traditional household demographic surveys to time-series analysis of remotely sensed data in a spatially explicit framework made possible by geographic information systems (GIS). The use of multiple theoretical approaches and methodologies has been key to the past and ongoing success of this project. By asking timely and complex sociodemographic and biophysical questions, this project speaks to diverse audiences and has attracted researchers from diverse research traditions. The ability of the project to answer questions about the dynamic interaction of population and environment is due to the collaboration of these researchers without the subordination of one particular group of collaborators (i.e., natural or social science).
Over the more than 30 years of our research project, we have been guided by theoretical approaches too numerous to adequately describe in this chapter. We have utilized theoretical approaches that are based in our disciplines of training (anthropology, sociology, demography) but have also incorporated the insights of other disciplines. The key to our theoretical foundations is the dynamic nature of human-environment interactions. The cultural ecology and ecosystem ecology perspectives that motivated the early work on this project, as well as the demographic theories of population change that underlie more recent work, focus on the ways in which human populations adapt to and change their social, cultural, and biophysical environments. At the same time, we utilize theories that allow agency for individuals and families and discard those that posit structural determinism. Throughout this chapter we make brief references to the theoretical perspectives guiding each phase of the project, and we have given theoretical perspectives a more detailed treatment in VanWey, Ostrom, and Meretsky (2005).
The integration of methods from various research traditions both allows the research team to speak to all participating disciplines and brings new insights into each discipline. This project has fruitfully combined data from soil samples, remote sensing (aerial photos and satellite imagery), social survey research, and in-depth qualitative data collection (ethnography, open-ended interviews). The soils data were originally included in order to address the concerns raised by Meggers (1954, 1970) that the humid tropics could not sustain agriculture above the slash-and-burn level. Survey research has been a longstanding tool for collecting household social and economic data. Qualitative data represented the anthropological focus of the original study, supplemented with environmental data collection to study the human-environment interactions from a cultural ecological perspective. The introduction of GIS into the project allowed us to integrate point data on soils, household location and survey data, and continuous data on land cover across the landscape. This allowed us to study the ways in which landscapes embody a historical summary of past land use and are