory might shed light on "show-off" types of subsistence activities, especially those that offer high opportunity costs with little apparent economic payoff. Signaling theory may also help to understand the costliness that arises from public goods provisioning, and the pathways of benefit to political strategizers. At the macro level, I'm interested in the costs and benefits of indigenous conservation and land management, especially with regard to how subsistence decision-making affects habitat heterogeneity and biodiversity through the influence of anthropogenic fire. I'm currently involved in a long-term ethnographic and ecological research project with Martu people in Australia's Western Desert, who still hunt, gather, and manage their landscape with fire. My previous fieldwork on the Melanesian island of Mer in Torres Strait focused on gender differences in maritime subsistence fishing and turtle hunting and the links between prestige subsistence and public feasting through costly signaling.
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Selected Publications: 

Bliege Bird, R, B.F. Codding and D.W. Bird (2009) Determinants of gendered foraging and production inequalities among Martu Human Nature 20: 105-129.

Bird, D.W., Bliege Bird, R., Codding, B.F. (2009) In pursuit of mobile prey: Martu hunting strategies and archaeofaunal interpretation. American Antiquity 74:3-29.

Bird, D.W. and R. Bliege Bird (2009) Competing to be leaderless: food sharing and magnanimity among Martu Aborigines. In: The Emergence of Leadership: Transitions in Decision-Making from Small-Scale to Middle Range Societies. Kantner, J. and K. Vaughn, eds. School of American Research Advanced Seminar. In press.

Bliege Bird, R., D.W. Bird, B, F. Codding, C. Parker, J. Holland Jones (2008) The fire-stick farming hypothesis: Anthropogenic fire mosaics, biodiversity and Australian Aboriginal foraging strategies. Proc Nat Acad Sci 105(39):14796-14801.

Bliege Bird, R. and D. Bird (2008) Why women hunt: risk and contemporary foraging in a Western Desert Aboriginal community. Current Anthropology 49(4):655-693.

Scelza, B. and R. Bliege Bird (2008) Group structure and female cooperative networks in Australia’s Western Desert. Human Nature 19:231–248.

Bliege Bird, R. (2007) Fishing and the sexual division of labor among the Meriam. American Anthropologist 109:442-451.

Smith, E.A. and R. Bliege Bird (2005) Costly signaling and cooperative behavior. In: Herbert Gintis, Samuel Bowles, Robert Boyd, and Ernst Fehr (eds.) Moral Sentiments and Material Interests: On the Foundations of Cooperation in Economic Life, pp 115-148. MIT Press: Cambridge.
Bird, D.W., R. Bliege Bird, and C.H. Parker. (2005) Aboriginal burning regimes and hunting strategies in Australia’s Western Desert. Human Ecology 33: 443-464
Bliege Bird, R. and E.A. Smith. (2005) Signaling theory, strategic interaction, and symbolic capital. Current Anthropology 46(2): 221-248.
Bliege Bird, R. and D. Bird (2005) Human hunting seasonality. In: Primate Seasonality, ed. D. Brockman and C. van Schaik, pp 243-266. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.
Bird, D.W. and R. Bliege Bird (2005). Mardu children’s hunting strategies in the Western Desert, Australia: foraging and the evolution of human life histories. In Hunter Gatherer Childhoods, B.S. Hewlett and M.E. Lamb eds, pp 129-146. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.
Smith, E.A. and R. Bliege Bird and D.W. Bird (2003) The benefits of costly signaling: Meriam turtle hunters Behavioral Ecology 14:116-126.
Bliege Bird, R. and D. Bird (2002) Constraints of knowing or constraints of growing? Fishing and collecting by the children of Mer. Human Nature 13:239-267.
Bird, D.W., R. Bliege Bird, and J.L. Richardson (2004). Meriam ethnoarchaeology: shellfishing and shellmiddens. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum, Cultural Heritage Series 3(1): 183-197.
Carter, M., A. Barham, S. O’Connor, P. Veth, D.W. Bird, and R. Bliege Bird (2004). The Meriam Islands archaeological project: preliminary results of excavations on Mer and Dauar, eastern Torres Strait. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum, Cultural Heritage Series 3(1): 164-182.
Bird, D.W, R. Bliege Bird, and C. H. Parker (2003). Women who hunt with fire: Aboriginal resource use and fire regimes in Australia's Western Desert. Arid Lands Newsletter 54: ISSN 1092-5481.
Bird, D. and R. Bliege Bird (2002) Children on the reef: slow learning or strategic foraging. Human Nature 13:269-297.
Hawkes, K. and R. Bliege Bird (2002) Showing off, handicap signaling, and the evolution of men’s work. Evolutionary Anthropology 11:58-67.
Bliege Bird, R., D.W. Bird, Geoff Kushnick, and E.A. Smith (2002). Risk and reciprocity in Meriam food sharing. Evolution and Human Behavior 23:297-321.
Bliege Bird, R., E.A. Smith, and D.W. Bird (2001). The hunting handicap: costly signaling in male foraging strategies. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 50:9-19.
Smith, E.A. and R. Bliege Bird (2000) Turtle hunting and tombstone opening: public generosity as costly signaling. Evolution and Human Behavior 21:245-261.
Bird, D.W. and R. Bliege Bird (2000) The Ethnoarchaeology of Juvenile Foragers: shellfishing strategies among Meriam children. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 19:461-476.
Bliege Bird, R. (1999) Cooperation and conflict: The behavioral ecology of the sexual division of labor. Evolutionary Anthropology 8:65-75.
Bliege Bird, R. and D.W. Bird (1997) Delayed reciprocity and tolerated theft: the behavioral ecology of food sharing strategies. Current Anthropology 38(1):49-78.
Bird, D.W. and R. Bliege Bird (1997). Contemporary shellfish gathering strategies among the Meriam of the Torres Strait Islands, Australia: testing predictions of a central place foraging model. Journal of Archaeological Science 24:39-63.