Monday, January 31, 2011

Am J Hum Biol special issue on Human Biology and the Brain

The most recent issue of the American Journal of Human Biology is a special issue entitled "Human Biology and the Brain." The good people at Wiley have made this issue open access,available now.

Included in the issue is a wonderful tribute to J.M. "Fetus into Man" Tanner, who recently passed away at the age of 90. There are several book reviews, most notably by Nick Malone of the University of Aukland and Lee Gettler of Northwestern University. In addition to the special issue content, there are also several new research articles. It's a rich issue and now it's free!

Friday, January 28, 2011

AAPA 2011 Updates

From a recent email to the AAPA membership:

Dear AAPA Member,

This is a reminder that our 2011 annual meeting will be held at The Hilton Minneapolis, April 13-16. If you haven’t already registered and reserved a hotel room, you still have time to do so from links on our website. The final program will be posted on the website in the next few days, so watch for it.

This email also serves as the first announcement of two events that will take place at the annual meeting, and that need your participation: the Annual AAPA Auction and the Plenary Session.

AAPA Auction

The AAPA Auction will be held on Thursday evening from approximately 6:30pm - 10:00pm. The silent auction will begin while the Plenary Session is running nearby (assuming everything gets setup after the afternoon sessions). It will continue until ~8:30pm so those attending the Plenary have a chance to bid. The live auction will begin as soon as all the bids for the silent auction are processed, so ~9:00pm.

Please note that we always need auction items, including things like books or reprints for the silent auction. If you wish to hand-carry items to Minneapolis, or if you wish to send them to Mark Teaford, or to the Martha Tappen (one of the local arrangements chairs), please fill out a "donation form" and submit it with the item(s) to help us keep things organized. The form is downloadable from the "Local Arrangements Website" within the "Annual Meetings" portion of the AAPA website. If you wish to help with the setup or running of the auction, please contact Mark Teaford ( as we always need help in setting up the silent auction, and in processing payments from it as well.

AAPA Plenary Session

Calling all Biological Anthropology Musicians and Other Performers!!!

Are you a musician? Do you have other "talents"?

Our meeting site in Minneapolis prompted us to make enquiries about whether Garrison Keilor could attend our meetings. Because he had other commitments, we decided to follow his example by holding a Plenary Session on Thursday evening before the Auction. This "'Plenary' Home Companion" will feature our own members showing their [other] talents in music, performance and who knows what else.

If you would like to participate in this event, or if you know of another AAPA member you would like to SEE participate, please email Karen Rosenberg (

I look forward to welcoming all of you to the Annual Meeting in Minneapolis.


Dennis H. O’Rourke, President
American Association of Physical Anthropologists

Thursday, January 27, 2011

University of Chicago Seminar


Hey Chicago people, I will be giving a seminar next week to the University of Chicago Animal Behavior Group. If you're in the area and want to learn about litter size and life history in marmoset monkeys, please check it out!

Wednesday, February 16th at 12:00 pm
Room 122, Biopsychological Science Building
940 E. 57th Street

Bigger isn't always better: Effect of birth condition on reproductive outcomes in female marmoset monkeys

Life history theory predicts that early life conditions that reflect metabolic or environmental stress may accelerate life histories. Birth weight is traditionally the most common proxy measure of the quality of the intrauterine environment and it is linked to postnatal and adult outcomes in many species. However, birth weight alone does not reflect the entirety of these intrauterine processes. Litter size is another source of variation in the quality of the prenatal environment. In this talk, I report findings from a captive marmoset monkey colony suggesting that litter size at birth is an independent predictor of accelerated life history parameters as well as reduced fecundity. Triplets are born at significantly lower birth weights than twins and have higher perinatal mortality risks, but exhibit trends toward greater postnatal growth rates and higher early adult ages, especially among triplets born at the lowest weights. Further, although twins and triplets don’t differ in the total number of offspring they produce over their reproductive tenure, mothers who themselves were born into triplet litters produced over twice as many stillbirths as did twins. The mechanisms underlying this high proportion of stillbirths are unknown but could be related to developmental constraints on the viability of the ovarian follicle pool or size and function of the uterus, constraints that are separate from limits on overall somatic growth. These findings suggest that early life processes separate from birth weight have a significant impact on adult reproductive function with important implications for demographic composition and life history evolution.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

AAPA on Facebook

AAPA has a Facebook page. It doesn't seem to generate a ton of traffic but I will be linking to BANDIT posts and I hope we'll start to see more updates as the meeting approaches. If you're on Facebook, be sure to add AAPA to your friends.

2nd Annual BANDIT Happy Hour at AAPA 2011!

Come one, come all to the 2nd Annual BANDIT Early Career Happy Hour! Based on the success of last year's inaugural event and the growth of the BANDIT community, the powers that be in AAPA have agreed to provide us with space to hold another extravaganza at the upcoming meeting in Minneapolis! I am excited and proud that AAPA is celebrating how awesome y'all are.

