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Thomas H McGovern

Professor (joint appointment Hunter College and the CUNY Graduate Center)

Thomas H McGovern

Thomas H McGovern

Professor (joint appointment Hunter College and the CUNY Graduate Center)

Tel: (212) 772-5656
Fax: (212) 772-5423
Room: HN 701

PhD Columbia University, 1979

Areas of Specialization
Environmental archaeology, zooarchaeology, island archaeology, climate change, Historical Ecology & Long- Term Human Ecodynamics, cultures of the North Atlantic and Circumpolar North.  Application of archaeology to current issues of global change and long- term resilience.

Overview of Research
Tom McGovern has done archaeological fieldwork since 1972 in the UK, Norway, France, the Caribbean, and NE US, but his main research work has been in the North Atlantic (Greenland, Iceland, Faeroes, and Shetland). With Megan Hicks he directs the Hunter College Zooarchaeology Laboratory, a recognized "regional center of excellence" by the International   Congress of Archaeozoologists.

McGovern was one of the founders of the North Atlantic Biocultural Organization (NABO, with initial NSF support in 1992, and has served as NABO coordinator down to the present. This international regional research cooperative has sponsored collaborative science, education, and outreach work from arctic Norway to Labrador, and its website now provides rich resources for science and education. In 2009 NABO was funded by NSF to explore the possibilities of taking this collaborative model global by connecting other regional interdisciplinary teams working in long term human ecodynamics. Following a successful workshop and conference publication, this effort has resulted in the new Global Human Ecodynamics Alliance (GHEA, that has attracted wide interest and NSF support through the  Science Engineering and Education for Sustainability (SEES) initiative.

 McGovern serves on the Science Steering Committee of the Integrated History and Future of Humans on Earth (IHOPE) international program to connect archaeology with global change research and applying the data and lessons of long term human ecodynamics to modern attempts to find solutions to wicked problems of the present. He coordinates the IHOPE Climate Threats to Science and Heritage working group and the Circumpolar Networks working group.  He is also co-director of the Humanities for Environment (HfE) Circumpolar Observatory of the Human Condition. McGovern also is a participant in the new UNESCO BRIDGES program, with both Greenland and Orkney projects (below) now recognized as UNESCO affiliates.  He serves as director for the CUNY Human Ecodynamics Research Center (HERC) based at the Graduate Center and Hunter College Zooarchaeology Lab.

Current Projects:

 PI of Coproduction of Knowledge and the building of local archaeological capacity in Greenland (NSF Arctic Social Sciences 1821284) 2019-23.  Supporting international field teams from Greenland National Museum and Archives, Ilisimatusarfik / U Greenland, Memorial U Newfoundland, CUNY, U Maryland, U Iceland, U Glasgow, U Stirling, U Edinburgh, U Bergen, & National Museum of Denmark in response to climate threats to archaeology and cultural heritage in SW Greenland.  The project takes in all periods, with a growing focus upon the colonial period (18th-20th c) and the Norse settlement (c 985-1450).  The project involves PhD thesis research by GC students Cameron Turley and Wendi Coleman and U Greenland MA student Aka Bendtsen in a collaborative investigation of the Inuit experience of Moravian missions in Greenland.

Collaborative CUNY-U Highlands and Islands- Bradford University Swandrow Field School Rousay Orkney.  This long running collaborative project (2008-present) combines field training, community outreach, and rescue of rich multi-period deposits at Swandrow on Rousay Orkney that are endangered by rising sea levels and increased storminess.  This Hunter Study Abroad program provides opportunities for BA, MA and doctoral students to gain field experience with cutting edge UK teams making use of new digital techniques to survey and record endangered sites.

DataARC project (junior co-PI, Rachel Opitz lead PI)  this NSF data management project works to connect multiple data sources (saga accounts, placenames, archaeology, zooarchaeology) in an innovative approach to increase the discoverability and integration of data sources in the N Atlantic.

