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Professor Moran is an expert in the field of environmental anthropology, tropical ecology, and the human dimensions of global environmental change. He has contributed to the development of theory in cultural ecology and ecosystem ecology. These theories form the underpinning for our understanding of how the human species perceives and interacts with its physical environment. His major field research has focused on land use change in the Amazon Basin, a topic he has followed for more than 30 years. He has also carried out studies in Venezuela, Peru, Costa Rica, Mexico, and the Cape Verde Islands in West Africa.
Professor Moran received the B.A. with High Honors from Spring Hill College, a Jesuit College in Mobile, Alabama in Spanish American Literature (1968). He completed the M.A. in Latin American History at the University of Florida at Gainesville (1969) with a thesis that was translated into Portuguese and published in Brazil. His Ph.D. is from the University of Florida at Gainesville in the field of Social Anthropology (1975). He joined IU that same year, served two terms as Chair of the Anthropology Department, between 1980 and 1987, and has been Director of the Anthropological Center for Training and Research on Global Environmental Change since 1992. He became Rudy Professor of Anthropology in 1996.
Professor Moran was named the recipient of the Robert McC. Netting Award for 2002. The Award is made by the Cultural Ecology Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers (AAG) and recognizes scholars whose distinguished research and professional activities on human-environment interactions bridge the disciplines of geography and anthropology.
Professor Moran was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowshp in 1989, was elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London in 1998, and of the American Association for the Advancemnt of Science in 1985, and was a Tinker Foundation Fellow in 1984. He is the editor of a Book Series, Human-Environment Interactions, at the University of Michigan Press, and serves on a large number of journal editorial boards. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences' Committee on Geographical Sciences. He is the author of six books, ten edited volumes, and more than 125 journal articles and book chapters. His book, Through Amazonian Eyes: The Human Ecology of Amazonian Populations (1993, Iowa) has been translated to Spanish and Portuguese.
He was awarded Distinguished Professor in 2007.