Happy Hour:
Saturday, April 16
Rochester Room
(more details to follow)

The primary audience for the Happy Hour is a mixed bag: post-coursework PhD's, postdoctoral researchers, junior and adjunct faculty, etc. We hope to provide a venue for folks in the early stages of their professional anthropology careers to meet one another in a fun and relaxed setting. However, the doors are open to anyone interested in career development in biological anthropology. Beyond a few comments of welcome, there won't be a formal program - just a chance to enjoy the final night of the conference and maybe forge some new friendships and collaborations.

But it doesn't stop there! Indeed, Saturday is Early Career Day at AAPA 2011. Earlier in the afternoon Joel Irish and the rest of the Career Development Committee (me too - I just joined!) will be hosting what promises to be an awesome workshop entitled "How to Write a Successful Grant Proposal." This isn't just for students - more seasoned researchers will pick up some great tips. With Kaye Reed (NSF), Leslie Aiello (Wenner-Gren), and Paddy Moore (Leakey) on the panel, you can't go wrong.

Grant Workshop:
Saturday, April 16
noon-2pm (bring your lunch with you)
Directors Row 2

And capping off the evening is the Student Awards Reception, immediately following the BANDIT Happy Hour in the same room. This is a great opportunity to show your support for excellence in student research. As a member of that committee as well I can personally attest to the impressively high quality of the work our students are producing, and I am so pleased that the AAPA offers many opportunities for recognition of that excellence.

Student Awards Reception:
Saturday, April 16
Rochester Room

That's right, BANDITs; you are the filling in this tremendous sandwich of career development awesomeness. Isn't that satisfying?

ETA: My dear friend and brilliant colleague Dr. Robin Nelson, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at University of California at Riverside, will be the contact person at the meeting regarding the Happy Hour as I will be on maternity leave.

AAA Biological Anthropology Section website

The Biological Anthropology Section of the AAA has a website that is frequently updated, and a recent compilation of blogs focusing on biological anthropology content. The BAS is very interested in increasing its general reach as well as its impact within the AAA via digital media so if you have any suggestions for additions to this list, please let me know and I will pass it along.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Good NIH Study Section for Biological Anthropologists

When contemplating a grant submission to NIH, the process can seem so complex and the health focus so narrow that a biological anthropologist may decide this isn't the funding agency for her. However, the pots of money are vast compared to what we can get elsewhere, so it's worth learning more about you NIH options. One thing you should know is that when you submit a large grant (i.e. an R01) and sometimes the smaller grants (R03, R21, this varies so check), it goes first to the Center for Scientific Review. This is where its scientific merit is first evaluated, where you get your score, and where it is first decided whether your grant is fundable (i.e. if they don't discuss your grant at all, you're not getting a score, and thus, no money). If it gets a good enough score, then it could be sent to the particular center of your preference (e.g. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development) where it goes through some more review and, one hopes, approval for funding. But it has to go through CSR first.

CSR is broken into many many many topical study sections, and you can specify a preference for a particular section. But do your homework! Even a section that ostensibly seems like a good topical fit may be so very narrowly focused on physiology or genetic mechanisms, for example, that your broader, perhaps evolutionary, biosocial, or epidemiological approach won't make sense or be valuable to them. You can actually see who is on that particular section and do a lit search, which could give you an idea of the focus or even potential bias. A study section that might be of particular interest is the Social Science and Population Studies Section. A lot of people aren't aware this section even exists but it has the potential to be a wonderful fit for much biological anthropology and biocultural research, especially that involving population-level or large sample analysis:
The Social Sciences and Population Studies (SSPS) Study Section reviews applications related to population processes, composition and distribution, their antecedents and consequences, and their inter-relationships with biological, social, cultural, economic, geographic, institutional, behavioral, developmental and biomedical factors and processes. This includes modeling, data collection and other studies of morbidity, mortality and health, population movement and distribution, reproduction, population aging and composition, economic factors, labor force and retirement, household and family structure, intergenerational relations, institutional structure, the genetic profiles of population members related to these variables, and biodemography in the U.S. and other countries. Most studies involve large population samples. Specific areas covered by SSPS:

Morbidity, mortality and health over the life course, including health disparities, functioning and disability, studies of perinatal, infant, child, adult and elderly health.

Reproductive health and behavior, including studies of pregnancy outcomes; contraceptive use and sexual behavior; fertility and infertility, birth spacing and timing; birth intentions; and family structure.

Population movement; including migration of people within and across national boundaries.

Population composition and changes in composition, such as population aging, household and family structure, economic status and inequality, and health status, and family relationships.

Health and labor economics and policy, including intergenerational exchanges and bequests, employment, labor force and retirement; labor force transitions, income security of population segments such as children or elderly persons.
Population and the environment.

Patterns of risk behavior, including substance use, behavior problems, and obesity.

