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Full Schedule, Lecture Abstracts and Speaker Biographies

Saturday, April 28, 2012

at the California Academy of Sciences.

Greeting from the California Academy of Sciences

9:00 AM

Dr. Terry Gosliner, Dean of Science and Research Collections

Symposium Introduction

Dr. Kelly Stewart


9:15 AM

“The Real Females of Human Evolution” by Dr. Adrienne Zihlman

Paleoanthropology Session

10:00 AM


Dr. Leslea Hlusko

Overview Lecture

10:10 AM

“Millions of Years of Moms” by Dr. Daniel Lieberman

Case Study

10:40 AM

“The Role of Prehistoric Mothers in the Evolution of Language” by Dr. Dean Falk


Leslea Hlusko, Daniel Lieberman, and Dean Falk

Behavioral Session

11:30 AM


Dr. Jill Pruetz

Overview Lecture

11:40 AM

“The Natural History of Social Bonds” by Dr. Joan Silk

Case Study

“Primate Social Cognition” by Dr. Dorothy Cheney


12:10 PM

Jill Pruetz, Joan Silk and Dorothy Cheney


1 PM to 1:45 PM

Afternoon Keynote

1:45 PM

“The Evolution of Mothering: How Long Should A Mother Suckle Her Baby?” by Dr. Robert Martin

Hunter/Forager Session

2:20 PM


Dr. Brooke Scelza

Overview Lecture

2:30 PM

“From Men’s Hunting to the Importance of Grandmothers: Lessions About Human Evolution From The Behavioral Ecology of Foragers” by Dr. Kristen Hawkes

Case Study

3:00 PM

“Beyond Woman the Gatherer: Women’s Cooperative Hunting, Sharing, and Social Networks in Aboriginal Australia” by Dr. Rebecca Bird


Brooke Scelza, Kristen Hawkes, and Rebecca Bird

Symposium Wrapup

3:45 PM

Dr. Leslie Aiello


Biographies and Abstracts

Kelly Stewart, Symposium Chairperson

University of California, Davis

Dr. Kelly Stewart is a Research Associate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Davis. During her college summers, Dr. Stewart dug up fossils in northern Kenya with Richard Leakey. She later became a student of Dian Fossey, and has been observing, thinking about, and writing about gorilla behavior and conservation ever since. She is the co-author of Gorilla Society, with her husband and research partner Dr. Alexander Harcourt.



The Real Females of Human Evolution

When woman-the-gatherer was first proposed as a counter to man-the-hunter, we were only beginning to understand the many faces of primate females – their role as teachers, tool users, carriers of tradition, and as the social glue in society. In ensuing decades we have learned about the skills and talents of female primates which have been key ingredients in the evolution of our species.

Adrienne Zihlman

University of California, Santa Cruz

Adrienne Zihlman, Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, has had major impacts on the field of human evolution. Her critique of the Man-the-Hunter concept made way for understanding the role of women in evolution, an approach that has become mainstream. Her publications cover human locomotion, sexual dimorphism and growth and development. She is author of The Human Evolution Coloring Book, co-editor of The Evolving Female, and is co-authoring a book on comparative ape anatomy.



Leslea Hlusko, Session Chairperson

University of California, Berkeley

Dr. Leslea Hlusko earned her PhD from Penn State University in 2000. She is currently an Associate Professor Integrative Biology at the University of California Berkeley. Her research focuses on how genes influence skeletal variation and how this has evolved through time as seen in the fossil record, focusing on primates and human evolution. Her lab projects include gene expression studies and quantitative genetic analyses. She co-directs the Olduvai Vertebrate Paleontology Project at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania.


Overview Lecture: Millions of Years of Moms

Natural selection was hard at work changing the human body over the last few million years, and much of that selection was driven by the challenges of being a mother. I will present a brief review of the evolution of the human female body, focusing on how natural selection helped mothers cope with the biomechanical demands of being a pregnant biped, with carrying infants and food over long distances, and with giving birth to large-brained babies.

