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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.

Do you worry over a young-adult family member, just out of college or in between jobs, who has moved back home? Or a teenager who faces bullying at school?

In Wildhood: The Epic Journey from Adolescence to Adulthood in Humans and Other Animals, Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers invite you to find wisdom in the ways that penguins, hyenas, whales, wolves and other animals experience adolescence.

In the United States around the turn of the 20th century, anthropologist and German immigrant Franz Boas challenged the accepted view, at the time, that all human beings could be grouped into fixed races.

According to this erroneous view, where you were born and what complement of genes you received from your ancestors determined both your physical form and your character. This race science purported to show that white Europeans were genetically destined to be the best and the brightest; other races were profoundly inferior by comparison.

For Margaret Renkl, a cedar waxwing is "A flying jungle flower. A weightless coalescence of air and light and animation." The squirrel at her squirrel-proof finch feeder surprises by "pulling it to his mouth like an ear of sweet corn at a Fourth of July potluck." The old dog howls "for his crippled hips" and "because it's his job to protect this house, but he is too old now to protect the house."

Working elephants of mountainous Myanmar and northeastern India haul timber or transport people by day, then return to the forest at night.

In his new book titled for these elephants, Giants Of The Monsoon Forest: Living And Working With Elephants, geographer Jacob Shell describes the lives of these animals with details at once compelling and disturbing.

Off the western coast of Norway are sea caves graced by stick figures painted more than 2,000 years ago. Colored red from the iron-oxide pigment used by Bronze Age artists, the figures appear to be in motion, with arms and legs splayed.

Rats' faces express joy when the animals are tickled.

Fairness matters to monkeys; when food offered to their social partners is of higher quality than what they themselves receive, they become highly agitated.

Pigs experience hope, which we know because if raised in decent conditions they anticipate that pleasurable things will happen to them.

In the city of Kabul, Afghanistan, there is a "green, leafy oasis" called Shahr-e Naw Park — a place that briefly became a staging ground for conservation scientists.

In The Snow Leopard Project and other Adventures in Warzone Conservation, Alex Dehgan describes how his Wildlife Conservation Society team hid stuffed animals throughout the park, simulating as best they could the wildlife the scientists might find on their upcoming survey mission in a remote, rugged province called Nuristan.

Higher sea levels, displacement of millions of people, disrupted agriculture, and more extreme weather events are predictions for the future in an October U.N. climate report.

An amazing animal rescue video surfaced last week, in the wake of the floodwaters caused by Hurricane Florence. In Leland, N.C., six hunting dogs had been abandoned in chain-link kennels, unable to escape the rising waters.

Do prehistoric fossils belong only in a museum or educational center that communicates science to the public? Is it ever right for commercial fossil hunters to sell dinosaur skulls to movie stars for display in their living rooms?

Ecological statistics pertaining to bees carry a sting: More than 75 percent of the world's 115 primary crops require pollination or thrive better through interaction with pollinators.

Bees are the primary pollinators in the animal kingdom, yet sudden and massive die-offs of these insects began in 2006 and continue now, with a 30 percent annual loss reported by North American beekeepers.

A slim mahogany-colored cow, Dolly was an attentive mother to her first four offspring, all boys, at Kite's Nest farm in Worcestershire, England.

Then Dolly II, a pale-colored girl, was born and became the recipient of that bovine love.

In The Secret Life of Cows, published this week in the U.S. by Penguin Press, farmer Rosamund Young tells the story of what happened when Dolly II grew up and gave birth herself.

This post is my last for 13.7: Cosmos & Culture.

For 6 1/2 years, I have had the privilege and the pleasure of writing commentaries — about 50 every year — for NPR on animals, anthropology, human evolution, nature, gender and higher education.

The blog's science and culture commentary is being discontinued by NPR — and, so, it's time to say goodbye.

Consider this list of names for hamburgers that are now, or have been, on the market: Thickburger, Whopper, Big Mac, Big Boy, Chubby Boy, Beefy Boy, Super Boy.

Notice a pattern there?

Writer Carol J. Adams does. This list comes from her book Burger, published last month. As the hamburger business gradually grew over time, Adams explains, so did the size of the hamburger — and the gender associations.

In an effort to reduce the number of invasive iguanas in South Florida, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has funded a project in which scientists from the University of Florida approach green iguanas sleeping at night with the goal of killing them.

I think it's fair to say that many parents focus a lot of energy — and worry! — on protecting their small kids from risky situations.

But it turns out that integrating limited risk into our kids' playtime may be taking a step toward healthier child development.

Over the past few years, I've spent many hours reading up on — and a morning observing — the smart, sassy behavior of octopuses.

Barbara J. King is an anthropology professor emerita at the College of William and Mary. She often writes about the cognition, emotion and welfare of animals and about biological anthropology, human evolution and gender issues. Barbara's new book is Personalities on the Plate: The Lives and Minds of Animals We Eat.

When humans talk to each other or walk alongside each other, we tend to match each other's subtle movements.

Called interpersonal movement synchrony in the science literature and mirroring in the popular media, it's an often-unconscious process during which we match our gestures and pace to that of our social partner of the moment.

Civilization originated in the Fertile Crescent region, including parts of modern-day Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Egypt. That's the lesson most of us learned in school.

In it, civilization is used in a highly positive way to refer to the rise of city-states and the development of writing around the 4th millennium B.C.

Much of the U.S. remains firmly in the grip of winter, even as the sports-enthused world prepares to cheer on athletes in snow-and-ice-centered events at the Winter Olympics.

When we read books, why do we forget so much of what we read, in only weeks or even days after we read it?

Coming across an article on this topic by Julie Beck in The Atlantic over the weekend, I found insight and even some consolation. I'm not the only one who forgets the plots of novels I've truly loved.

Late last year, an infant elephant in the state of Kerala in India fell into a well as the baby's herd moved to cross a river.

Together, villagers and government officials mounted a five-hour rescue, using heavy earth-moving equipment to clear a path of packed-down soil that allowed the youngster to climb out.

You know your cats' cute habits, their distinct personalities and their likes and dislikes for food, play and affection.

But could you say whether your cats are right-pawed or left-pawed? That is, have you noticed which paw they use first to step over a raised object or to step down the stairs?

In a post published by the conservation organization Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (DFGFI) last month, the behavior of a mountain gorilla female in Rwanda was described in striking terms.

The 26-year-old female, named Pasika, has been traveling alone with her baby for more than seven months in Rwanda's Virunga mountains, ever since her social group fell apart at the death of its silverback leader. Her infant, Mashami, is now one year old.

A year ago this month, animal activist Paul Shapiro sat in the offices of the Hampton Creek food technology company in San Francisco and put a forkful of foie gras in his mouth.

In my house, we celebrate Christmas.

In preparation, we selected a beautiful, aromatic Fraser fir tree for our den. This means that our five indoor rescued cats get to enjoy their annual holiday enrichment activity — climbing partway up through the branches, batting down ornaments, and attempting to shred the wrapping and ribbon from presents under the tree.

Some chaos definitely ensues, but it's fun to see the cats so excited — and we've never yet had an outright tree crash like this one.

Have you ever walked out of a movie theater and said to your companion, "Wow, the science in that film was awesome?"

When you think of Polynesia, what images first come to mind?

A Sunday column by David Sax in The New York Times quotes a cheering statistic from the Association of American Publishers: Sales of "old-fashioned print books" are up for the third year in a row.

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