Prizes and Awards

  • Awarded 2019 Society for American Archaeology Presidential Recognition award for service on SAA Climate Change and the Archaeological Record Committee.
  • Co-recipient of the 2019 St Andrews Article Prize in European Environmental History for 2017 Hartman et al. in Global and Planetary Change
  • Co-recipient 2010: Gordon R. Willey journal prize for best interdisciplinary archaeology publication 2007-10 from the American Anthropological Association

Recent Grants (past 10 years only)

2010  National Science Foundation ARRA grant for organizing the "Global Long Term Human Ecodynamics Conference" Eagle Hill Maine Oct 14-18 2009 (senior PI with Sophia Perdikaris and Andy Dugmore). $75,000

2010 National Science Foundation RAPID grant for interdisciplinary investigation of the 2009 Eyjafjallajökull volcano (junior PI with Dr. Andy Dugmore), $28,000

2010-11 National Science Foundation Research Network Coordination grant for NABO-Long Term Vulnerability and Resilience Project comparative workshop series (co-PI with Margaret Nelson ASU). $50,000

2012-16 National Science Foundation Science, Engineering & Education for Sustainability (SEES) Research Coordination Network grant (co-PI), $489,000

2012  NSF RAPID grant for international rescue work at Gardar/ Igaliku Greenland (Senior PI). $199,000

2012   Wenner- Gren Foundation Conference grant (senior PI with Kate Spielman ASU), $19,000

2012-14  NSF Comparative Island Ecodynamics in Iceland and Greenland grant, (Senior PI). $1.28 million

2012-14  NSF Doctoral Improvement grant to Megan Hicks (co-PI) $42,000

2013-15 NSF Doctoral Improvement grant to Francis Feeley (co-PI), $41,500

2013-15 NSF EAGER grant to Dr. Andy Dugmore (co-PI), $110,000

2019-21 NSF RESPONSE Greenland (Senior PI) $850,000

2019-21  NSF Doctoral Improvement Grant to Cameron Turley (co-PI), $49,000

Selected Publications (since 2007)

2007 Andrew J. Dugmore, Douglas M. Borthwick , Mike J. Church, Alastair Dawson, Kevin J. Edwards, Christian Keller & Paul Mayewski & Thomas H. McGovern & Kerry-Anne Mairs &Guðrún Sveinbjarnardóttir The Role of Climate in Settlement and Landscape Change in the North Atlantic Islands: An Assessment of Cumulative Deviations in High-Resolution Proxy Climate Records, Human Ecology (2007) 35:169-178

2007 T. H. McGovern, O. Vésteinsson, Adolf Fridriksson, M. J. Church, I. T. Lawson, I. A. Simpson, Á Einarsson, A Dugmore, A. J. Cook, S. Perdikaris, K. Edwards, A. M. Thomson, P. W. Adderley, A. J. Newton, G. Lucas, R. Edvardsson, O. Aldred, and E. Dunbar. "Landscapes of settlement in northern Iceland: Historical Ecology of human impact and climate fluctuation on the millennial scale" American Anthropologist 109.1 (2007): 27-51.

2007 Ascough, P. L., Gordon Cook, Mike Church, Andrew Dugmore, Thomas H McGovern, Elaine Dunbar, Arni Einarsson, Adolf Friðriksson, Hildur Gestsdóttir Reservoirs and Radiocarbon; 14 C dating problems in Mývatnssveit Northern Iceland  Radiocarbon 49(2): 1-15.

2007  Dugmore, Andy, Christian Keller & Thomas H. McGovern,  Reflections on climate change, trade, and the contrasting fates of human settlements in the North Atlantic islands, Arctic Anthropology 44(1): 12-37

2007 Dugmore, Andy, Mike J. Church, Kerry-Anne Mairs, T.H. McGovern, Sophia Perdikaris, and Orri Vésteinsson, Abandoned farms, volcanic impacts, and woodland management: revisiting Thórsárdalur, the “Pompeii of Iceland”, Arctic Anthropology 44(1): 1-12.

2008 Perdikaris S. & T.H. McGovern , Codfish and Kings, Seals and Subsistence:
Norse Marine Resource Use in the North Atlantic, in:  Torben Rick and Jon Erlandson (eds)  Human Impacts on Marine Environments, UCLA Press Historical Ecology Series pp 157-190

2008 Sophia Perdikaris & Thomas H. McGovern ,Viking Age economics and the origins of commercial cod fisheries in the North Atlantic:  Louis Sickling & Darlene Abreu-Ferreira (eds) The North Atlantic Fisheries in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period: Interdisciplinary Approaches in History, Archaeology, and Biology, pp 61-90  Brill Publishers Netherlands.

2008 Gavin Lucas & Thomas H. McGovern, Bloody slaughter: ritual decapitation and display at Viking age Hofstaðir N Iceland, Journal of European Archaeology 10(1) : 7-30.

