On early human migration, geography and culture

By Kathleen Holder

Our species, Homo sapiens, left Africa earlier than previously thought and our diverse cultures have been heavily influenced by geography, according to a recent review by Alexander (Sandy) Harcourt, professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of California, Davis.

The paper grew out of a keynote address to a National Academy of Sciences colloquium in Irvine earlier this year on comparative phylogeography, the study of the geographic distribution of species (Watch a video of Harcourt’s lecture below).

Often decried, polygyny may have some advantages

Is being a “sister wife” always a bad thing?

By Kathleen Holder

Much of the world frowns on the practice of polygamy. Most countries around the globe ban or restrict marriages to more than one spouse at a time. And polygyny—where one husband has more than one wife—is decried by the United Nations Human Rights Committee and women’s rights organizations as discriminatory to women.

But a new study of polygyny in Tanzania finds that the practice of sharing a husband may, in some circumstances, lead to greater health and wealth for women and their children.

Baboons don’t just follow the leader

By Jeffrey Day

Baboons live in a strongly hierarchical society, but the big guys don’t make all the decisions.

A new study from the University of California, Davis, and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute reveals that animals living in complex, stratified societies make some decisions democratically. The study also breaks ground in how animal behavior data is collected.

The study is being published Friday (June 19) in Science.

GPS collaring of baboons shows that troops have a democratic process for deciding where to go.

GPS collaring of baboons shows that troops have a democratic process for deciding where to go.

Stress increases sociality in zebra finches

Stress in early life affects social behavior in adult zebra finches.

Stress in early life affects social behavior in adult zebra finches.

A new study shows that young birds raised under stressful conditions leave home earlier and develop a wider social network.

The paper co-authored by Damien Farine, now a post-doctoral researcher at the University of California, Davis, anthropology department, Neeltje Boogert, University of St Andrews, and Karen Spencer, Oxford University, was published in Biology Letters Wednesday, Oct. 29.

The researchers found that zebra finch chicks stressed during early development showed more independence from their parents, associated more randomly with other members of their flock and were less choosy about the birds they fed alongside.

Tour campus museums on Super Science Saturday, Feb. 2

Museum Day FlierThe day before Super Bowl Sunday, take an afternoon for some super science museums. UC Davis’s second annual Biodiversity Museum Day will take place Saturday, February 2, from 1 to 4 pm.  The event is a special opportunity to go behind-the-scenes to learn how research is conducted and to see some of the curators’ favorite pieces. Visitors are invited to spend time exploring displays, talking with scientists, and participating in fun activities and crafts.

“Mothers and Others” wins book awards

UC Davis Professor emerita of Anthropology Sarah Blaffer Hrdy has been awarded the J. I. Staley Prize from the School of Advanced Research in Santa Fe for her book, Mothers and Others: The evolutionary origins of mutual understanding (Harvard University Press, 2009). The Staley Prize, which includes a cash award of $10,000, is awarded to a living author for a book that exemplifies outstanding, innovative scholarship and writing in anthropology, especially books that cross disciplinary boundaries.

Talk: Forecasting to prevent the next viral storm

Nathan Wolfe, Lorry I. Lokey Visiting Professor of Human Biology at Stanford University and Director of the Global Viral Forecasting Network Initiative will give a public talk at UC Davis on May 24, “Before it Strikes: Forecasting the Next Viral Storm.” His talk will begin at 4.10 pm in room 180, Medical Sciences C building on the UC Davis campus (near Tupper Hall and the Genome and Biomedical Sciences Facility).

Primate Center alumna wins Presidential Award

President Barack Obama named Claudia R. Valeggia, who conducted her Ph.D. research at the California National Primate Research Center, as one of 94 recipients of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) Sept. 26. The PECASE is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.

Valeggia, now professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of PennsylvaniaClaudia Valeggia, said she was “speechless” on hearing the news. “It’s such a great honor, and it’s such a big push for my research.”

Post-election roundup

The Obama/Palin ticket: Law professor Vikram David Amar asks, why not have separate votes for President and Vice President?

Dancing in the streets: Professor emeritus of history Ruth Rosen writes that the last time Americans danced in the streets was 1945.

Conceding gracefully: Bob Ostertag, professor of technocultural studies, asks why politicians seem to give their best speeches when conceding defeat.

Blogviating: More post-election blogging from UC Davis historians at The Edge of the American West.

Obama, Snapple and Rumors

What do presidential candidate Barack Obama and Snapple Iced Tea have in common? Patricia Turner, professor of African American and African studies at UC Davis, will answer that question in a presentation at the American Folklore Society in Louisville, Ky., on Thursday, Oct. 23.

Turner, whose research focuses on urban legends and conspiracy theories, notes that Snapple had to grapple with two false rumors when it became a sensation in 1993. According to one, the company had ties to pro-life extremists. According to the other, it was owned by the Ku Klux Klan. Similarly, Obama has had to confront false rumors that he is Muslim, refuses to pledge allegiance to the flag and exchanges terrorist hand signals with his wife.