Um, does that sound perfect or what?!? Currently, the SSPS study section roster lists economists, sociologists, epidemiologists, demographers, an MD and a couple of MPH's, and yes, even a biological anthropologist. If you have any questions about this section as a potential landing for your NIH proposal, you should contact the SSPS Scientific Review Officer (SRO), Bob Weller.

The Meaning of Music in Anthropology News

In the aftermath of #aaafail, there is an opportunity to take a more intentional approach to understanding the ways in which our work as anthropologists interconnects with the broader anthropological community. To that end, I was really struck by a fascinating commentary on the Meaning of Music in this month's Anthropology News, the official newspaper of the AAA. Given my research interests, I was especially interested in Jerusha Achterberg and Anthony Pierce's essay on the Convergence of Music and Biological Anthropology Methodologies. These collaborators, one an biological anthropologist and epidemiologist and the other a musician, are interested in "using aural depictions as an alternative means of communicating data." Complex sound instead of bar charts? A fascinating premise, the pair realized that there were large intervening gulfs not only in their expertise, but more frustratingly, in the language they use to explain foundational concepts of their specific research areas. Their candid reflection on where their collaboration is most challenged is interesting and relevant to all of us engaged in cross-disciplinary work:
"Coming from two different backgrounds, we quickly realized the importance of establishing shared conversational space. Achieving that space has been - and remains - incredibly hard to find and maintain....The single greatest challenge is finding meaningful terminology that we can each recognize and utilize, while effectively communicating with our respective discipline."
This rings very true to me in light of recent collaborations with OB/GYN clinicians whose language, methodological focus, and philosophy of risk and disease are very different from mine as an evolutionarily-informed biological anthropologist.

Another piece in the series that piqued my interest is Mothers, Children, and Maternal-Child Health in Image and Song, by Jesse Samba Wheeler. Wheeler works in Malawi and has been participating in the production of a documentary, Delivering Malawi, "about health, community practices and international aid, with a focus on maternal-child health." During the filmmaking process, Wheeler recorded a wonderful song called Joyce na NyaMoyo, which is sung at mobile clinics. It is song about the need for prenatal care, and includes lines such as "We will never neglect antenatal again, because our friends have babies" and "Women and men, let us encourage each other to go for antenatal care."

Check out this issue of AN and see which essays resonate most strongly for you or introduce you to a new way of thinking.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pollitzer travel awards for AAPA - DEADLINE JANUARY 20th!!

If you are or know a biological anthropology student who plans on attending the Minneapolis meetings in April, please note that the deadline for the Pollitzer travel award ($500) is tomorrow, Thursday, January 20th. This is a great source of assistance for our future colleages so please spread the word!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Elevator Talk

I'm a faculty scholar in the Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health program at UIC and the big emphasis is on career development. I just got this email and wanted to share what I think is a fantastic idea with you:

"The January meeting will focus on scholars' "elevator talks". An elevator talk should highlight your research in a nutshell, is easy for people to understand, and is useful in networking/conference settings (like a pitch).

Each scholar should prepare two versions of their elevator talk: a 2-minute version (more like a cocktail party version) and a 30-second version (if on an elevator with the director of Office for Research on Women's Health, for example). Everyone will practice their talk in the meeting and we will critique them as a group."

Holy cow, what a great thing to have prepared and ready to pull out of your pocket on a moment's notice! As much as I love my research, I do sometimes find it hard to encapsulate it within a reasonable time span and vocabulary for social purposes. And there are those moments at a conference when you look up and realize your fellow passenger is an editor at that press you're hoping to submit your manuscript to, or the director of a funding agency, or someone whose work you admire and have wanted to approach about possibly collaborating. It would be great to have a quick and easy introduction on hand at a fortuitous moment like that. I'm looking forward to working on this and suggest that you find a fellow grad student, colleague, or senior faculty mentor to try it out too. (Hey, why don't we all work on these and try them out on each other at AAPA in a couple of months?)

The "elevator talk/speech/pitch" concept is new to me, but apparently a familiar one in the business world. But since the point of this talk is indeed a sales job, with you as the product, we could probably learn a thing or two from business principles. Here are couple of websites with helpful tips for crafting your elevator talk:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Expectations, meet reality.

A powerful essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education traces the evolution of the career expectations engendered by studying at an R1 institution, trained by faculty who themselves come from R1 and elite institutions, and the dangers of having no career development training in the meantime. Most doctoral students are exposed only to that research intensive setting and their primary models are faculty who have experienced only that research intensive setting.

"Virtually all graduate students receive their Ph.D.'s from a research university. They get their first classroom experience there, and their dissertations are mainly guided by professors whose research occupies a prominent place in their work lives. We should hardly be surprised that dissertation advisers become the first role models for graduate students....
But most academic jobs aren't at research universities, and those other jobs look jarringly different to graduate students than the positions held by their role models."

So the die is cast - that's the culturally appropriate career path. The reality is that there are far fewer of these R1 positions available then there are new PhDs to fill them. There are of course many other models of higher education careers. Many doctoral students envision a life as a teaching-focused professor at a liberal arts college, perhaps like the one they attended as an undergraduate. But we don't learn how to pursue that and other options (community colleges, private high schools, industry, NGOs, etc.) while we're still in graduate school, largely because our mentors are incapable or unwilling to teach us about them (how many advisors do you know have talked their students out of applying for certain jobs because "they could do better"? I've seen it done, and have seen students just accept this as "wisdom." It gives me a pretty big sad.) We start applying for jobs with a model in mind and create heirarchies of acceptable positions, and many of us are caught blinking when we're left with a list of crossed-off job applications and no job. I've been called out by blog readers before as being a pessimist for pointing out that it's tough to make the transition from lecturer to tenure-track, but that really is the general reality. Why are we not discussing this WHILE we're still in school, before we hit the market and find out how hard the market hits back?

"It amounts to this: Graduate school is professional school, but most Ph.D programs badly neglect graduate students' professional development. We spend years of their training ignoring that development, and then, only at the last moment when students are about to hit the job market, do we attend to their immediate professional needs. By neglecting their career goals, we allow their desires to coalesce from their immediate surroundings—the research university—and to harden over time. We teach graduate students to want the kinds of jobs that most of them won't ever get."

A potential solution is to develop professional development seminars as integrated requirements for a doctoral degree. They exist in some places:

"For example, the University of Michigan's "Introduction to Graduate Studies" requires that beginning graduate students in English and modern languages interview a senior professor in the department, thereby offering a look upward at a role model's career. But the course also requires an outward-looking "Alternative Careers Workshop."

Graduate students in a seminar offered by the geography department at the University of Minnesota are visited by a series of professors who discuss not only conferences, research, and publishing but also the choice of a career path, as well as gender and class issues that occur in some workplaces and family circumstances that affect students' progress to the degree and often past it."

These programs sound like a great idea and I would have jumped at the chance to take a seminar like this when I was a student just as new faculty I go to workshops on grant writing, teaching, tenure, and publishing tips whenever I can. However, I think graduate students need to empower themselves now, rather than wait for their departments or advisors to initiate this kind of change. You should research job prospects in your discipline, even if you are years from entering the market. Talk to senior students and postdocs and find out what they've experienced - how many jobs have they applied for? Do they know how many people applied for each job? Were they open to lots of different kinds of jobs or were only R1 slots "acceptable", and why? How and why did they rank positions in a certain way? You should interview your advisors to get their take on hiring trends over the years. If you have an active graduate association, you could organize a series of symposia with alums who have landed tenure-track and other teaching and administrative positions to find out how they did it. Contact local community colleges to find out if they have faculty in your research area and ask to visit them, or invite them to speak to the grad students in your department.*

As I've said on this blog and as I myself seem to learn over and over again, grad school does feel like it takes forever and the dissertation feels like the end-all, be-all, but you just might be at this academic thing the rest of your life. It is how you hope to earn your living. Preparing for a full career, not just doing research, is essential to your well-being.

*Full disclosure: I didn't do any of this, but I really wish I had. But now that I have a PhD and a job, I've earned the right to tell you to do as I say, not as I do. Hurray!

Monday, January 10, 2011

AAA Minority Dissertation Fellowship

The American Anthropological Association invites minority doctoral candidates in anthropology to apply for a dissertation writing fellowship of $10,000. The annual AAA Minority Dissertation Fellowship is intended to encourage members of ethnic minorities to complete doctoral degrees in anthropology, thereby increasing diversity in the discipline and/or promoting research on issues of concern among minority populations. Dissertation topics in all areas of the discipline are welcome.Doctoral students who require financial assistance to complete the write-up phase of the dissertation are urged to apply.

A nonrenewable dissertation fellowship of $10,000 will be provided annually to one anthropology graduate student.

Anthro bloggers send letter to the AAA Executive Board

Several anthropologists who maintain an active online presence and following via blogs, Twitter, and other social media have joined together to send a letter to the AAA Executive Board (EB) regarding our role in growing the conversation about the recent removal of "science" from the LRP as well as the subsequent controversy and debate. I include the full text of the letter below, as well as a link to a pdf complete with hyperlinks to all websites and Twitter profiles; feel free to distribute and post the document.

To: Virginia Dominguez
Cc: Leith Mullings, Deb Martin, Nan Rothschild, George Armelagos, Florence Babb, Laura Graham, Ana Aparicio, Alisse Waterston, Jason Miller, Hugh Gusterson, Susan Gillespie, Lee Baker, Jean Schensul, Vilma Santiago-Irizarry, Gabriela Vargas-Cetina, Ida Susser, Ed Liebow, Kate Clancy, Daniel Lende

January 10, 2010

Dear President Dominguez, President-Elect Mullings, and the AAA Executive Board,

We are a group of anthropologists who maintain an online presence, through social media tools like blogs, Twitter, and Facebook. The focus and tone of our presence varies, from outreach to research, from teaching to career development, from the personal to the political. However, we are united in our passion for our discipline. We join with those who have applauded the wording of the “What is Anthropology?” statement which clearly outlines the interdisciplinary nature of anthropology and its methods, both scientific and humanistic. This statement achieves the inclusivity that the removal of “science” from the Long Range Plan threw into question.

However, we also want to express our concern over AAA’s public characterization that it was only the mainstream media and other outside coverage that engaged in active discussions of the actions of the Executive Board (EB), or that this media coverage didn't in some ways reflect real tensions and reactions within the anthropological community. As a group, we played key roles in the online discussion regarding the AAA EB recent omission of the word “science” from the Long Range Plan (LRP), as well as subsequent responses by the EB. By parameterizing the public discussion as only taking place in the media and among "outsider" bloggers attempting to construct an “us versus them” binary, the impression is given that there has been no internal dissent or dialogue.

In reality, there has been a vibrant conversation taking place on our blogs, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on other forms of social media, expressing myriad views regarding not only the LRP wording, the actions of the EB, and the role of science in anthropology, but also deeper questions of anthropological identity. Indeed, it was through blogs and Twitter feeds like ours that the media and outside bloggers first realized the depth of concern and confusion the EB’s actions elicited within the anthropological community. This concern and critique were more complicated, and frankly more interesting, than the dichotomous rift promulgated by the New York Times and other outlets, but it was real and it was taking place among anthropologists. We know the EB is aware of the vibrant online community of anthropologists that has been deeply engaged in this issue. We hope the EB will publicly recognize how anthropologists online helped advance debate over the controversy, playing a central role in creating a publicly available discussion that engaged the Executive Board, anthropologists of different persuasions, and the larger media.

Online communities represent a powerful tool for dissecting tensions and misunderstandings as well as for constructing a broad forum for interdisciplinary collaboration and identity-building. We believe this controversy could have been largely mitigated by more effective discussion of the Long Range Plan in public forums online, and more timely release of all documents related to the controversy. With respect to the association’s long-term planning, we also believe the EB will be well-served by developing a more explicit and robust approach to anthropology online, including issues around open-access scholarship, public dissemination of ideas, teaching, interdisciplinary collaboration, and connection with and support for anthropologists who work online. Our own experience during this controversy shows the potential and importance of online engagement. Many of us were operating in isolation before the news of the changes to the LRP allowed us to find each other, to coordinate postings and conversations both on- and off-line. We have been grateful for the online anthropology community that has come together because of our opinions on the AAA LRP. Some have described this conversation as a renaissance for the discipline, and others have committed to learning more about each other’s subfields because of the tension that we finally had to acknowledge, all because of the AAA’s removal of the word “science.” We encourage the EB to consider how to support anthropologists working online, and to encourage further online collaboration and dissemination among AAA members. This will strengthen the discipline, and also permit more timely discussion and engagement among AAA members as the AAA acts on its Long Range Plan.

We view our online role as anthropologists as contributing a valuable service to the discipline we love. We are hopeful that this episode in our shared history will prove to catalyze important and inclusive dialogue regarding who we are as anthropologists as well as the channels we use to communicate with one another. We encourage the EB and the AAA membership as a whole to participate in this online community, to hear and join with the voices that are coming from within our discipline. This is an opportunity to move past marginalization and work together toward rebuilding a truly interdisciplinary anthropology based on mutual respect.


Julienne Rutherford, Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago
Blog, Twitter @JNRutherford
Kate Clancy, Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Blog, Twitter @KateClancy
Daniel Lende, Associate Professor, University of South Florida
Blog, Twitter @daniel_lende
Ryan Anderson, PhD candidate, University of Kentucky
Krystal D’Costa, Digital Analyst, New York City
Blog, Twitter @anthinpractice
Francis Deblauwe, Program Developer, Alexandria Archive Institute
Carlina de la Cova, Assistant Professor, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Twitter @Bonesholmes
Eric Michael Johnson, PhD candidate, University of British Columbia
Blog, Twitter @ericmjohnson
James Holland Jones, Associate Professor, Stanford University
Blog, Twitter @juemos
Rosemary A. Joyce, Professor, University of California, Berkeley
Blog, Twitter @rajoyceUCB
Eric Kansa, Project Lead, Open Context
Erin Koch, Assistant Professor, University of Kentucky
Kristi Lewton, Lecturer, Harvard University
Twitter @kristilewton
Carl Lipo, Associate Professor, California State University, Long Beach
Megan McCullen, Visiting Instructor, Alma College
Blog, Twitter@GLEthnohistory
Carole McGranahan, Associate Professor, University of Colorado
Twitter @CMcGranahan
Colleen Morgan, PhD candidate, University of California, Berkeley
Eugene Raikhel, Assistant Professor, Unversity of Chicago
Douglas Reeser, PhD candidate, University of South Florida
Michael E. Smith, Professor, Arizona State University
Matt Tuttle, Journalist, Norfolk Anthropology Examiner
Twitter @Anthroprobably
Kyle W. West, Research Coordinator, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
Blog, Twitter @kyle_west

Jeremy DeSilva is awesome - even NPR thinks so!