2009 Andrew J Dugmore, Christian Keller, Thomas H McGovern, Andrew F Casely & Konrad Smiarowski, Norse Greenland Settlement and limits to adaptation, in:  W.Neil Adger, Irene Lorenzoni, Karen L. O’Brien (eds). Adapting to Climate Change: Thresholds, Values, Governance, Cambridge U. Press, pp 96-114

2009 Ogilvie Astrid E.J., James M. Woollett, Konrad Smiarowski, Jette Arneborg, Simon Troelstra, Antoon Kuijpers, Albina Pálsdóttir, and Thomas H. McGovern, Seals and Sea Ice in Medieval Greenland. Journal of the North Atlantic, Volume 2 (2009): 60–80

2009  McGovern, Thomas H., Sophia Perdikaris, Ingrid Mainland, Philippa Ascough, Vicki Ewens, Arni Einarsson, Jane Sidell, George Hambrecht, and Ramona Harrison, (2009) Chapter 4 : The archaeofauna,  in: Gavin Lucas (ed) Hofstadir: Excavations of a Viking Age Feasting Hall in North Eastern Iceland , Inst. of Archaeology Reykjavik Monograph 1, Reykjavik. Pp 168-252.

 2010 Ascough PL, Cook GT, Church MJ, Dunbar E, Einarsson Á, McGovern T.H., Dugmore AJ, Perdikaris S, Hastie H, Friðriksson A, Gestsdóttir H. (2010). Temporal and Spatial Variations in Freshwater 14C Reservoir Effects:  Lake Myvatn, Northern Iceland. Radiocarbon, 86 (3) :211-15

2010 Dugmore, A.J., A.F. Casely, C. Keller & T.H. McGovern, Conceptual modelling of seafaring, climate and early European exploration and settlement of the North Atlantic islands, in: The Global Origins and Development of Seafaring, eds. A. Anderson, J.H. Barrett & K.V. Boyle. (McDonald Institute Monographs.) Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 213-25.

2012 McGovern, T.H., Introduction: The Long Term Global Human Ecodynamics Conference . In Cooper, J. & Sheets, P. (eds). Surviving Sudden Environmental Change: Lessons From Archaeology. University of Colorado Press, Boulder. pp 5-12.

2012 McGovern T.H., Vikings in the 21st Century: Ecodynamic, Educational and Still Blood thirsty.   19th Viking Congress Papers, Reykjavik Iceland. pp 290-310.

2012 Andrew J. Dugmore, Thomas H. McGovern, Orri Vésteinsson, Jette Arneborg, Richard Streeter and Christian Keller Cultural adaptation, compounding vulnerabilities, and conjunctures in Norse Greenland. PNAS 2012 109 (10)3011-6

2012 Jones E.P., K. Skinisson, T.H. McGovern, M Y P Gilbert, E. Willerslev, J.B. Searle, Fellow travelers: a concordance of colonization patterns between mice and men in the North Atlantic region. BMC Evolutionary Biology 3.70  12:35

2012 Andrew Mellows, Ross Barnett, Love Dalén, Edson Sandoval-Castellanos, Anna Linderholm, Thomas H. McGovern, Mike J. Church and Greger Larson,Andrew Mellows, Ross Barnett, Love Dalén, Edson Sandoval-Castellanos, Anna Linderholm, (2012) The impact of past climate change on genetic variation and population connectivity in the Icelandic arctic fox ,Proc. R. Soc. B published online 12 September 2012 doi: 10.1098/rspb.2012.1796

2012 Vésteinsson, Orri, McGovern, Thomas H. ,The Peopling of Iceland. Norwegian Archaeological Review. 2012, Vol. 45 Issue 2, pp 206-218.

2013 Andrew J. Dugmore, Thomas H. McGovern, Richard Streeter, Christian Koch Madsen, Konrad Smiarowski and Christian Keller, 'Clumsy solutions' and 'Elegant failures': Lessons on climate change adaptation from the settlement of the North Atlantic islands (2013) , chapter 38 in:  A Changing Environment for Human Security: Transformative Approaches to Research, Policy and Action, Edited by Linda Sygna, Karen O'Brien and Johanna Wolf. Routledge UK London.

