Social networks in Fiji

CHES associate reports on a summer in Fiji

This past summer CHES associate, Matt Gervais continued his research as part of the Human Generosity Project. He worked in rural villages in Yasawa, Fiji for two months, conducting interviews on social support networks. Specifically, he conducted social network interviews, asking how do kin of different genealogical and spatial distance help one another buffer risks of different sorts, including asynchronous injuries and illnesses and larger-scale synchronous needs from droughts and cyclones?

 Yasawairara, Fiji, 2016: A research assistant sits with an elder villager in her family's kitchen, conducting an interview on social support networks. She is asking about help the woman has given and received for injuries, illnesses, droughts, and cyclones.


Yasawairara, Fiji, 2016: A group of men from different extended households cooperate to unload baked cassava and chickens from an earth oven prepared to feast a boatload of visiting tourists.


Yasawairara, Fiji, 2016: Following a seaside path at sundown, a villager carries a basket of fresh net-caught fish to another household as part of an extensive inter-household sharing network that helps to buffer risks for villagers living in rural outlying islands.

Congratulations Dr. Shapiro!

CHES graduate affiliate Darcy Shapiro has defended her dissertation! Go ahead and call her Dr. Shapiro.

Dissertations are big deals. And dissertation defenses mark the emergence of new scholars. They are so worth celebrating. They are momentous occasions for the new PhD, the supervisng faculty member, and for the whole dissertation committee.

Beginning at 11:00 am this morning, my student and CHES graduate affiliate Darcy Shapiro defended her dissertation - "Characterizing Density and Anisotropy in the Trabecular Architecture of the Primate Ilium and Ischium." She gave an excellent presentation, handled all questions and has passed! We learned (among other things) that in the primate ilium and ischium trabecular bone anisotropy is likely more useful for reconstruction of locomotion in fossil species than density. Congratulations Dr. Shapiro!

 ---Rob Scott, September 16, 2016


 Dr. Shapiro with her internal committee members. Erin Vogel, Rob Scott, and Susan Cachel. 

Winter Is Coming (in Mongolia)

CHES graduate affiliate Tom Conte prepares for winter in Mongolia

Hi! My name is Tom Conte and I am a PhD candidate in evolutionary anthropology at Rutgers. My dissertation research focuses on human social behavior and how natural disasters and environmental risks affect humans' willingness and ability to cooperate with one another. Research suggests that cooperation may have given our earliest ancestors a selective advantage in being able to survive and reproduce in extremely variable East African environments.

Unfortunately, it's not particularly easy to infer how our earliest ancestors may have cooperated from the material and fossil record they left behind. Fortunately, we can also study these issues in living populations as well! My dissertation work focuses on how natural disasters affect cooperation among nomadic herders in Mongolia, where severe winters threaten livestock and economic livelihoods. 

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Experimental economic games are a fascinating way of looking at people's cooperative decision making. In Mongolia, this means a lot of planning and improvisation.

Mongolian herders are nomadic and move between four and eight times each year to new pastures. To remain mobile, most herders live in round felt tents known as gers in Mongolian. They are very comfortable and most are way nicer than my apartment in New Jersey!

Cooperation in Mongolia often centers on preparing for the harsh winters where temperatures can drop as low as -50 Fahrenheit. As I prepare for my first winter in Mongolia, I've decided to cover myself in down clothing and Gore-Tex. My house has been transformed into a sporting goods store.  

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