Dr. Jeremy Silva of Boston University was interviewed on today's Morning Edition to talk about his recent PNAS paper. Robert Martin of the Field Museum and C. Owen Lovejoy of Kent State University are also interviewed.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

ASP 2011 abstract deadline announced

The American Society of Primatologists holds its annual meeting this year in AUSTIN, TEXAS (woo-hoo!), September 16-19, 2011. Some adjustments to perviously outlined deadlines are outlined below:


The Program Committee of the American Society of Primatologists would like to extend the deadline to Friday, January 28, 2011 for proposals for symposia and workshops. Although the final deadline for symposia, workshop, and paper abstracts is March 12, 2011, we encourage early submission of ideas to ensure a strong meeting. Proposals can be sent to the Program Committee Chair, Sue Howell (

Additionally the Program Committee invites interested parties to submit proposals for the 2011 ASP Interdisciplinary Symposium.

The Interdisciplinary symposium was created to foster the levels of crosstalk among the different disciplines that make up Primatology. You are invited to submit your ideas for a symposium that is truly interdisciplinary. The program committee will encourage all submitted ideas to be presented as symposia at ASP 2011 in Austin, Texas, September 16 – 19th 2011. However one idea will be chosen to be showcased in a meeting-wide symposium, meaning there will be no competing sessions during your symposium. Additionally, the interdisciplinary symposium will be presented in conjunction with one of the featured plenary speakers for ASP 2010.

To be considered:
Submit a short summary of your proposal that highlights how it is interdisciplinary.
Submit a list of proposed speakers for the symposia, including second choices, if appropriate.
Propose both a first and second choice for the featured speaker you would like to see invited by ASP to participate in association with the symposium.
Send all your materials to ASP Program Co-Chair, Brian Kelly ( no later than February 1, 2011.
All ideas will be encouraged for development as regular symposia. Final abstracts for regular symposia, workshops and other special sessions will continue to be accepted until March 12, 2011.

We look forward to your ideas.


The Program Committee

Biological Anthropology Section student paper prize winners!

Many congratulations to BAS student prize winner Allison Foley of Indiana University. Her paper DISABILITY AND DISEASE IN THE ANCIENT MIDWEST: A PALEOPATHOLOGICAL ANALYSIS OF THE MORTON SITE, IL took top BAS honors at the 2010 AAA meetings!
Foley, M.Sc. in Archaeology (University of Edinburgh, 2004), is a Future Faculty Teaching Fellow with an appointment as a Visiting Lecturer at Indiana University South Bend in Anthropology. She is enrolled in the Ph.D. Program in Biological Anthropology at Indiana University (Bloomington). The title of her dissertation is “Trauma in the Central Illinois River Valley: A Paleopathological Analysis of the Morton Site.”

Congratulations also to the Honorable Mentions (listed alphabetically):
Allison Cantor, University of South Florida (poster)

Carolyn Jost Robinson, Purdue University (paper, w/Melissa Remis)

Mary Elisabeth Timm, University of Nevada Las Vegas (paper, w/Debra Martin and Jamie Vilos)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tracy Prowse is awesome!

Dr. Tracy Prowse, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at McMaster University and co-editor Dr. Tina Moffat, Associate Professor in the same department, have just published an edited volume: Human Diet and Nutrition in Biocultural Perspective. Looks like a great collection.

Check it:
Chapter 1. Introduction: A Biocultural Approach to Human Diet and Nutrition
T. Moffat and T. Prowse


Chapter 2. Nutritional and Metabolic Influences on Human Brain Evolution
W. R. Leonard, M. L. Robertson and J. J. Snodgrass

Chapter 3. Child Growth among Southern African Foragers in the Past
S. Pfeiffer and L. Harrington

Chapter 4. Infant and Young Child Feeding in Human Evolution
D. W. Sellen


Chapter 5. The Use of Stable Isotope Analysis to Determine Infant and Young Child Feeding Patterns
T. L. Dupras

Chapter 6. A Community in Transition: Deconstructing Breastfeeding Trends in Gibraltar, 1955-96
L. A. Sawchuk, E. K. Bryce and S. D. A. Burke


Chapter 7. Dietary Diversity, Dietary Transitions and Childhood Nutrition in Nepal: Questions of Methodology and Practice
T. Moffat and E. Finnis

Chapter 8. Responses to a Food Crisis and Child Malnutrition in the Nigerien Sahel
R. E. Casiday, K. R. Hampshire, C. Panter-Brick and K. Kilpatrick


Chapter 9. Growth, Morbidity, and Mortality in Antiquity: A Case Study from Imperial Rome
T. Prowse, S. Saunders, C. Fitzgerald, L. Bondioli and R. Macchiarelli

Chapter 10. Examining Nutritional Aspects of Bone Loss and Fragility across the Life Cycle in Bioarchaeology
S. C. Agarwal and B. Glencross

Chapter 11. Obesity - An Emerging Epidemic: Temporal trends in North America
P. T. Katzmarzyk


Chapter 12. Diet and Nutrition in Biocultural Perspective: Back to the Future
T. Prowse and T. Moffat

Katie Hinde and Erin Sullivan are both awesome!