2013 Michelle Hegmon, Jette Arneborg, Andrew J. Dugmore, George Hambrecht, Scott Ingram, Keith Kintigh, Thomas H. McGovern, Margaret C. Nelson, Matthew A. Peeples, Ian Simpson, Katherine Spielmann, Richard Streeter, Orri Vésteinsson (2013)    The Human Experience of Social Change and Continuity: The Southwest and North Atlantic in "Interesting Times" ca. 1300.  In Climates of Change: The Shifting Environments of Archaeology, edited by Sheila Lacey, Cara Tremain, and Madeleine Sawyer. Proceedings of the 44th Annual Chacmool Conference, University of Calgary.  

2013 Kerry L Sayle, Gordon T Cook, Philippa L Ascough, Helen R Hastie, Thomas H McGovern, Megan T Hicks, Adolf Friðriksson, Arni Einarsson, Agusta Edwald, (2013) Application of 34 S analysis for elucidating terrestrial, marine and freshwater ecosystems: Evidence of animal movement/husbandry practices in an early Viking community around Lake Mývatn, Iceland. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta (Impact Factor: 3.88). 11/2013; 120:531-544. DOI:10.1016/j.gca.2013.07.008

2013 Church, M.J., Arge, S,V., Edwards, K.J., Ascough, P.L., Bond, J.M., Cook, G.T., Dockrill, S.J.,Dugmore, A.J., McGovern, T.H., Nesbitt, C. and Simpson, I.A., (2013). The Vikings were not the first colonizers of the Faroe Islands. Quaternary Science Reviews, 77, 228-232.

2014 Orri Vésteinsson Mike Church, Andrew Dugmore, Thomas H McGovern, Anthony Newton, (2014) Expensive errors or rational choices: the pioneer fringe in Late Viking Age Iceland, European Journal of Postclassical Archaeology vol 4 pp  39-68

2014 McGovern, T.H., R. Harrison, K. Smiarowski, (2014). Sorting Sheep & Goats in Medieval Iceland and Greenland: Local Subsistence or World System? In Harrison, R. & Maher, R. (eds.).). Long-Term Human Ecodynamics in the North Atlantic: An Archaeological Study. Lexington Publishers, Lanham, Maryland.

2014 Thomas H. McGovern (2014) North Atlantic Human Ecodynamics Research: Looking forwards from the past. In Harrison, R. & Maher, R. (eds.). Long-Term Human Ecodynamics in the North Atlantic: An Archaeological Study. Lexington Publishers, Lanham, Maryland.

2014 Andrew J. Dugmore, Thomas H. McGovern and Richard Streeter (2014) Landscape legacies of Landnám in Iceland: What has happened to the environment as a result of settlement, why did it happen and what have been some of the consequences In Harrison, R. & Maher, R. (eds.).. Long-Term Human Ecodynamics in the North Atlantic: An Archaeological Study. Lexington Publishers, Lanham, Maryland.

2015 Seth Brewington, Megan Hicks,  Ágústa Edwald, Árni Einarsson, Kesara  Anamthawat-Jónsson, Gordon Cook, Philippa Ascough, Kerry Sayle, Símun V. Arge, Mike Church, Julie Bond, Steve Dockrill, Adolf Friðriksson, George Hambrecht, Arni Daniel Juliusson, Vidar Hreinsson, Steven Hartman,  Thomas H. McGovern (2015) Islands of Change vs. Islands of Disaster:  Managing Pigs and Birds in the Anthropocene of the North Atlantic. In: Arlene Rosen (ed.) The Anthropocene in the Longue Duree special issue of The Holocene  

2015 Karin M. Frei, Ashley N. Coutu, Konrad Smiarowski, Ramona Harrison, Christian K. Madsen, Jette Arneborg, Robert Frei, Gardar Guðmundsson, Søren M. Sindbæk, James Woollett, Steven Hartman, Megan Hicks & Thomas H. McGovern (2015): Was it for walrus? Viking Age settlement and medieval walrus ivory trade in Iceland and Greenland, World Archaeology, DOI: 10.1080/00438243.2015.1025912

2016 Hicks Megan, Árni Einarsson, Kesara Anamthawat-Jónsson, Ágústa Edwald, Adolf Friðriksson, Ægir Þór Þórsson, Thomas H. McGovern. Community and Conservation: Documenting Millennial Scale Sustainable Resource Use at Lake Mývatn Iceland. in C. Isendahl & D. Stump (eds.) Handbook of Historical Ecology and Applied Archaeology Oxford University Press   DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199672691.013.36

2016 Margaret C. Nelson · Scott E. Ingram · Andrew J. Dugmore · Richard Streeter · Matthew A. Peeples · Thomas H. McGovern · Michelle Hegmon · Jette Arneborg · Keith W. Kintigh · Seth Brewington · Katherine A. Spielmann · Ian A. Simpson · Colleen Strawhacker · Laura E. L. Comeau · Andrea Torvinen · Christian K. Madsen · George Hambrecht · Konrad Smiarowski (2016). Climate challenges, vulnerabilities, and food security. PNAS 113(2):298-303.

