Kohler applies method and theory from the study of complex adaptive systems to the study of prehistoric societies. He received his A.B. in General Studies from New College of Sarasota, and his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Anthropology from the University of Florida. His dissertation research on Weeden Island societies involved sampling the McKeithen village in North Florida. Since arriving at WSU, he has increasingly specialized in Southwestern archaeology. In the late 1970s through the mid-1980s, he collaborated with William D. Lipe on the Dolores Archaeological Program in southwestern Colorado. Since then, he has directed excavations in Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico, and coordinates the interdisciplinary NSF Coupled Natural & Human Systems-funded "Village Ecodynamics Project" to understand the causes for changes in settlement systems in the eastern Southwest between A.D. 600 and 1760. He is a Research Associate at the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, Cortez, and an External Professor and member of the Science Board at the Santa Fe Institute, New Mexico.
Much of his work involves quantitative analysis of archaeological data or simulation of aspects of prehistoric behavior. He is especially interested in cooperative behavior, reciprocity, and other processes with evolutionary implications in Neolithic societies, and in large-scale patterning in prehistoric societies. At the graduate level he regularly teaches ANTH 530 (Archaeological Method and Theory). He serves on the Board of Directors of Digital Antiquity, an initiative to aggregate and preserve archaeological digital data and make it broadly accessible.
He is the only scholar ever to have been recognized with both the Alfred Vincent Kidder Award for Eminence in the Field of American Archaeology (AAA, 2014) and the SAA's Award for Excellence in Archaeological Analysis (2010).
Fellow, AAAS, 2007