Darren Ranco

Website: https://umaine.edu/anthropology/faculty-staff/dr-darren-j-ranco/

Media Expertise:

  • Tribal/Native American Issues
  • Environmental Justice
  • Research Collaboration

Research Interests

  • Native American/American Indian Cultural and Natural Resources
  • Tribal Sovereignty
  • Environmental Justice
  • Environmental Risk
  • Research Ethics
  • Collaborative Research

Research Projects

News and Updates


  • Harvard University, Ph.D. (Social Anthropology)
  • Vermont Law School, MSEL (Studies in Environmental Law)
  • Dartmouth College, B.A. (Anthropology and Classical Studies)


  • Tribal Governance
  • Indigenous Intellectual Property Rights
  • Environmental Justice
  • Research Ethics


Darren has a joint appointment in the Department of Anthropology, the Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions, and in Native American Programs, where he serves as Chair of Native American Programs and Coordinator of Native American Research. His research focuses on the ways in which indigenous communities in the United States resist environmental destruction by using indigenous diplomacies and critiques of liberalism to protect cultural resources, and how state knowledge systems, rooted in colonial contexts, continue to expose indigenous peoples to an inordinate amount of environmental risk. He teaches classes on indigenous intellectual property rights, research ethics, environmental justice and tribal governance. A member of the Penobscot Nation, he is particularly interested in how better research relationships can be made between universities, Native and non-Native researchers, and indigenous communities.

Ranco’s SSI project (Mobilizing to Fight an Invasive Insect) was the first such project in the nation to bring together diverse groups to try to prevent, curb, and respond to a potential emerald ash borer (EAB) invasion. Other related projects have followed, and collaborators include members of the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance, tribes, university researchers, state and federal foresters, and others. Ranco’s team seeks to develop a proactive, coordinated response on a statewide level in order to save culturally and artistically essential brown ash tree resources from the invasive EAB. Part of this response involves mapping Maine’s ash tree populations, learning how to identify a borer attack, educating the public, and establishing a seed bank should the beetle strike. The team’s findings are leading to new strategies for protecting Maine’s three species of ash trees, informing public policy, and establishing effective methods to bring together diverse groups to address threats from invasive species.

As part of his research, Ranco is also involved in developing mentoring programs for Native American students at the University of Maine and developing a statewide STEM education program for Native American students, the Wabanaki Youth in Science (WaYS) Program.

Selected Publications

Erle C. Ellis, Nicolas Gauthier, Kees Klein Goldewijk, Rebecca Bliege Bird, Nicole Boivin, Sandra Díaz, Dorian Q. Fuller, Jacquelyn L. Gill, Jed O.  . Kaplan, Naomi Kingston, Harvey Locke, Crystal N. H. McMichael, Darren Ranco, Torben C. Rick, M. Rebecca Shaw, Lucas Stephens, Jens-Christian Svenning, and James E.M. Watson. 2021. People have shaped most of terrestrial nature for at least 12,000 years. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 118(17): 1-8. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2023483118

McGreavy, Bridie, Darren Ranco, John Daigle, Suzanne Greenlaw, Nolan Altvater, Tyler Quiring, Natalie Michelle, Jan Paul, Maliyan Binette, Brawley Benson, Anthony Sutton, and David Hart. 2021. Science in Indigenous homelands: addressing power and justice in sustainability science from/with/in the Penobscot River. Sustainability Science 16: 937-947.

Daigle, John J., Natalie Michelle, Darren J. Ranco, and Marla Emery. 2019. Traditional Lifeways and Storytelling: Tools for Adaptation and Resilience to Ecosystem Change. Human Ecology 47(5): 777-784.

Daigle, John J., Crista L Straub, Jessica E Leahy, Sandra M De Urioste-Stone, Darren J Ranco, Nathan W Siegert. 2018. How Campers’ Beliefs about Forest Pests Affect Firewood Transport Behavior: An Application of Involvement Theory, Forest Science, published online December 7, 2018, fxy056, https://doi.org/10.1093/forsci/fxy056.

Carr, Tish, Laura Kenefic, Darren Ranco. 2017. Wabanaki Youth in Science (WaYS): A Tribal Mentoring and Education Program Integrating Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Western Science. Journal of Forestry: Published Online, January 19, 2017.

Hart, D. D., K. P. Bell, L. A. Lindenfeld, S. Jain, T. R. Johnson, D. Ranco and B. McGill.  2015. Strengthening the Role of Universities in Addressing Sustainability Challenges: the Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions as an Instrumental Experiment. Ecology and Society 20(2): 4.

Ranco, Darren and Julia Clark. 2014. The Abbe Museum: Seeking a Collaborative Future through Decolonization. In Interpreting Native American History and Culture, Raney Bench, ed. New York: Roman and Littlefield, pp. 57-67.

Voggesser, Garrit, Kathy Lynn, John Daigle, Frank Lake, and Darren Ranco. 2013. Cultural Impacts to Tribes from Climate Change Influences on Forests. Climatic Change 120(3): 615-626.

Lynn, K, J Daigle, J Hoffman, F Lake, N Michelle, D Ranco, C Viles, G Voggesser, and P Williams. 2013. The Impacts of Climate Change on Tribal Traditional Foods. Climatic Change120(3): 545-556.

Ranco, Darren, Amy Arnett, Erika Latty, Alysa Remsburg, Kathleen Dunckel, Erin Quigley, Rob Lilieholm, John Daigle, Bill Livingston, Jennifer Neptune, and Theresa Secord. 2012. “Two Maine Forest Pests: A Comparison of Approaches to Understanding Threats to Hemlock and Ash Trees in Maine. Maine Policy
Review 21(1): 76-89.

Ranco, Darren J., Catherine O’Neill, Jamie Donatuto, and Barbara L. Harper. “Environmental Justice, American Indians and the Cultural Dilemma: Developing Environmental Management for Tribal Health and Well-being,” 2011. Environmental Justice 4(4): 221-230.

Johnson, Jaclyn, and Darren J. Ranco. “Risk Assessment and Native Americans at the Cultural Crossroads: Making Better Science or Redefining Health?” 2011. In Technoscience and Environmental Justice: Transforming Expert Cultures through Grassroots Engagement, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 179-199.

Harper, Barbara and Darren Ranco. 2009. Wabanaki Traditional Cultural Lifeways Exposure Scenario, Peer Reviewed Report prepared for the Maine Tribes and funded by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Environmental Protection Agency: Washington, DC, pp 1-104. (Part of a Direct Implementation Tribal Cooperative Agreement, this report details pollution exposure scenarios for traditional lifestyles of Maine tribes).

Darren Ranco. 2008. “The Trust Responsibility and Limited Sovereignty: What Can Environmental Justice Groups Learn from Indian Nations?” Society and Natural Resources 21(4): 354-362.

Ranco, Darren, and Dean Suagee. 2007. “Tribal Sovereignty and the Problem of Difference in Environmental Regulation: Observations on ‘Measured Separatism’ in Indian Country.” Antipode 39 (4): 691-707.

Darren Ranco. 2007. “The Indian Ecologist and the Politics of Representation: Critiquing the Ecological Indian in the Age of Ecocide.” In Perspectives on the Ecological Indian: Native Americans and the Environment, Michael Harkin and David Rich Lewis, eds. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, pp. 32-51.

Darren Ranco. 2006. “Toward a Native Anthropology: Hermeneutics, Hunting Stories, and Theorizing From Within.” Wicazo Sa Review 21(2): 61-78.