Diane E. Austin

Professor, Anthropology
Director, Anthropology
Research Anthropologist (BARA)

Emil W. Haury Building, Room 210F

About Diane E. Austin

Diane Austin is an applied environmental anthropologist whose work focuses on community dynamics amid large-scale industrial activity and environmental change; alternative technologies and education to increase environmental, social, and community justice; and community-based, collaborative research and outreach. She spent seven years as a school teacher and has more than 25 years of experience managing large interdisciplinary and multiyear projects and developing and implementing collaborative research and outreach approaches in diverse communities in the United States and Mexico. She has developed and maintained long-term, multisectoral and community-based partnerships with Native American communities, U.S. and Mexican border communities, and communities along the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. She has served as an advisor to local, state, and tribal governments and consortia in the United States and Mexico; was a board member and chair of the Good Neighbor Environmental Board, the U.S. federal advisory dedicated to environmental infrastructure needs along the U.S.-Mexico border; and served the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine as a member of the Gulf Research Program Advisory Board. At the University of Arizona, she has coordinated the Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology (BARA) internship program for almost three decades, developed BARA’s post-baccalaureate program, and supported hundreds of students and emerging researchers. She has served as Director of the School of Anthropology since 2013 and has helped shepherd the unit and its undergraduate and graduate students, staff, and faculty through challenging circumstances. During the COVID-19 pandemic she also served the University as an invited member of the Pandemic Academic Coordination Committee. Austin was recognized as University Distinguished Outreach Professor in 2008.and Distinguished Director in 2023. 

Selected Publications

Hilton, Amanda, Sydney Pullen, Elizabeth Eklund, and Diane Austin. 2022. Community-University Relations: Community Perspectives on their Interactions with the University of Arizona. Prepared for the University of Arizona Office of Research, Innovation, and Impact and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona. July. 

Austin, Diane, Julie Luchetta., Victoria Phaneuf, and Jessica Simms. 2022. Social Impacts of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on Coastal Communities along the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. OCS Study. BOEM 2022-021. U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Gulf of Mexico OCS Region. 

Austin, Diane and Victoria Phaneuf. 2020. Place Matters: Tracking Coastal Restoration after the Deepwater Horizon. In Thomas K. Park and James B. Greenberg, editors, Terrestrial Transformations: A Political Ecology Approach to Society and Nature. Rowman & Littlefield. 

Austin, Diane. 2018. Doubly Invisible: Women’s Labor in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico Offshore Oil and Gas Industry. In Touraj Atabaki, Elisabetta Bini, and Kaveh Ehsani, eds. Working for Oil: Comparative Social Histories of Labor in the Global Oil Industry. Palgrave Macmillan.

Austin, Diane, and Tom McGuire. 2017. The Great Crew Change? Structuring Work in the Oilfield. In Kirk Jalbert, David Casagrande, Anna Willow, eds. ExtrACTION: Impacts, Engagements, and Alternative Futures. Routledge.

Austin, Diane, Lauren Penney, and Tom McGuire. 2017. Ethnography on Trial. Anthropology Now. 9(1). 

Austin, D., B. Marks, K. McClain T. McGuire, B. McMahan, V. Phaneuf,P. Prakash, B. Rogers, C. Ware, and J. Whalen. 2014. Offshore Oil and the Deepwater Horizon: Social Effects on Gulf Coast Communities. Volume I: Methodology, Timeline, Context, and Communities. OCS Study. BOEM 2014-617. U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Gulf of Mexico OCS Region. 

Austin, D., S. Dosemagen, B. Marks, T. McGuire, P. Prakash, and B. Rogers. 2014. Offshore Oil and the Deepwater Horizon: Social Effects on Gulf Coast Communities. Volume II: Key Economic Sectors, NGOs, and Ethnic Groups. OCS Study. BOEM 2014-618. U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Gulf of Mexico OCS Region. 

Austin, Diane. 2014. Guestworkers in the Fabrication and Shipbuilding Industry along the Gulf of Mexico: An Anomaly or a New Source of Labor? In David Griffith, eds. (Mis)managing Migration: Guestworkers’ Experiences with North American Labor Markets. Santa Fe, NM: SAR Press. 

McGuire, Tom, and Diane Austin. 2014. Beyond the Horizon: Oil and Gas Along the Gulf of Mexico. In Sarah Strauss, Stephanie Rupp, and Thomas Love, eds. Cultures of Energy: Power, Practices, Technologies. Chicago: Left Coast Press. 

Austin, Diane and Brenda Drye. 2011. The Water that Can’t Be Stopped: Southern Paiute Perspectives on the Colorado River and the Operations of Glen Canyon Dam. Policy and Society 30(4):285-300. 

Austin, Diane. 2010. Confronting Environmental Challenges on the U.S.-Mexico Border: Examining a Long-Term Community-Based Participatory Research Program. Journal of Community Practice 18(2):361-395. 

Díaz, Estela-María, Rosalva Leprón, Diane Austin, and Irma Fragoso. 2007. Sustaining Collaboration across Borders, Languages, and Cultures. Practicing Anthropology 29(3):4-8. 

Austin, Diane E. Coastal Exploitation, Land Loss, and Hurricanes: A Recipe for Disaster. 2006. American Anthropologist 108(4): 671-691. 

Austin, Diane E. 2004. Partnerships, Not Projects! Improving the Environment Through Collaborative Research and Action. Human Organization 63(4):419-430. 

Austin, Diane E. 2003. Community-Based Collaborative Team Ethnography: A Community-University-Agency Partnership. Human Organization. 62(2):143-152. 

Courses Taught

ANTH 347 Native Peoples of the Southwest 

ANTH 407 Ethnographic Research Methods 

ANTH 469 Ethnobotany 

ANTH 537 Data Management and Analysis 

ANTH 609 Mixed Methods in Social Sciences Research 


Areas of Study

Geographic Area of Interest:

U.S.-Mexico border, especially Arizona-Sonora 

Tribes and tribal communities in the U.S. southwest, especially northern Arizona and southern Utah 

Gulf of Mexico region, especially southern Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama and southeastern Texas 


As an applied anthropologist, I respond to requests for short-term, one-time projects, such as assessments of Native American connections to specific places, a cloth diaper back-up kit project for the Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona, and a program serving refugee youth in Tucson, AZ. I have been fortunate as well to establish and maintain long-term collaborations with Native American tribes and organizations, federal and state agencies and the communities they serve, and community-based organizations. Below are examples of four of these.  

Since 1991, I have worked with Southern Paiute tribes and tribal members, and the Southern Paiute Consortium, to (1) help develop appropriate opportunities through which Southern Paiutes can interact with one another and with others in places that are of particular importance to them; (2) translate information about those places and ties into policy-relevant findings; (3) create educational programs and materials for Southern Paiutes and others; and (4) communicate with academic audiences. 

Since 1996, with my colleague, Tom McGuire, and numerous post-doctoral researchers, graduate and undergraduate students, and community researchers, I have studied the social effects of the offshore petroleum industry in the Gulf of Mexico. In 2010, the offshore oil and gas history project, for which I was Principal Investigator, received the U.S. Department of the Interior Partners in Conservation Award “in recognition of outstanding conservation achievements attained through collaboration and partnership with others.” When the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded on April 20, 2010, working with academic and community collaborators, I led a longitudinal study of the social effects of that disaster on the communities along the Gulf from southeast Texas through Alabama. That research, along with results from 15 years of research in the region, formed the basis of my testimony as one of the lead witnesses in the penalty phase of the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil trial against BP and other defendants under the Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. 

Since 2000, with students and community partners from academic, non-governmental, grassroots, and governmental organizations, I have helped establish and manage a binational, multisectoral partnership (the Asociación de Reforestación en Ambos Nogales, or ARAN). My contributions have included (1) leading the development and application of a systematic framework for approaching problems, moving from a series of short-term projects to long-term initiatives; (2) coordinating the ongoing collaboration among a diverse group of multisectoral partners; and (3) convening and serving on policy workgroups and advisory boards at local, regional, national, and binational levels. Outcomes of our collaborative partnership are manifest in the EcoCasa in Nogales, Sonora which was constructed in 2013 to serve as a site for showcasing household-level alternative, environmentally friendly technologies that are viable in Ambos Nogales and arid regions along the United States- Mexico border. In 2012, our Composting Toilets Project, spearheaded by ARAN, was selected as a finalist for the Border Research Partnership Award for U.S.-Mexico Cross-Border Cooperation and Innovation. 

Since 2004, my students, colleagues, and I have collaborated with community leaders and residents from Tucson to understand and address opportunities and challenges related to urban food production in desert gardens, farms, and other sites. In addition to developing innovative research approaches, a goal of our work has been to share findings with broad audiences. Beyond written reports and presentations, products include videos for the Pima County Public Library's Seed Library, the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, and Desert Harvesters, all produced and directed by Dr. Ashley Stinnett. 

Research Interests

Human-environment interactions, learning and learning communities, decision making in complex circumstances, collaborative research, university-community relationships, environmental and social justice, and Native American policy and practice.