Dr Geoff Kushnick

PhD, University of Washington, Seattle
Senior Lecturer in Biological Anthropology (Human Behavioural Ecology)
College of Arts and Social Sciences
T: +61 2 6125 2271

Areas of expertise

  • Behavioural Ecology 060201
  • Biological (Physical) Anthropology 160102
  • Demography 1603

Research interests

I am an evolutionary anthropologist with the following research interests:

  • Human behavioural ecology
  • Evolution of human reproductive strategies
  • Evolution of social norms and institutions
  • Quantitative methods and analysis
  • Peoples and cultures of SE Asia and the Pacific


I am a biocultural anthropologist who studies human behaviour, biology, and health through an evolutionary lens. I have experience conducting field research in Indonesia and the Solomon Islands, and using cross-cultural datasets such as the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample and the Ethnographic Atlas. I have expertise in quantitative-ethnographic and multivariate-statistical methods.

I am a Fulbright U.S. Scholar (2014) and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (since 2019).

Researcher's projects

(1) Evolution of Human Reproductive Strategies

This project examines how evolutionary theory can help us understand decision-making related to human mating and parenting. It combines empirical and theoretical approaches, including quantitative ethnography, experiments, cross-cultural comparison, and optimality modeling.

The project has been funded by the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, National Science Foundation (USA), and National Institutes of Health (USA).

Publications have appeared in: (a) peer-reviewed journals including Royal Society Open SciencePLoS OneHuman NatureEvolution and Human BehaviorBehavioral Ecology and SociobiologyAmerican Journal of Physical AnthropologyAmerican Journal of Human Biology, and Journal of Biosocial Science; and, (b) elsewhere including Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology and Parenting, and Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science.

(2) Evolution of Norms and Social Institutions

This project examines the evolution of human norms and institutions including cousin marriage and land tenure. It includes quantitative ethnographic research in Indonesia as well as cross-cultural comparison using cultural phylogenetic and multivariate statistical methods. It is collaborative with researchers in anthropology, biology, natural resource management, and linguistics.

Funding for the project has come from the Fulbright Scholars Program, American Institute for Indonesian Studies (AIFIS), and National Science Foundation (USA).

We have published the results of these studies in Evolution and Human BehaviorHuman Nature, and Royal Society Open Science.

(3) Collaborative Cross-Cultural Studies

This project includes my contributions to multiple large-scale collaborative efforts to test evolutionary hypotheses about the cognitive foundations of culture and morality, jealousy and infidelity, income inequality with reference to social networks, and assortative mating with data collected using standardized cross-cultural field experimentation. The collaborative efforts of this project are highly interdisciplinary, with scholars from anthropology, biology, psychology, economics, and philosophy.

Funding for these projects has been provided by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK), and the National Science Foundation (USA).

Publications for these projects has appeared in Nature Human BehaviourProceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), and Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

(4) Diet, Excercise, and Obesity in the Solomon Islands

This developing project in evolutionary-informed public health research examines the dietary and activity-related factors in the emerging obesity and non-communicable disease crisis in the Solomon Islands. Research to date has been conducted in a number of Melanesian and Polynesian communities in Malaita and Rennell-Bellona provinces. The project is a collaborative effort with staff members from Solomon Islands National University (SINU) and the Solomon Islands Ministry of Health and Medicine.

To date, the project has been conducted with funds from ANU College of Arts and Social Science, and ANU Research School of Humanities and Arts.

Initial results were presented at the Annual Meeting of the Australasian Society for Human Biology (ASHB), and the first publications are in preparation.

Available student projects

Please contact me if you are interested in pursuing an honours, masters, or PhD degree with a focus on the evolution of human behaviour.

Current student projects

Ben Gleeson (PhD): Human ecology and self-domestication (secondary supervisor)

Adam Bode (MPhil): Pairbonding and addiction in evolutionary perspective (primary supervisor)

Isabella Apriyana (Masters): Fertility in Punan communities, Kalimantan, Indonesia (primary supervisor)

Jennifer Geyer (Honours): Contraception & life history factors in mate choice (primary supervisor)

Past student projects

Sumaiyah Qureshi (Honours): “Understanding Agta Fertility: Subsistence-Related Factors Associated with Reproductive Rates in a Foraging Population in Transition” (primary supervisor)

Stephen Orchard (Masters): “Sociosexual Norms, the Behavioural Immune System Hypothesis, and the Red Queen” (primary supervisor)

Megan O'Donnell (PhD): "Effects of Prenatal Bushfire Stress on Life History Traits in Humans" (secondary supervisor)

Ben Gleeson (Masters): "Human Self-Domestication by Intersexual Selection: Female Social Status and Stature Sexual Dimorphism" (primary supervisor)

Madelaine Winkler (Honours): “Pathogen Pressure and Consanguineous Marriage: The Case of Impal Marriage among the Karo Batak from North Sumatra” (co-primary supervisor)


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Updated:  17 June 2021 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers