Medical ecology is a theoretical orientation rather than a formal theory (Wellin, 1977), encompassing a broad systems approach in research. Hence the choice of research methods is eclectic, ranging from clinical measures (anthropometrics, fecal analysis for parasites, blood pressure readings) to standard ethnographic techniques (census and mapping, nutrition studies, geneaologies) to geographic information systems (GSI) analysis. Medical ecology is explicitly a field science, whether in rural or urban settings, with small-scale foraging societies or with migrants and squatter residents in large cities, and often involves multidisciplinary teams collaborating in data collection. Although traditionally the preferred field site has been one or a few isolated, indigenous communities, increasingly studies of human adaptation have shifted to regional analysis, systematic sampling, and incorporation of historical and economic variables (Moran, 2000, pp. xix-xx). The gold standard for studies of health in an environmental context included the collection of field data from a wide sample of households and communities, archival research on historic change, and ethnographic interviews to assess health behaviors and beliefs.

Evolutionary studies may involve the collection of samples in the field for later analysis, but research is also likely to take place in laboratories, using diagnostic equipment and computer analysis of genetic, demographic, and epidemiological data. Scholars of evolutionary medicine are often trained in physical anthropology and human biology, and some have medical degrees as well. Thus all the research methodologies of forensic anthropology, paleoanthropology, comparative anatomy, and clinical medicine can be put to use in testing hypotheses regarding the evolution of adaptive and maladaptive traits in various human populations.

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