Thursday, September 30, 2010

Texas Association of Biological Anthropologists (TABA) annual conference

From Katie Binetti, President of the Texas Association of Biological Anthropologists:
"TABA is fledgling organization that exists to promote scholarship and fellowship amongst the Biological Anthropology community in Texas. Our main activity is a yearly meeting where faculty and student research is presented. We are also working on an official organization website that would serve to promote public awareness of the Biological Anthropology research currently being conducted at and through Texas academic institutions."

TABA's website is not yet operational, so BANDIT is delighted to help them out by posting information about the upcoming conference.
Where: Baylor University, Waco, Texas
When: November 5-6, 2010
Schedule: Plenary on Friday with Dr. Kaye Reed, Program Director for Physical Anthropology at the National Science Foundation, and Associate Professor and Research Scientist with the Institute of Human Origins and the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University. Presentations on Saturday.
Meeting format: AAPA
Registration deadline: October 15, 2010
Registration cost: $20 for faculty, $5 for students

More details here.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Whodunit? Navigating authorship

I'm in the midst of prepping and mapping out several publications that arise from various collaborative projects and I'm trying to figure out authorship order. Ugh. In several cases, I'm doing the bulk (and in some cases, all) of the study design, data analysis, stats, and writing so I'm obviously the first author, right? Weeelll....not so fast. While I'm still building a record of first-authored papers, my mentors are alerting me to the need for some last-authored papers prior to tenure, to demonstrate my position as an independent researcher. Then what do I do with all the various collaborators, students, former mentors, current benefactors, etc. in the middle? Yikes. And it's difficult to see the distinction when the "person who did the bulk of the work" (traditionally first author slot) and "senior person" (traditionally last author slot) are one and the same.

I'm learning that a lot of this is discipline specific and what is conventional in anthropology may be quite a bit different from the norm in the biomedical or health sciences, where several of us publish (and where I make my current institutional home). Adding to the confusion, your local promotion and tenure committee may have an idea about what authorship order signifies that differs from what you and your discipline think. What I'm hearing from my mentors is that disciplinary conventions are fine to follow, but that I should be prepared to defend those decisions, both in my own voice and also in the letters from outside tenure referrees. I think a good start is to write up a "who did what" document for each publication - some journals *require* such a statement - and tuck it away in your tenure file, so you can easily refer to this when the time comes. Best practice is to have a conversation with collaborators at the project's inception regarding authorship rather than wait until you're about to submit and find out there's a dispute.

Maybe this link will help us figure it out. While it is specifically geared toward Nature journals, the advice and the associated links are generic enough to be broadly applicable. See also this, this, and this for additional guidelines.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Academic Voyeurism (or: The doctoral program rankings are released)

The doctoral program rankings are out. Check it out. Hours of fun and consternation await!

Picking your battles on the tenure track

Great essay in the Chronicle of Higher Ed on what probationary (i.e. pre-tenure) faculty should know about stepping into the political fray within their departments. Always be aware that no matter how "justified" you view your instances of speaking up for just causes, if you speak up too often and too forcefully early in your career, you could be labeled a troublemaker and this could spell trouble come tenure time.

This same topic is discussed at great length throughout the CHE forums under the more colorful and descriptive umbrella of STFU: Shut the F&*% Up. See here, here, and here for examples of this principle in action.

New Doctoral Program Rankings To Be Released Today

A sequal to the 1982 and 1995 rankings, the new National Research Council rankings of doctoral programs takes into account "faculty publications, grants, citations, graduate students' time to degree, GRE scores, and reputation of programs." The Chronicle of Higher Education launches an interactive site today in conjunction with the study, so stay tuned....

Monday, September 27, 2010

MPIG 2010 has gone, but it won't be forgotten...

Wow, what a fantastic weekend! The Distinguished Primatologist award to Russ Tuttle and the reception that followed at the the Field Museum was a wonderful way to start. Many thanks to Robert Martin for a truly elegant evening. On Saturday at UIC, we started with coffee and bagels (REAL bagels from New York Bagel and Bialy up in Skokie - to die for), then launched into one of MPIG's finest scientific programs yet: a full slate of 16 podium presentations, followed by an afternoon poster session - 34 posters in all. During the poster session the E. Lloyd DuBrul Comparative Skeletal Archives was open to attendees - an amazing collection of mostly craniofacial and dental specimens, prepared by one of the bioanthropological forefathers of comparative dentition, Dr. E. Lloyd DuBrul, who was on faculty in the UIC College of Dentistry for several decades. We wrapped up all the hard work with a great party at my place on Saturday night - thanks to all who came to celebrate the close of another successful MPIG. Can't wait 'til next year!

