Barbara J. King

Barbara J. King is a contributor to the NPR blog 13.7: Cosmos & Culture. She is a Chancellor Professor of Anthropology at the College of William and Mary. With a long-standing research interest in primate behavior and human evolution, King has studied baboon foraging in Kenya and gorilla and bonobo communication at captive facilities in the United States.

Recently, she has taken up writing about animal emotion and cognition more broadly, including in bison, farm animals, elephants and domestic pets, as well as primates.

King's most recent book is How Animals Grieve (University of Chicago Press, 2013). Her article "When Animals Mourn" in the July 2013 Scientific American has been chosen for inclusion in the 2014 anthology The Best American Science and Nature Writing. King reviews non-fiction for the Times Literary Supplement (London) and is at work on a new book about the choices we make in eating other animals. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for her work in 2002.

13.7: Cosmos And Culture
8:04 am
Thu December 11, 2014

In Transgender Teen's Fight, Echoes Of Others


What happens in a small, semi-rural community in a southern state when an "out" transgender student decides to speak up for his civil rights?

Here in Gloucester County, Virginia, where I live — not far from the Historic Triangle of Yorktown-Williamsburg-Jamestown — the answer is that all hell breaks loose.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
10:13 am
Thu December 4, 2014

Would You Run 3,080 Miles For Science?

Endurance runner and Purdue University anthropology professor Bryce Carlson is preparing to run 3,080 miles in 140 days.
Courtesy of Bryce Carlson

Originally published on Thu December 4, 2014 1:37 pm

Scrolling through my Twitter feed this weekend, I saw a tip to follow biological anthropologist Bryce Carlson at Purdue University. I did — and wow! A fascinating new window on the science of extreme human endurance opened up.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
9:29 am
Thu November 27, 2014

On This Thanksgiving, Celebrating The Wild Turkey

13.7: Cosmos And Culture
6:27 am
Thu November 20, 2014

Can't Sleep? Maybe Thinking About Evolution Will Help


If you're reading this after a night of inadequate sleep, or disrupted sleep, you have company. The National Sleep Foundation reports that over half the people in their survey experienced at least one symptom of insomnia "at least a few nights per week" over a year's period.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
1:46 pm
Sun November 16, 2014

Attempting Sex, An Octopus Gets A Surprise

Originally published on Sat November 22, 2014 6:34 pm

Male seeks female — and makes a direct advance towards mating. That's one version of the drive to reproduce in the animal kingdom.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
2:11 pm
Thu November 6, 2014

A Dark Side Of The Focus On Gay Marriage

Jeff Roberson AP

Gay marriage should be legal in this country. Inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender expressions, people deserve the right to celebrate their love publicly — and to gain the legal and financial securities that marriage may bring.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
5:07 am
Thu October 30, 2014

Animal Behavior: Two Dogs And An Ice Cream


Originally published on Thu October 30, 2014 2:56 pm

Anyone who's lived or bonded with dogs knows that they express their personalities in distinct ways. Once in a while, a video clip comes along that highlights this fact for us in an amusing way. Have a look at this video — it's less than a minute — published earlier this year and sent to me last week by a friend:

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
7:21 am
Thu October 23, 2014

Behind The Scenes: Ethics Of Wolf Wars And Turtle Travels

Once upon a time, documentary film maker Chris Palmer rented a bunch of wolves from a game farm to aid the making of an IMAX film called Wolves. That decision, Palmer told NPR back in August, was better for the species than the intrusive process of habituating wild wolves would have been; the use of non-wild wolves was disclosed in the movie's credits.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
11:20 am
Thu October 9, 2014

When Dogs, Cats And Rats Come To The Rescue

Pete Coppolillo Working Dogs For Conservation

Originally published on Thu October 9, 2014 3:50 pm

Heroic acts carried out by a wide variety of animals — elk and elephants, horses and goats, dogs and cats — are on offer in Jennifer Holland's just-published book, Unlikely Heroes: 37 Inspiring Stories of Courage and Heart from the Animal Kingdom.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
6:33 am
Thu October 2, 2014

Can Psychedelics Expand Our Consciousness?

Andrew Ostrovsky iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri October 3, 2014 12:57 pm

"One of the great responsibilities we have as a society is to educate ourselves, along with the next generation, about which substances are worth ingesting and for what purpose and which are not. ... If I knew that either of my daughters would eventually develop a fondness for methamphetamine or heroin, I might never sleep again. But if they don't try a psychedelic like psilocybin or LSD at least once in their adult lives, I will wonder whether they had missed one of the most important rites of passage a human being can experience."

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
11:24 am
Thu September 25, 2014

A View Of The Arctic

Courtesy of Peter Cox

Originally published on Thu September 25, 2014 2:00 pm

"Come see!"

That's the vocal code in our house, when one of us wants to summon another to show off a small treasure: the flash of a red fox streaking our backyard; a pink-inflamed cloud as sunset approaches; a snake, sinuous and fine, curving black against the green of high-summer grass.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
10:48 am
Thu September 18, 2014

Looking Beyond Notions Of Erotica In Prehistoric Art

This carved ivory figurine of a woman, found in a cave in southern Germany in 2008, is estimated to be at least 35,000 years old.
Daniel Maurer AP

Originally published on Thu September 18, 2014 3:10 pm

In the realm of prehistoric art, there's a type of small figurine made of stone, bone or ivory that is famous. It features exaggeratedly large breasts, hips and buttocks.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
12:05 pm
Thu September 11, 2014

Still Now, Should Lab Monkeys Be Deprived Of Their Mothers?


Originally published on Thu September 11, 2014 3:00 pm

On Monday, the animal advocacy organization PETA released material in support of its campaign to shut down a series of experiments on infant rhesus monkeys carried out at the Laboratory of Comparative Ethology, part of the National Institutes of Health.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
5:04 am
Thu September 4, 2014

The Koan Of The Cat And The Frog

Originally published on Thu September 4, 2014 9:28 am

Any of us connected with the school calendar — teachers and academic staff, students and their parents — are right now plunging into new beginnings.

September brings a fresh season, also, in the publishing world, in theater and dance and music, and in some sports.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
10:35 am
Thu August 28, 2014

Atheists Feel Awe, Too


Originally published on Thu August 28, 2014 2:54 pm

In Elizabeth Gilbert's brilliant novel The Signature of All Things, Alma Whittaker, the central character who was born in Philadelphia in 1800, is destined for a highly unconventional life as a woman in science.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
5:24 am
Thu August 21, 2014

Grappling With Trigger Warnings And Trauma On Campus


Originally published on Thu August 21, 2014 10:33 am

On Tuesday, I posted syllabi for the two undergraduate anthropology classes I will teach this fall: Evolutionary Perspectives on Gender and Primate Behavior. As the academic year at my college nears its start, I can't help but reflect on the extra layers of complexity involved in syllabus construction nowadays compared to when I first started out as a teacher in the 1980s.

A central question I grappled with earlier this week as I wrote and revised my syllabi was whether I should include trigger warnings.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
10:39 am
Thu August 14, 2014

Immersion In Nature, Naturally, Can Be Risky

Road Through The Valley at Canyonlands National Park.
Paul Giamou iStock

Originally published on Fri August 15, 2014 3:54 am

Canyonlands National Park in Utah is "a landscape of canyons, mesas and deep-river gorges" that invites its visitors to revel in nature. An hour's drive from Moab and part of the Colorado Plateau, Canyonlands sprawls across 337,000 desert acres.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
2:46 pm
Thu August 7, 2014

Why Are We So Scared Of Ebola?

Cynthia Goldsmith/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Originally published on Fri August 8, 2014 10:02 am

The question of why the Ebola virus seems to so badly frighten so many people seems, at first, to have an obvious answer.

Ebola, after all, is an incurable hemorrhagic virus with a mortality rate that soars in some outbreaks to 90 percent of those infected. Symptoms in sufferers with advanced disease go beyond high fever and gastrointestinal misery to bleeding from the mouth, nose, ears and eyes.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
2:54 pm
Thu July 31, 2014

Seeking A Saner Food System, Three Times A Day

Not all cows get to spend their days with soft green grass under hoof. For many, the picture isn't so pretty, according to the book Farmageddon.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Originally published on Thu July 31, 2014 6:40 pm

For Philip Lymbery, head of the U.K.-based Compassion in World Farming and his co-author Isabel Oakeshott, a visit to California's Central Valley amounted to an encounter with suffering.

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