A recent Nature Outlook commentary summarized some cutting edge research in milk composition and lactational programming. Though not mentioned by name, the work of Drs. Katie Hinde and Erin Sullivan is highlighted:
"In rhesus macaques, sons drink milk with a higher concentration of cortisol, a hormone that modulates metabolism, even though their mothers have no more cortisol circulating in their blood than when nursing a daughter. It is unclear whether this cortisol-related sex difference has a function. But there are clues: young male macaques that consume milk containing high levels of the hormone develop bold behaviour, whereas cortisol in milk appears to have no influence on female macaque infants. Whether this has a parallel in humans is yet to be determined."

Dr. Hinde also recently published a paper (early view at Journal of Medical Primatology) with Dr. Lin Tao, a colleague of mine at the College of Dentistry at the University of Illinois at Chicago: Species diversity and relative abundance of lactic acid bacteria in the milk of rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta)

Jeremy DeSilva is awesome!

Dr. Jeremy DeSilva, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Boston University, has published a paper in PNAS arguing that patterns of modern human parenting extend back to the australopithecines. He bases the argument on the estimated ratio of neonatal to maternal weight, a good proxy of energetic investment. Very exciting work!

It has long been argued that modern human mothers give birth to proportionately larger babies than apes do. Data presented here from human and chimpanzee infant:mother dyads confirm this assertion: humans give birth to infants approximately 6% of their body mass, compared with approximately 3% for chimpanzees, even though the female body weights of the two species are moderately convergent. Carrying a relatively large infant both pre- and postnatally has important ramifications for birthing strategies, social systems, energetics, and locomotion. However, it is not clear when the shift to birthing large infants occurred over the course of human evolution. Here, known and often conserved relationships between adult brain mass, neonatal brain mass, and neonatal body mass in anthropoids are used to estimate birthweights of extinct hominid taxa. These estimates are resampled with direct measurements of fossil postcrania from female hominids, and also compared with estimates of female body mass to assess when human-like infant:mother mass ratios (IMMRs) evolved. The results of this study suggest that 4.4-Myr-old Ardipithecus possessed IMMRs similar to those found in African apes, indicating that a low IMMR is the primitive condition in hominids. Australopithecus females, in contrast, had significantly heavier infants compared with dimensions of the femoral head (n = 7) and ankle (n = 7) than what is found in chimpanzees, and are estimated to have birthed neonates more than 5% of their body mass. Carrying such proportionately large infants may have limited arboreality in Australopithecus females and may have selected for alloparenting behavior earlier in human evolution than previously thought.

Twitter hashtag #anthrobandit

If you're following me on Twitter (@JNRutherford) I'm starting a new hashtag for BANDIT posts. Look for updates at #anthrobandit!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Got a job interview? Don't screw it up!

Claire Potter over at Inside Higher Ed has some great tips to be sure you don't blow your job interview. It's written with historians and conference interviews in mind, but is widely applicable. For instance, it behooves you to know what your dissertation is about and be able to speak eloquently, confidently, and concisely about it. A no-brainer, right? Surprisingly, this actually takes some thought and practice PRIOR to your interview to get right.

Revisiting a controversy of debated etiology

It may be a new year, but the fascination with the #AAAfail story marches onward. Regarding the change of wording to the LRP, I had two central concerns: 1) the wording itself (and the constituency involved in making it and their rationale for doing so) and 2) the response by the AAA EB to criticism and concern from within its own anthropological community. Though related, these are separate entities in many ways. I think the What is Anthropology? statement is a wonderful antidote to the unfortunate damage done by the LRP changes, but I have also been concerned by the lack of public acknowledgment by AAA that debate took place “in house”, not only in the pages of the NY Times, as well as minimal disclosure of the process that preceeded these changes.

Recent blog posts by fellow anthropologists have raised more interesting questions about the nature of the reaction within the anthropological community. For example, I found it particularly interesting that UC Berkeley archaeologist Rosemary Joyce refers to the situation as a "manufactured controversy" based on Wade's reporting. As Dr. Joyce reminds us, Wade did indeed draw really unfortunate and inaccurate battle lines (e.g. anthropologists who study things like gender and race versus those who are scientists). Few anthropologists (any?) subscribed to this sensationalized version of events, and the AAA EB was right to smack Wade down on this front. However, as many of you know and have personally experienced, there has been genuine, non-manufactured controversy within our discipline. There have been active disagreements among anthropologists about how much value to ascribe to the wording itself and how to interpret the EB's actions that preceded and followed. Some of us have argued that it’s no big deal and have accepted the wording and EB response as appropriate and inclusive while others have engaged in serious critique of both. I have not performed statistics on this, but it is my (perhaps self-serving) impression that the latter view is largely held by biological anthropologists and some archaeologists.