Photos of the event will be posted soon at so stay tuned...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

MPIG is here!!!

I am so excited - MPIG comes to Chicago this weekend! We kick it off at the Field Museum tomorrow night to honor Russell Tuttle, MPIG's Distinguished Primatologist for 2010, then take it to UIC on Saturday for a full day of some fantastic science. Lots of students, both undergrad and grad, will be there presenting their work - very excited for them. Will post a recap after the weekend.

Check out for details and to download a copy of the program.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Michaela Howells is awesome!

Michaela Howells, MA '05 Iowa State, currently a PhD candidate at the University of Colorado, is first author on a paper in early view in the American Journal of Primatology.

Patterns of gastro-intestinal parasites and commensals as an index of population and ecosystem health: the case of sympatric western chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) and guinea baboons (Papio hamadryas papio) at Fongoli, Senegal
Michaela E. Howells, Jill Pruetz, Thomas R. Gillespie

The exponential decline of great apes over the past 50 years has resulted in an urgent need for data to inform population viability assessment and conservation strategies. Health monitoring of remaining ape populations is an important component of this process. In support of this effort, we examined endoparasitic and commensal prevalence and richness as proxies of population health for western chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) and sympatric guinea baboons (Papio hamadryas papio) at Fongoli, Senegal, a site dominated by woodland-savanna at the northwestern extent of chimpanzees' geographic range. The small population size and extreme environmental pressures experienced by Fongoli chimpanzees make them particularly sensitive to the potential impact of pathogens. One hundred thirty-two chimpanzee and seventeen baboon fecal samples were processed using sodium nitrate floatation and fecal sedimentation to isolate helminth eggs, larvae, and protozoal cysts. Six nematodes (Physaloptera sp., Ascaris sp., Stronglyloides fuelleborni, Trichuris sp., an unidentified hookworm, and an unidentified larvated nematode), one cestode (Bertiella sp.), and five protozoans (Iodamoeba buetschlii, Entamoeba coli, Troglodytella abrassarti, Troglocorys cava, and an unidentified ciliate) were detected in chimpanzee fecal samples. Four nematodes (Necator sp., S. fuelleborni, Trichuris sp., and an unidentified hookworm sp.), two trematodes (Shistosoma mansoni and an unidentified fluke), and six protozoans (Entamoeba histolytica/dispar, E. coli, Chilomastix mesnili, Balantidium coli, T. abrassarti, and T. cava) were detected in baboon fecal samples. The low prevalence of pathogenic parasite species and high prevalence of symbiotic protozoa in Fongoli chimpanzees are indicative of good overall population health. However, the high prevalence of pathogenic parasites in baboons, who may serve as transport hosts, highlight the need for ongoing pathogen surveillance of the Fongoli chimpanzee population and point to the need for further research into the epidemiology and cross-species transmission ecology of zoonotic pathogens at this site.

New owl monkey conservation grant program from ASP

Fantastic announcement from the American Society of Primatologists:

"The ASP Conservation Committee is pleased to announce a new grants competition, the Brumback Aotus Conservation Grant, to support conservation-related research on owl monkeys (Aotus). This opportunity has generously been made possible by Dr. Roger Brumback, currently Professor of Pathology and Psychiatry at Creighton University School of Medicine, whose research in the 1970s contributed greatly to our knowledge of Aotus cytogenetics. In fact, in recognition of his important work, a species of Aotus was named after him: Aotus brumbacki. [For more information, see the ASP June 2000 Bulletin.]

ASP intends to make up to three awards of $3000 - $5000 each. Please note that grant funds cannot be used to reimburse expenses already incurred. The application deadline is December 1st, 2010. Decisions will be announced on Jan 31st, 2011.
To apply, please visit to download an application form. Applications must be emailed in pdf format to ASP Conservation Chair, Dr. Erin Riley ( Contact Dr. Riley with any questions."

Friday, September 17, 2010

How to write less badly

I like the premise of this article: as researchers we're not expected to be great writers, just not terrible writers. Aim high, people!

