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The Australian National University

Dr Geoff Kushnick

PhD, University of Washington, Seattle
Lecturer in Biological Anthropology (Human Behavioural Ecology)
ANU 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:

  • behavioural ecology of reproductive strategies in humans;
  • evolution of social behaviour, norms, and institutions;
  • mathematical and statistical modeling and analysis; and,
  • the peoples and cultures of SE Asia and the Pacific.

Biography

I am an evolutionary anthropologist with expertise in human behavioural ecology, which in its very broadest sense is the study of human behaviour in evolutionary perspective. Although I was trained as a four-field anthropologist, my primary interests are in biological and cultural anthropology. I studied at the master's level under Beth Strasser, a primate morphologist with interests in human and primate evolution. At the doctoral level, I studied under Eric Alden Smith, one of founders of human behavioural ecology. The other two members of my doctoral committee, Donna Leonetti and Darryl Holman, also served as apt mentors, especially with regards to the demographic and statistical dimensions of my project. In 2006, I was awarded a PhD in Biocultural Anthropology from the University of Washington in Seattle. My dissertation was based on 12 months of quantitative ethnographic fieldwork on parent-offspring interactions among the Karo people of North Sumatra, Indonesia, conducted with a Dissertation Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation (USA).

After my PhD, I was hired as a full-time faculty member at the University of Washington. I made a lasting impact on students there, having had 2500 enrolled in my classes over 7 years, while working hard to keep an active research program. My career turned a corner when I was invited to join the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council's "Culture and the Mind" Project (which stemmed from my collaborations with Dan Fessler from UCLA), and then I was awarded a Fulbright Scholars Grant. In July, 2014, I started my current job as a Lecturer in the School of Archaeology and Anthropology at The Australian National University. It is an honour to work at the only university in Australia that offers degree-granting programs in biological anthropology.

Researcher's projects

(1) "Culture and the Mind" Project

Major five-year interdsciplinary research project based in the Philosophy Department at the University of Sheffield. The project was funded primarily through a major grant of £538,000 from the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council. The research group, that continues to analyze the field data and produce publications, consists of: an organizing committee of scholars from University of Sheffield, Harvard University, UCLA, and Rutgers University; and researchers working at 15 fieldsites around the world.

PI: Stephen Laurence (University of Sheffield)
Role: Primary Site Researcher for Indonesia

(2) Geography of Land Tenure and Subsistence (GELTS)

This is a new NSF-funded project (just under US $1 million) that seeks to  address three critical questions: (i) to what degree do different factors determine subsistence strategies and land tenure systems across different regions of the globe?, (ii) do predictable patterns of change exist, or can any form of subsistence or land tenure turn into any other form over time?, and (iii) do subsistence strategies and land tenure systems co-evolve?  The research group has developed a database that maps 100+ cultural features onto language family trees for over 1400 societies, and links these to ecological and environmental variables, empowering a whole new line of investigation into the drivers of cultural change and patterns of cultural diversity.

PI: Mike Gavin (Colorado State University)
Co-PIs: Claire Bowern (Yale University), Bobbi Low (University of Michigan)
Role: Senior Scientist 

Available student projects

Please contact me if you are interested evolution-informed research on any aspect of human behaviour, but especially with regards to human social and reproductive behaviour. All levels (Honours, Masters and PhD) welcome.

Current student projects

Ben Gleeson (Masters, 2016 S2): "Human Self-Domestication by Intersexual Selection: Female Social Status and Stature Sexual Dimorphism"

Past student projects

Madelaine Winkler (Honours, 2015 S2): “Pathogen Pressure and Consanguineous Marriage: The Case of Impal Marriage among the Karo Batak from North Sumatra”

Publications

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Updated:  24 August 2017 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers