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.

Has anyone — a parent, teacher, or boss — told you to purge the words "um" and "uh" from your conversation?

When these words creep into our narrative as we tell a story at home, school, or work, it's natural to feel that we can do better with our speech fluency.

About 40 million people in the U.S. suffer from some form of anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. That is a staggering figure.

During a press conference on Aug. 15, President Trump was asked by a reporter why he waited so long to "blast neo-Nazis" in the wake of the white supremacist rally held the previous weekend in Charlottesville, Va.

That rally resulted in the death of Heather Heyer, a young counterprotester, and injuries to dozens of others.

Over the millennia, our ancestors continuously developed new techniques and technologies that enabled them to find, eat, and cook meat and plants — and in coastal populations,

As the full extent of the damage from Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana starts to become clear, many of us have been glued to coverage of urgent rescues, including of people's pets.

Remember the movie Quest For Fire?

It's an iconic Hollywood moment: Ancient humans discover how to make fire. It happens pretty quickly, and there's a chase scene — starring a saber-toothed tiger — to heighten the suspense.

Off the big screen, though, evolutionary changes, including cognitive-behavioral changes that would underpin our species' control of fire, often happen in fits and starts over lengthy periods.

Just in time for World Migratory Bird Day, May 10, an article in the April issue of Animal Behaviour explores the impact of shifting migration patterns in one population of migratory birds.

There's a passage from Brian Kateman's op-ed in the Los Angeles Times earlier this month that I've been thinking about a lot:

"Just about everyone who reduces consumption of meat, eggs and dairy for ethical reasons wants to see the end of factory farming. Yet we waste time by focusing on things like virtue points and identity shoring, and disputing each other's visions of the ideal post-factory-farming landscape."

A coalition of animal-rescue organizations led by the Best Friends Animal Society based in Kanab, Utah, is aiming to bring the nation to "no kill" status for shelter cats and dogs by the year 2025.

Next week, a new pet adoption center will open in Soho in New York City to intensify no-kill efforts in that city and to bring attention to the national initiative.

April, a 15-year-old reticulated giraffe who lives at Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, N.Y., is expecting a calf.

Since late February, when her caretakers made available on YouTube a livestream camera feed from inside her stall, April has been viewed many millions of times. Her fame is international: The BBC deemed the birth "the most anticipated since Prince George made his appearance in 2013."

We Homo sapiens have been artists throughout much of our prehistory, creating paintings, engravings and statues, often representing animals.

Now, a team of researchers has described a new discovery from the rock shelter Abri Blanchard in the Dordogne region of France that features a striking image of an aurochs engraved on a limestone slab.

Many in the science community have expressed concern about the lack of science literacy demonstrated by the new Trump administration.

A look at the administration's statements and actions related to five key issues that are informed by science — anthropogenic climate change, vaccines, evolution taught in public schools, environmental science and protection of public lands, and human rights — bolsters that concern.

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In England's Northumberland area, at the Alnwick Castle, you can tour a locked patch of ground where killers reside.

This is the section of Alnwick Gardens dedicated to poisonous or narcotic plants. Once you find a garden keeper to let you through the locked gates, plants — some so toxic they are caged — come into view. They range from strychnine to poppies and hallucinogenic mushrooms.

The Kingdom of Speech by Tom Wolfe is a book situated at the intersection of inflammatory and ignorant.

Best known for, perhaps, The Right Stuff and Bonfire of the Vanities -- which were both made into major films — Wolfe offers his readers a non-fiction account of the evolution of speech in his latest book — or, rather, its non-evolution, because Wolfe denies that speech has evolved.

Eight yellow garden spiders, also called writing spiders or Argiope aurantia, set up shop at various locations around the exterior of my house this summer.

A dog video popped up in my Facebook feed this week that I'd never before seen, though it was originally posted late last year. It's clearly a home video, not always perfectly in focus, but in just two minutes tells an intriguing story.

Wednesday night, the BBC documentary Koko: The Gorilla Who Talks premiered on U.S. TV.

The program tells the story of how Koko, age 44, one of two gorillas living at The Gorilla Foundation in Woodside, Calif., began to learn as an infant to communicate with humans through use of American Sign Language (ASL). She went on to become the most famous gorilla in the world.

Nearly 40 percent of the residents of Nantucket Island in Massachusetts have had Lyme disease.

I was shocked to read this statistic in The New York Times last week — and fascinated, too, to learn that MIT evolutionary biologist Kevin Esvelt suggests that letting thousands of genetically engineered white-footed mice loose on the island might provide a solution.

How would such a project work?

Worldwide reaction continues in the aftermath of last Saturday's tragic incident at the Cincinnati Zoo in which the 17-year-old western lowland gorilla Harambe was shot to death by zoo personnel.

The National Park Service turns 100 this summer, and I've been thinking about how all of us might celebrate this milestone.

In his new book, The Big Question: Why We Can't Stop Talking About Science, Faith and God, Alister McGrath argues that "we need more than science to satisfy our deep yearnings and intuitions." That something more for McGrath is God, specifically, the Christian God.

Animal rescues go on urgently every day around the world.

The idea that our oceans teem with cultural animals — and have for millions of years — is the central conclusion of a new book by two whale scientists. And it's a convincing one.

Whales and dolphins, as they forage for food and interact with each other in their social units, may learn specific ways of doing things from their mothers or their pod mates.

This week, Switzerland's Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that the Indian sprinter Dutee Chand may race as a woman in international competition.

This decision is significant because, just last year, Chand was denied by track and field's governing body (the International Association of Athletics Federations or IAAF) the right to compete against women because her natural levels of testosterone were considered too high for a female athlete.

America's ongoing war on fat, which aims to save this country — and especially its young people — from a costly and damaging epidemic of obesity, turns out to be dangerous all on its own: It exacts a severe psychological and physical toll on the very individuals it purports to help, according to an upcoming book.

"Women are not equal to men; they are superior in many ways, and in most ways that will count in the future. It is not just a matter of culture or upbringing. It is a matter of chromosomes, genes, hormones, and nerve circuits. It is not mainly because of how experience shapes women, but because of intrinsic differences in the body and the brain."