Track: Biocultural Anthropology

Increasingly, scholars from diverse disciplines are recognizing the importance of the interplay of biology and culture for shaping human diversity. With the undergraduate track in Biocultural Anthropology, students gain the opportunity to explore the dynamic confluence of the social and biological sciences. The overarching goal of this exciting, but non-traditional, subfield of anthropology is to bring into focus the evolutionary, ecological, demographic, genetic, developmental, endocrinological, and epidemiological dimensions of human biocultural adaptation across the full range of global and historical variation. The track emphasizes the integration of multidisciplinary approaches to the study of biological and behavioral diversity in modern humans and their closest living relatives, including non-human primates and extinct human ancestors.

Upon completion of this track, students will find themselves well positioned to secure employment where critical, scientific thinking is valued or continue their studies in anthropology or a wide range of closely related subjects, such as public health and medicine, demography and population biology, human ecology and paleobiology. See below for additional advice regarding topical areas within biocultural anthropology and for students intending to pursue graduate studies in biological or biocultural anthropology.

Students pursuing this track are encouraged to start with BIOA 201, Principles of Biological Anthropology, because it provides a foundational toolkit for many of the upper-division courses in the track, and is a prerequisite for others. The upper-division BIOA courses cover the following topical areas:

Human Ecology, Biodemography, and Health: Biological aspects of reproduction, health, stress, immune function and behavior, from mechanistic, cross-cultural, genetic, and evolutionary perspectives.

  • BIO A 382, Human Population Biology
  • BIO A 387, Ecological Perspectives on Environmental Stress, Adaptation, and Health
  • BIO A 450, Biodemography Seminar
  • BIO A 455, Reproductive Ecology Laboratory Seminar
  • BIO A 473, Biological Adaptability of Human Populations
  • BIO A 476, Sociocultural Ecology and Health
  • BIO A 482, Human Population Genetics
  • BIO A 483, Human Genetics, Disease, and Culture

Human and Primate Evolution: Paleobiology and adaptation in extinct and living non-human primates and human fossil ancestors.

  • BIO A 370, Introduction to Primates
  • BIO A 388, Human Fossils and Evolution I
  • BIO A 389, Human Fossils and Evolution II
  • BIO A 486, Primate Socioecology
  • BIO A 487, Human and Comparative Osteology
  • BIO A 488, Primate Evolution
  • BIO A 491, Issues in Human Paleontology

Evolutionary Ecology and Social Behavior: Bridges the theoretical foundations of biological anthropology and evolutionary biology and the complexities of human behavioral and cultural variation. 

  • BIO A 100 Evolution and Human Behavior
  • BIO A 372 Uses and Abuses of Evolutionary Views of Human Behavior
  • BIO A 470 Evolution of Human Social Behavior
  • BIO A 475 Environmental Impacts of Small Scale Societies
  • BIO A 477 Evolutionary Perspectives on Sex and Gender Roles
  • BIO A 486 Primate Socioecology
  • ANTH 457 Ecological Anthropology

Nutrition and Growth: Biocultural perspectives on human growth, development, and nutrition.

  • BIO A 387, Ecological Perspectives on Environmental Stress, Adaptation, and Health
  • BIO A 465 Nutritional Anthropology
  • BIO A 484 Human Life Cycle
  • BIO A 485 Research in Growth and Development
  • BIO A 495 Growth and Development: Infancy
  • BIO A 496 Growth and Development: Adolescence and Reproductive Maturity

Additional Learning Opportunities: In addition, special topics courses with the prefixes 369 and 469 are offered occasionally. Courses that have been offered in the recent past are:

  • Men’s Health Across the Lifespan
  • Social Networks and Health
  • Evolutionary Medicine
  • Evolutionary Perspectives on Parenting and Childcare
  • Primate Conservation in Southeast Asia
  • Ethics and Professionalism in Archeological and Biocultural Research
  • Social Influences on Health
  • Anthropology of Women’s Health
  • Human/Primate Interface
  • Primate Conservation Biology
  • Biomarker Methods Research Group
  • Primate Aging
  • Game Theory, Evolution, and Behavior (ANTH/BIOL 320)

Students, who have completed several upper division offerings may, with instructor permission, also take select 500-level courses.

Biocultural Anthropology has a strong interdisciplinary component, meaning that there exist a number of opportunities for out-of-class enhancements to student learning (such as on-campus seminars and workshops) and involvement in faculty research. The program and its faculty have affiliations with:

In addition, the Department of Anthropology participates in the interdisciplinary minor in paleobiology, providing students the opportunity to pursue the minor and Biocultural Anthropology track concurrently.

Additional advice for students intending to pursue graduate studies: Students interested in graduate work in biocultural or biological anthropology should develop a sound background in the basic sciences. Toward this end, the following courses are strongly recommended:

  • BIOL 180/200/220 Introductory Biology
  • CHEM 110 Introduction to General Chemistry
  • CHEM 120 Principles of General Chemistry
  • MATH 124 Calculus with Analytic Geometry

Other courses of relevance include:

  • PHYS 114 General Physics
  • BIOL 118 Survey of Physiology
  • BIOL 354 Foundations in Evolution and Systematics
  • BIOL 356 Foundations of Ecology
  • ESS 210 Physical Geology
  • NUTR 300 Nutrition for Today
  • B STR 301 General Anatomy
  • GENOME 351 Human Genetics: The Individual and Society
  • MHE 422 History of Evolutionary Theory
  • PSYCH 417 Human Behavior as a Natural Science
  • PSYCH 418 Primate Social Behavior
  • PSYCH/BIOL 409 Sociobiology
  • STAT 311 Elements of Statistical Methods