On February 12, Charles Darwin’s birthday, the UA Evolutionary Studies Club hosted the 3rd annual Darwin Day Colloquium. The event was hosted by the Alabama Museum of Natural History and featured an afternoon of talks from UA students and faculty, in addition to a talk by alumnus Dr. Amanda Glaze and keynote by University of Louisiana at Monroe evolutionary psychologist Dr. Kilian Garvey. Special thanks to the hard work of Club members, particularly Taylor Burbach, who understands why Dr. Lynn recruits students who get as stressed about things as he does—they are the type who get things done, and the result was a smashing success.
This annual event is open to anyone interested in promoting cross-disciplinary evolutionary studies in Alabama and the Southeast region. This includes students of ALL ages, teachers, and those with a personal but abiding interest in improving science-based integrative education. Neither Charles Darwin nor Alfred Wallace (the co-discoverer of the theory of evolution by natural selection) were academics!
In fact, next year, the University of Alabama and its Evolutionary Studies program will host the first annual SouthEastern Evolutionary Perspectives Society meeting February 12-14, 2016. Proposals for academic and creative presentations are being accepted through July 31, 2015. Email Amanda Glaze (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Steve Platek (email@example.com) to submit your proposal or for more information. Please consider joining us!
The Department of Anthropology expanded its community outreach activities this past spring. The Department began participating in the Tuscaloosa Magnet School Elementary (TMSE)-UA Partnership in 2010 by offering a 12-week course in “Anthropology” in the fall. This past year, we offered “Anthropology of Costa Rica” in the fall and “Anthropology of Madagascar” in the spring. Anthropology of Costa Rica was led by doctoral student Greg Batchelder and capitalized on his research experience there and complemented the Magnet School’s ethos as an International Baccalaureate Program. Anthropology of Madagascar was led by doctoral candidate Lynn Funkhouser and was chosen because of the Evolutionary Studies program’s sister relationship with an EvoS program in Madagascar.
In addition to teaching Anthropology of Madagascar at TMSE, Arcadia Elementary started a similar partnership program, and we offered the course there as well. In all cases, courses are led by graduate students and taught by upper-level Anthropology undergraduates who have excelled in the program. Instructors draw from a workbook of lessons we have developed over the past several years but are also responsible for developing one lesson and activity from scratch. Thanks to Taylor Burbach, Meghan Steel, Andrea Roulaine, Erica Schumann, and Juliann Friel for teaching our elementary students this year. Imagine what our discipline will be like when undergraduates arrive who have been exposed to the anthropological perspective since 3rd grade!
For the fall 2015, we have established a formal service-learning course called “Anthropology is Elementary” that will be taught by Lynn Funkhouser and can be taken for 3 credits by undergraduates who have completed the introductory courses in all four subdisciplines. Students will be placed at TMSE, Arcadia, or—a new location—Tuscaloosa Magnet School Middle. Spots are still open, so contact Lynn for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.
But that’s not all! We have participated annually in Woodland Forrest Elementary School’s DiscoverFest as part of their Earth Day celebration. This year, several of our graduate students spent the day teaching elementary students about archaeology via “garbology,” or using simple household trash as a means of understanding the cultures of the people who left it behind. Thanks to Lynn Funkhouser, Sarah Morrow, and LisaMarie Malischke for their efforts on behalf of our community children!
On January 29 the Anthropology Department and Evolution Working Group hosted biomolecular archaeologist Dr. Patrick McGovern for an ALLELE (Alabama Lectures on Life’s Evolution) talk from his book, Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcohol. The event included a meeting with the ANT 150 “Evolution for Everyone” students, dinner with Anthropology students, EVOWOG members, and Wendi Schauffer from UA Press, the ALLELE talk, and an Ancient Ales tasting after the talk at Druid City Brewing.
Special thanks to the Evolutionary Studies Club for organizing the tasting and Druid City for hosting and to our students who helped with the logistics. Dr. Pat’s work is endlessly fascinating and will be included in a new spring 2016 course on the “Anthropology of Drugs.” Master’s student Cassie Medeiros, whose research focus is the archaeology of alcohol, particularly evidence of moonshine stills in Alabama, was particularly thrilled to be a part of the event.
In June 2013, Dr. Jason DeCaro got a chance to set the record straight when Evolutionary Psychologist Geoffrey Miller put his tweet in his mouth with the following:
Dr. DeCaro, who subsequently tweeted from his own account what a degrading and unwarranted claim Miller had made, was contacted by The NY Daily News. Dr. DeCaro pointed out that “Current human biology and health psychology research show conclusively that a combination of genetics and social environment have far more to do with obesity than does ‘willpower,’ contrary to what people often assume.”
In October, Dr. Chris Lynn was interviewed for an article on glossolalia (speaking in tongues among Charismatics and some other religious practitioners through the ages) and stress reduction. Dana Foundation is a private philanthropic organization dedicated to brain research. The article discusses Dr. Lynn’s dissertation fieldwork among Pentecostals in upstate New York, which compared rates of speaking in tongues to salivary biomarkers of stress and found some preliminary evidence for a relaxation effect.
In November, Dr. Lynn was also interviewed about UA’s Evolutionary Studies program, housed in the Department of Anthropology, for the newsletter EvoS Illuminate, published by the EvoS Consortium. In it, Dr. Lynn highlights the program at Alabama, discusses his evolution blogging efforts, and background. Later that month, Dr. Lynn and EvoS Club President and Anthropology major Taylor Burbach were contacted by The Crimson White for an article about the EvoS program. The article highlighted the importance of the program for UA students and the outreach efforts they’re engaged in for the community.
In December, Ph.D. student Tina Thomas published a piece in Anthropology News entitled “Multiple Worlds Theory and ‘High Risk Girls’ Versus Those that ‘Stay Inside’” about her research into risky behavior among teenage girls in Alabama and HIV risk. Alabama has one of the lowest rates of condom use among high school students in the United States, and Thomas’ research has found that this may be due, in part, to girls’ conceptualization of the protection afforded by condoms. According to Thomas, many of her participants believe that condoms have a high failure rate because of notions that they can clip off or break easily. Thomas’ continuing research seeks to understand the cultural models underlying these beliefs in high- and low-risk groups in Alabama.