2017 Konrad Smiarowski, Ramona Harrison, Seth Brewington, Megan Hicks, Francis Feeley, Celine Dupont-Herbert,  George Hambrecht, Jim Woollett, Thomas H. McGovern (2017)  Zooarchaeology of the Scandinavian Settlements in Iceland and Greenland: diverging pathways, in: Umberto Albarella, Mauro Rizzetto, Hannah Russ, Kim Vickers, and Sarah Viner-Daniels  Oxford Handbook of Zooarchaeology ISBN: 9780199686476

2017 Steven Hartman, Astrid Ogilvie, Jon Haukur Ingimundarsson, Andrew J Dugmore, George Hambrecht, Thomas H. McGovern (2017) Integrated Environmental Humanities: Medieval Iceland, Greenland, and the New Human Condition, in special issue ed. Poul Holm, Global and Planetary Change, Global and Planetary Change Volume 156, September 2017, Pages 123-139.

2018 Thomas H. McGovern, George Hambrecht, Seth Brewington, Frank Feeley, Ramona Harrison, Megan Hicks, Konrad Smiarowski, And James Woollett (2018) Too Many Bones: Data Management and the NABONE Experience,  Justin Lev-Tov, Paula Wapnish and Allan Gilbert (eds) The Wide Lens in Archaeology Honoring Brian Hesse's Contributions to Anthropological Archaeology, Lockwood Press, ISBN-13 9781937040956 ISBN-10 193704095X

2018 Fiske S., K. Hubacek, A. Jorgenson, J. Li, T. H. McGovern, T. Rick, J. Schor, W. Solecki, R. York, A. Zycherman. (2018). Drivers and responses: Social science perspectives on climate change, part 2. Washington, DC: USGCRP Social Science Coordinating Committee.

2018  McGovern, T.H. (2018)  What is it all for? Archaeology and Global Change Research, Society for American Archaeology President’s Forum, SAA Archaeological Record November 2018, pp 33-36

2018 McGovern, Thomas H. (2018) , Burning Libraries: a Community Response, in Ruth Maher (ed). Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites vol 20, 2018: 165-174.

2018 Rowan Jackson, Jette Arneborg, Andrew Dugmore, Christian Madsen, Thomas McGovern, Konrad Smiarowski and Richard Streeter (2018) 'Disequilibrium, Adaptation and the Norse Settlement of Greenland, Human Ecology (2018) 46:665-684

2018 Hambrecht, George, Anderung, C., Brewington, S., Dugmore, A., Edvardsson, R., Feeley, F., Gibbons, K., Harrison, R., Hicks, M., Ólafsdóttir, G., Rockman, M., Smiarowski, K., Streeter, R., Szabo, V., McGovern, T.H. (2018) Distributed Observation Networks of the Past. Quaternary International.

2019 Ragnhildur Sigurðardóttir, Anthony Newton, Megan T. Hicks, A.J. Dugmore, Viðar Hreinsson, A.E.J. Ogilvie, Árni Daníel Júlíusson, Árni Einarsson, Steven Hartman, I.A. Simpson, Orri Vésteinsson, T.H. McGovern (2019) Trolls, Water, Time, and Community: Resource Management in the Mývatn District of Northeast Iceland in Ludomir Lozny & Thomas McGovern (eds) Global Perspectives on Long Term Community Resource Management Springer Co NY pp 77-101.

2019 Ludomir Lozny & Thomas McGovern (eds) Global Perspectives on Long Term Community Resource Management. Springer Nature Co Bern Switzerland DOI,

2020    Dugmore, A., Jackson, R. Cooper, D., Newton, A., J Júlíusson, A.D., Streeter, R., Hreinsson, V., Crabtree, S., Hambrecht, Hicks, M., and McGovern, T.H. (forthcoming)  Continuity in the face of a slowly unfolding catastrophe: the persistence of Icelandic settlement despite large-scale soil erosion in Felix Riede and Payson Sheets (eds) Catastrophes in Context. Bergham Books:Oxford.


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