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Beauty & Attraction: in the eyes of the beholder

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Biography

Jeanne Altmann is a behavioral ecologist with focus on the life-history of natural populations of long-lived and highly social primates. One major research effort has been development of widely applicable non-invasive and non-manipulative techniques for data collection and their use. These techniques started with behavior and demography; with colleagues, they have expanded to observational measures of health and aging and to measures of DNA and steroid hormones, enabling the researchers to ‘get under the skin’ without disturbing either behavior or sensitive physiological processes. Her research questions have focused on sources and life history consequences of behavioral differences—across lifetimes, individuals, families, and groups or populations. This empirical research involves almost daily data collection on the Amboseli population of baboons. The Amboseli Baboon Research Project database is now four-decades and seven-generations deep (website at www.princeton.edu/~baboon). Altmann’s data preservation and sharing efforts include involvement in development of the Integrated Primate Biomaterials and Information Resource (IPBIR) and participation in a comparative Primate Life History Database group (PLHD), and recent participation in a US national workshop on digital data preservation and access in Anthropology. Altmann has served on various external advisory boards, currently including the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center, the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, and the Institute of Primate Research of the National Museums of Kenya.

Jeanne Altmann received her first degree in mathematics from the University of Alberta, Canada, an MAT in mathematics teaching from Emory University, and a PhD in behavioral science from The University of Chicago. She was previously Professor and Chair of the Committee on Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago and is currently Eugene Higgins Professor Emeritus in Princeton’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, a Faculty Associate in Princeton’s Office of Population Research and the Princeton Environmental Institute, and an Honorary Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Kenya. She is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences.

Abstract

What is beautiful and therefore attractive, to you, to me, to a baboon? Is what we consider attractive in animals the same as what they consider attractive in each other? This lecture will explore some of the characteristics that attract baboons, how these characteristics are similar or different from those we focus on, and how they vary among individuals.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Lecture Series series.

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