Daniel Lieberman

Harvard University

Dr. Daniel Lieberman is a Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University and Chair of the Biological Anthropology Department, while also serving on the Curatorial Board of the Peabody Museum. Dr. Lieberman is recognized as a leading expert on morphology and is especially interested in when, how and why early hominins first became bipeds, and then became so exceptional as long distance endurance runners. He is a member of the Leakey Foundation Scientific Executive Committee.


Case Study: The Role of Prehistoric Mothers in the Evolution of Language

Clues about the emergence of protolanguage appear every day in the interactions between modern parents and their infants. Parents the world over speak to infants in a special way—known as baby talk, musical speech, or motherese, which helps them acquire their native language. This presentation considers how and why motherese may have been invented by prehistoric mothers and their infants, and the possible role of infant-directed speech in the origin of language.

Dean Falk

Florida State University

Dean Falk is an evolutionary anthropologist who splits her time between Santa Fe, New Mexico where she is a Senior Scholar at the School for Advanced Research (SAR), and Tallahassee, Florida where she is the Hale G. Smith Professor of Anthropology at Florida State University. Her work focuses on the evolution of the human brain and cognition. Recent projects include collaborative research on Homo floresiensis (“Hobbit”) and an investigation of the brain of Albert Einstein.



Jill Pruetz, Session Chairperson

Iowa State University

Dr. Jill Pruetz is the Walvoord Professor of Liberal Arts & Sciences (Anthropology) at Iowa State University. As a primatologist, Dr. Pruetz has studied the behavior of non-human primates such as chimpanzees, spider monkeys, howling monkeys, tamarins, patas monkeys, and vervets in various locales. She is interested in the influence of ecology on primate and early human feeding, ranging, and social behavior. She currently has an ongoing research project in southeastern Senegal to study chimpanzees in a habitat similar to that of early hominids.


Overview Lecture: The Natural History of Social Bonds

For female baboons close and stable social bonds are the foundation of cooperation. These relationships help females cope with stress, and also enhance their reproductive success and longevity. These findings parallel evidence that social ties have positive effects on physical and mental health in humans. And as with humans, for female baboons the strength and stability of these bonds are more important than their number.

Joan Silk

University of California, Los Angeles

Dr. Joan Silk’s research interests are wide ranging and include biological anthropology, primate behavior, and evolutionary biology. She is especially interested in how natural selection shapes social evolution in primates. Her recent focus is on social strategies of female baboons and the origins of altruistic behavior. Dr. Silk is a prolific writer, an author of over 80 publications and co-author of a biological anthropology text, How Humans Evolved. She is a member of the Leakey Foundation Scientific Executive Committee.


Case Study: Primate Social Cognition

Studies on both animals and humans have shown definitively that individuals who are able to establish strong social bonds experience better health and higher offspring survival. It seems likely that natural selection has also favored the cognitive abilities to monitor and manage social relationships. There is growing evidence that monkeys and other animals are adept at recognizing other individuals’ social relationships and dominance ranks. At the same time, there are also many fundamental differences between animal social cognition and the social cognition of humans.

Dorothy Cheney

University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Dorothy Cheney is an expert on primate social behavior, communication, cognition. In 1977, together with her husband and collaborator Robert Seyfarth, she began an 11 year field study of vervet monkeys in Kenya, which led to the publication of How Monkeys See the World. From 1992 through 2007 Dr. Cheney and Dr. Seyfarth studied baboons in the Okavango Delta of Botswana. In 2007, they published Baboon Metaphysics.


Afternoon Keynote

Evolution of Mothering: How Long Should a Mother Suckle Her Baby?

All primates have drawn-out life histories with long pregnancies and extended suckling. Time devoted to individual offspring more than compensates for limited daily investment in reproduction. A key part of intensive maternal care in primates is frequent suckling on demand, reflected in milk composition. In all these respects, humans are typical primates; but we also have special features, notably in brain development. But how long should a mother suckle her baby? Biological comparisons yield clues to the natural breastfeeding period for which women are adapted.

