Mark E. Seifert, Ph.D.




Beverly, Massachusetts

Contact Info

B.A. in Physical Anthropology
University of Maryland (MD, USA)

SFS Alum
Costa Rica Summer '88

M.A. in Physical Anthropology and Human Ecology
Wake Forest University (NC, USA)

Ph.D. in Economic Anthropology
Brandeis University (MA, USA)

Postdoc at the Center for Afghanistan Studies
University of Nebraska, Omaha (NE, USA)


SFS 3020 Environmental Policy and Socioeconomics
(The School for Field Studies, Center for Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies, Panama)

SFS 3820 Environmental Ethics and Development
(The School for Field Studies, Center for Conservation and Development, Cambodia)

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Staff Profile

I joined the SFS Office of Academic Affairs in the fall of 2010. I came to The School after working with several government agencies including the Department of Defense and the United States Army working as a cultural and behavioral intelligence specialist. I used my capabilities in non-verbal communication and cultural domain analysis to promote understanding between military force personnel and the responsible citizenry in rural conflict regions.

My first exposure to SFS occurred in 1988 when I was a student in the Costa Rica Summer program called Tropical Ecology: the dynamics of deforestation. This exposure to intense field-based learning drove my lifelong interest to study the connections between humans and the natural world. Much of my early academic work centered on understanding aspects of biological adaptation and behavior modeling of both human and non-human primates.

My doctoral work, which was conducted primarily in the rural Caribbean of Panama, involved the micro-economic modeling of human provisioning systems and the market forces that influence decision making in the food quest of indigenous people. My years in the field enabled me to develop strong relationships with both local inhabitants and groups that serve to protect the interests of traditional peoples. For several years, I served as a consultant in the areas of indigenous law and land/property rights to several government and NGOs including the Organization of American States, Inter-American Development Bank, and USAID and its partners. In the fall of 2012, I was privileged to help establish the SFS center for Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies (TIBS) in Bocas del Toro, Panama and promote engagement with the communities that I became familiar with through many years of research in the region.

I have had the pleasure of teaching and lecturing at a number of institutions throughout the world on topics including socio-cultural anthropology, economic anthropology, human adaptation / human ecology, cross-cultural communication, behavior modeling, and social network analysis. I have also been fortunate to work for a number of prominent universities in administrative capacities, assisting senior leaders with academic oversight, program evaluation, faculty performance and accountability, and the analysis of institutional metrics.

Today, as Dean of the School, I spend time both in Beverly, MA and at our various centers throughout the world supporting academic excellence in our programs by promoting teacher training and curriculum development, managing course requirements, evaluating learning outcomes, and driving the SFS academic program review process. Since coming to SFS, I have delighted in the launch of new semester programs in Panama, Cambodia, Peru, and Bhutan.

Academics & Research

Professional Affiliations

  • American Anthropology Association (AAA)
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
  • Council of Environmental Deans and Directors (CEDD)
  • National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE)
  • Forum on Education Abroad
  • Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR)

Research Interests

My research interests over the years have been quite eclectic. Originally trained as a physical and forensic anthropologist, I spent my undergraduate years as a Smithsonian Scholar at the University of Maryland studying the science of osteology and human identification, particularly in the contexts of mass disasters and military personnel recovery. My initial graduate work at Wake Forest University involved understanding both human and non-human primate biology and adaptation. Specifically, I focused on complex metric analyses of cranio-facial anatomy and morphology as indicators of biological distance as well as diet choice in non-related prehistoric human populations. I also looked at the frequency and causes of bone pathologies in captive primate groups used in bio-medical research.

My doctoral work at Brandeis University in Human Ecology and Economic Anthropology concentrated on understanding human decision-making processes and patterns of economic behaviors among rural inhabitants in the Caribbean. My book on this subject was published in 2007: Feeding the Mouth of the Bull: provisioning native Caribbean foragers within the new economy of Bocas del Toro, Panama.

Currently, from a topical perspective, climate disruptions to earth systems now focus my attention and I am particularly adamant in helping SFS scholars and students scientifically assess changes in the region of the globe where SFS operates and assist local communities to adapt and thrive. Additionally, I am focused on finding ways to promote and advance rigorous environmental learning in field-based contexts. I am quite interested in investigating how experiential learning enhances and augments traditional on-campus instruction and develop methods to measure learning outcomes in field settings. I am also keen to understand the influence that study abroad programs have on learners and the extent that international experiences enhance the life of the mind.