Does this necessarily signify the huge dichotomous rift portrayed by the NY Times, or that I advocate an “us vs. them” binary, a resurrection of the “science wars”? No, what’s going on is far more nuanced than that. But to deny that the media coverage did indeed capture some element of internal tensions doesn’t seem to me to be a productive means of moving forward. If you experience something and I tell you that *I* didn’t experience it that way so your experience is not of relevance to me, it’s difficult to work together toward a collaborative solution of better understanding. And to dismiss this issue as merely a rehashing of science wars by a hopelessly entrenched faction also fails to provide a pathway to greater inclusivity and a restoration of the holism American anthropology has always aspired to (and been frustrated by). I think it is unwise to disguise or minimize real disagreement and critique in the interest of debunking Wade's unfortunate coverage. It is very real that the AAA as an organization and conference have long been viewed as irrelevant to many of the very people it ostensibly wants to contain under its umbrella, and the "science" situation (not the one portrayed in the media, but the one that really happened) only served to further that impression. That's a problem for all of us, even those who found the whole thing rather yawn-inducing.

I’ve gained really interesting perspective from my colleagues who have viewed this situation very differently than I do, and in many ways I have tempered some of my original positions as a result. Greg Downey at Neuroanthroplogy recently made some excellent arguments against allowing ideological positioning to poison our common goals as researchers and teachers:
I sound like my mother, pleading with everyone for greater civility and politeness (‘Why can’t you STOP YELLING!?’ I yell.). But I think we’re getting played when we fall for the crowding cheering us on to ‘Fight! Fight!’ Do we really want to demolish our home discipline, one that offers us unique opportunities that we would not get were we to find other homes? Do we really look around and, aside from the truly pathological departments, and think we’d be better off in some other discipline? And even if you do want to move on to a difference discipline, can’t you leave anthropology here for those of us who love the joint?

I agree with Greg that allowing ourselves to be goaded into a fight is counterproductive. And I’ll admit that I’ve contributed my share of arm-waving and sarcasm in ways that perhaps some colleagues and commentators have found glib or unprofessional. Without apology, I am passionate about this discipline and what I do. As I posted earlier, my position in a non-anthropology department has engendered a surprising-to-me drive to engage in anthropology on a scale I had not considered before. I continue to advocate for greater communication across the span of anthropological endeavors while also pointing out where obstacles to this noble goal still exist.

I know (and frankly am envious) that many anthropologists have the good fortune of having been trained in or currently work in really cohesive collaborative programs in which all the fields equally respect one another (even when the numbers are skewed). I know there are programs in which all anthropology grad students are required to take a holistic course of study. That is commendable and may well be something to which the discipline as a whole should aspire, but the reality remains that many of us don't have that experience and that does have unfortunate and real consequences. As I posted earlier here ("it is like confessing a murder"), “my training in cultural anthropology at both the undergraduate and graduate levels is inadequate. That lack of training fostered a lack of interest, and a sense of distance and illiteracy (reading the titles of papers and symposia in the AAA program only heighten my sense of speaking a different language). I don't know what's going on in cultural anthropology today; I mostly just feel like it's water I'd rather not tread. I'm not taking pride in that assertion, I'm just sayin'. And I doubt I'm alone. I honestly don't know what it means to be an integrated anthropologist, but I'm trying to learn.”

The point I’m trying to make is that while I wholeheartedly agree that there is much to be lost by turning this into an internal fight, we need to embrace the reality that many of us did/do indeed feel threatened or at least dismissed by not only the wording but also the subsequent fallout if we want to better understand the state of contemporary American anthropology and shape its future.

Back in the saddle!

Howdy and Happy New Year! What a year 2010 was, both personally and professionally, probably for you too. I continue to be grateful to my readers for staying tuned to the BANDIT blog, doing fantastic research, and engaging in important discussions about who we are as anthropologists and how we can shape the future of our discipline.

Please send my your updates - especially your publications, grants, and fieldwork. Remember my mantra: self-promotion isn't a crime! To that end, I'm happy to say that a paper I recently co-authored with Dr. Betsy Abrams, also at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has been accepted for publication and will appear in an American Anthropologist near you sometime later this year. We have another paper and book chapter in review and all available fingers are crossed. There's also a very exciting project in the works with two brilliant colleagues - hope to be able to say more soon. 2011 will bring some new developments to the blog, including some guest posts by fellow BANDITs, as well as more coverage on work-life balance issues, as yours truly will soon join the ranks of academic parents. In all respects, it's an exciting time to look forward. Let's get after it, people!