Dr. Robert Martin

The Field Museum

Dr. Robert Martin is A. Watson Armour III Curator of Biological Anthropology at the Field Museum in Chicago. He has devoted his career to exploring the evolutionary tree of primates, as summarized in his 1990 textbook Primate Origins. Dr. Martin is particularly interested in reproductive biology and the brain, because these systems have been of special importance in primate evolution. His research is based on broad comparisons across primates, covering reproduction, anatomy, behaviour, palaeontology and molecular evolution.



Dr. Brooke Scelza, Session Chairperson

University of California, Los Angeles

Dr. Brooke Scelza is an assistant professor at UCLA. A human behavioral ecologist, Dr. Scelza is interested in understanding the adaptive nature of behavior as a function of local socioecological context. Her research focuses mainly on questions related to reproductive decision-making and parental investment, and on understanding the social environment as a critical influence on how people negotiate life history trade-offs. She is currently conducting fieldwork with the Himba, a group of semi-nomadic pastoralists living in northwest Namibia.


Overview Lecture: From Men’s Hunting to the Importance of Grandmothers: Lessons About Human Evolution from the Behavioral Ecology of Foragers

Beginning my ethnographic work with hunter-gatherers I assumed that most distinctive human features evolved as a consequence of ancestral females pairing with hunting males to form nuclear families with men provisioning their wives and dependent offspring. Challenges to that “hunting hypothesis” have mounted in paleoanthropology and archaeology, but it was behavioral findings that forced my own paradigm shift. I’ll review some of those findings, including evidence of the important role of grandmothers, and some life history comparisons between humans and chimpanzees.

Dr. Kristen Hawkes

University of Utah

Kristen Hawkes is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the University of Utah. Her ethnographic projects with hunter-gatherers investigate sex and age differences in foraging strategies to improve hypotheses about human evolution. The importance of grandmothers’ help for youngsters when their mothers have newborns focused her attention on the evolution of human longevity, and prompted continuing comparisons of human and chimpanzee life history. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Scientific Executive Committee of the Leakey Foundation.


Case Study: Beyond Woman the Gatherer: Women’s Cooperative Hunting, Sharing, and Social Networks in Aboriginal Australia

Gender roles among foraging peoples are usually considered to be nearly universal: that men are hunters and women gatherers of plant foods, that men are more productive than women and that women cooperate mainly with spouses in a division of labor designed to care for dependent offspring; a pattern that is rooted in our evolutionary past. I describe an alternative perspective of women as hunters who cooperate extensively in acquiring small animals, sharing food and caring for children.

Rebecca Bliege Bird

Stanford University

Dr. Rebecca Bliege Bird is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Stanford University. She is an ecological anthropologist interested in the socioecology of subsistence in small scale societies. Dr. Bird pursues such topics as the gender division of labor in hunting and gathering, cooperation, costly signaling, indigenous conservation/land management, and fire ecology. She’s currently involved in a long-term ethnographic and ecological research project with Martu people in Australia’s Western Desert.


Symposium Wrap Up

Dr. Leslie Aiello

Wenner-Gren Foundation

Dr. Leslie Aiello is the President of the Wenner-Gren Foundation of Anthropological Research, which is largest private foundation in existence devoted solely to the support of international anthropological research. She is evolutionary anthropologist with special interests in the evolution of human adaptation as well as in broader issues of evolutionary theory, life history and the evolution of the brain, diet, language and cognition. Previously Dr. Aeillo was head of University College London’s Anthropology Department and Graduate School. She is a former editor of the Journal of Human Evolution.

Produced in partnership with the California Academy of Sciences, this special symposium is generously sponsored by Jean and Ray Auel, Gordon Getty, and with support from Wells Fargo Bank.

AuthorBeth Green