From the article: "Fortunately, the standards of writing in most disciplines are so low that you don't need to write well. What I have tried to produce below are 10 tips on scholarly nonfiction writing that might help people write less badly."

A couple of my favorites:
"5. Everyone's unwritten work is brilliant. And the more unwritten it is, the more brilliant it is. We have all met those glib, intimidating graduate students or faculty members. They are at their most dangerous holding a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other, in some bar or at an office party. They have all the answers. They can tell you just what they will write about, and how great it will be. Years pass, and they still have the same pat, 200-word answer to "What are you working on?" It never changes, because they are not actually working on anything, except that one little act."

"7. Write, then squeeze the other things in. Put your writing ahead of your other work. I happen to be a "morning person," so I write early in the day. Then I spend the rest of my day teaching, having meetings, or doing paperwork. You may be a "night person" or something in between. Just make sure you get in the habit of reserving your most productive time for writing. Don't do it as an afterthought or tell yourself you will write when you get a big block of time. Squeeze the other things in; the writing comes first."

Now, all I have to do is follow some of this advice....

Keeping track of the job search

Great post in today's Chronicle of Higher Ed, listing some means of keeping on top of the 2011-2012 job postings: rss feeds, Twitter, listservs, etc. Also some great tips in the comments sections on keeping track of your personal job search - deadlines, letters sent, using Interfolio - all kinds of goodies to help you this job season.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

MPIG program is available!

Sweet biscuits, the MPIG 2010 program is now online at! Lots of BANDITs will be presenting and hobnobbing. It will be epic.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Updates to the job wiki

Hey folks, hope you've been keeping track of the emerging bioanthro job market .

Here are some links to biology posting.

Anatomy folks ought to be looking here for job openings.

Good luck everyone!

Separating the wheat from the chaff

A question from a BANDIT member: "I am holding my first seminar for undergrads and one of the things I want to teach them is how to read a scientific paper and also how to detect BS. I found too many resources on the web...going through them to assess their quality will take a very long while...Would you be so kind as to ask your blog followers to recommend good guides?"

What say you, fellow BANDITS? What resources can you recommend? I think this is an excellent idea for an undergraduate seminar topic so I'm also curious to see your suggestions.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

MPIG 2010 is nearly upon us...

The Midwest Primate Interest Group 7th annual meeting takes place in Chicago, September 24-25, at the Field Museum and the University of Illinois at Chicago. We have 49 (!!!) presentations scheduled, including 16 podium talks, a symposium of 10 posters on Great Ape Research at the Lincoln Park Zoo, and 23 additional posters! It's an amazing lineup of research, not to mention the opening night events at the Field Museum: private guided tours of Evolving Planet and Ancient Americas, and the presentation of the 2010 Distinguished Primatologist award to Russell Tuttle.

Registration is accepted at the door, so it's not too late to make plans to attend! Keep an eye on for the detailed program which is going to be posted in the next couple of days.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Cortisol concentrations in milk predict temperament in offspring!

There is some tremendously exciting work being done lately on programming elements of milk: early life influences on milk composition, effects of milk composition on development, etc. Here's yet another fascinating study, co-authored by BANDIT members Erin Sullivan and Katie Hinde along with Sally Mendoza and John Capitanio, all of the University of California at Davis: Cortisol concentrations in the milk of rhesus monkey mothers are associated with confident temperament in sons, but not daughters

One pathway by which infant mammals gain information about their environment is through ingestion of milk. We assessed the relationship between stress-induced cortisol concentrations in milk, maternal and offspring plasma, and offspring temperament in rhesus monkeys. Milk was collected from mothers after a brief separation from their infants at 3–4 months postpartum, and blood was drawn at this time for both mothers and infants. Offspring temperament was measured at the end of a 25-hr assessment. Cortisol concentrations in milk were in a range comparable to those found in saliva, and were positively correlated with maternal plasma levels. Mothers of males had higher cortisol concentrations in milk than did mothers of females, and cortisol concentrations in maternal milk were related to a Confident temperament factor in sons, but not daughters. This study provides the first evidence that naturally occurring variation in endogenous glucocorticoid concentrations in milk are associated with infant temperament.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Teaching Philosophy

Job searchers, you have one of these, right? While all of your job letters should outline your basic thoughts on teaching and your interest in specific courses, inevitably at least one of the schools you apply to will require a separate statement of teaching philosophy. Since most of us have not been educated as educators, formalizing a philosophy is a real challenge, and it is tempting to ignore this aspect of your application until the last minute. Don't! Particularly because the schools that want a statement are most likely schools that value teaching. A lackluster teaching statement could quash your application.

What to do? In 4 Steps to a Memorable Teaching Philosophy, James Lang attempts to inject the sad teaching statement with a little zing and personality. The problem with these documents is that they are usually so generic:
"The same basic ideas and buzzwords appear in just about every teaching statement I have ever read. Everybody cares about the students, wants to challenge them, runs a student-centered classroom, relies on a mixture of lecture and discussion or other techniques, puts students first, is available to students outside the classroom, loves teaching, has learned a lot from students, integrates research and teaching, and so on and so on."

In my own statement, I share personal stories: my mother was my English teacher in a rural town outside Cleveland, and she was masterful at injecting the study of Shakespeare with enough soap opera drama to keep small-town kids engrossed; my 6th grade biology teacher Mr. Thompson was a genius who acted like a clown in class, and he kept sneaking me worms during dissection because he saw how interested I was in the inner workings. Teachers who inspired me to inspire my own students by paying attention. Get personal about your classroom experiences, as a student and a teacher.

From student/postdoc to professor

Many of us are in our first year as "the professor" - it can be a rude awakening. The career advice gurus of the Chronicle of Higher Education have spoken with several professors to get their take on how to navigate that first year. Here is the piece of advice that resonates most strongly for me:
"Joining a department means getting to know a lot of new people and how they get along (or not). The junior faculty member who chose to remain anonymous received some good advice on that: "The chair of my grad program told me that the best idea was to conduct an ethnography the moment you get into a department. You have to know who the players are and what the issues are. ... At the end of the day, oftentimes the decisions in committee meetings are not personal—they are historically based, and so you have to learn not to take them personally." That advice helped him keep a sense of perspective during faculty meetings."

Learning the local culture, history, politics isn't always easy because the system you're entering may be pretty closed, but keeping in mind that historical, non-personal perspective will really help preserve your sanity and override the paranoia that comes with the territory.

I would add that you need to remind yourself that YOU BELONG THERE. Remember how grueling the job search was - you're there because the department thought you were the best fit and they are excited to have you. You will absolutely feel that you're in over your head, and there will be times when you're not quite sure what you should be doing throughout the day, but you do belong there. And in time, you'll actually believe it!
Best of luck to all our first-year BANDIT profs!

Erratum in American Anthropologist

As part of the annual year-in-review issue of American Anthropologist, I offered my take on developments and themes in biological anthropology in 2009. I started the piece by recognizing 2009 as Darwin Year - the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species. I described the intellectual richness of our discipline as a "tangled bank of ideas," an allusion to Darwin's phrase from the closing paragraphs of Origin:
"It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us."

You can bet I was pretty pleased with that little bit of wordplay, but less so when the phrase came out in print as the "tangled BARK." Oh. NO. So I want to enthusiastically thank the very good people at American Anthropologist for issuing an erratum in the September issue, correcting the wording to read:
"Whereas the disciplinary divides may seem more obvious between the primary branches off the mother trunk, a tangled bank of ideas and the seemingly limitless intellectual radiations of the human brain have yielded nearly as many specialties as there are people to specialize in them."

All is right with the world.

Ethics of Field Primatology: reflections, concerns, new directions

I recently wrote about a stand-out symposium at the 2009 American Society of Primatologists meeting; Katie MacKinnon of St. Louis University and Erin Phelps Riley of San Diego State University organized a session to explore current issues in the ethics of conducting field primatology. Fortunately for those who were not there, they also just produced an edited issue of the American Journal of Primatology that rounds up some wonderful insights on this complex subject. I especially like Karen Strier's sometimes sober reflection on the unintended consequences of long-term field sites. Kudos to Erin and Katie for giving voice to this issue! (p.s. Congrats to newly-tenured Dr. Erin Riley!)

Starvation? Probably. Cannibalism? Eh, not so much.

As mentioned in an earlier post, Gwen Robbins Schug of Appalachian State led a study of hearth remains at a Donner Party camp and found no evidence of cannibalism, although the rendering of fat from animal bone fragments is consistent with starvation. The paper - Men, women, and children are starving: the archaeology of the Donner Family Camp - has been published in the July issue of American Antiquity