With the ultimate goal of understanding the emergence of social and political complexity in precolumbian south Florida, William Marquardt has directed a research project in Southwest Florida, the Calusa heartland (Lee, Charlotte, and Collier counties). The Southwest Florida Project is interdisciplinary, and makes use of documentary, archaeological, and environmental data in reaching an understanding of cultural changes before, during, and after European contact.
This work has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, the Ruth and Vernon Taylor Foundation, the Knight Foundation, the Maple Hill Foundation, three Special Category grants from the Florida Department of State, and the contributions of money and volunteer labor by hundreds of southwest Florida residents.
Florida Museum of Natural History research in southwest Florida addresses and informs issues of specific interest to scholars. These include (1) the emergence of social and political complexity; (2) human interaction with the environment; (3) the nature of cultural genesis in the multi-ethnic, post-1492 New World. These projects also offer information of interest to a broad spectrum of the American public, and are thus ideally suited to museum exhibitions and public education.