Zachary Garfield is an Assistant Professor at Mohammed VI Polytechnic University. He is an interdisciplinary behavioral scientist and evolutionary anthropologist. He co-directs The Omo Valley Research Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to social, biological, and health research. His academic journey was sparked by a profound experience of independent travel in Southeast Asia and volunteering on Japanese farms. This fueled his passion for understanding human behavior, leading him to pursue a B.A. in Anthropology and Psychology at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and a Ph.D. in Evolutionary Anthropology from Washington State University. Prior to joining UM6P, he was a Research Fellow at The Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse, an interdisciplinary research institute affiliated with the Toulouse School of Economics.
His research explores the dynamics between individual behavioral strategies and group dynamics, particularly during cultural transitions. He explores leadership, social learning, conflict resolution, and economic strategies, analyzing their responses to group-level influences like network dynamics, political structures, and cultural norms. He draws on adaptationist, behavioral-ecological, and cultural-evolutionary frameworks. Since 2015, he has conducted extensive fieldwork in Southwest Ethiopia, including among forest-dwelling forager-horticulturalists and pastoralists in the savannah.
Through The Omo Valley Research Project, he was building a comprehensive dataset from diverse pastoralist groups for interdisciplinary cross-cultural and longitudinal research. He is deeply committed to the study of diverse, subsistence-based populations, while also recognizing anthropologists’ roles as vital allies for often marginalized communities. Through his work, he hopes to contribute to the development of robust theories of human behavior, social organization, and cultural evolution, all rooted firmly in empirical evidence.