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Department of Anthropology


ASAB Easter Conference 2015

The Association of the Study of Animal Behaviour Easter Conference was hosted by the Behaviour Ecology and Evolution Research Centre (BEER) in March. The Conference was held over 3 days and plenary speakers included Dr Paula Stockley from University of Liverpool and Dr Tristram Wyatt from University of Oxford.

The event was well attended with lots of positive feedback and presentations included findings from the Vulture Enrichment research conducted by the Hawk Conservancy Trust. To see more conference feedback see @asabeaster2015

(28 Apr 2015)

Footprint analyses may be confounded by load-carrying behaviours

Durham MSc Evolutionary Medicine student, Janelle Wagnild, co-authored a paper recently published in PLoS ONE titled “Human footprint variation during load bearing tasks.” The paper investigates the ways in which human footprints change when individuals walk while carrying loads, and its findings have implications for the way in which fossilised hominin footprints are interpreted. To read more, visit

(10 Apr 2015)

Gibbon calls 'could shed light on human speech'

The secret communication of gibbons has been interpreted for the first time in a study published in the open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology.

The research reveals the likely meaning of a number of distinct gibbon whispers, or “hoo” calls, responding to particular events and types of predator.

In a BBC4 Radio Interview Dr Esther Clarke, lead author of the research and a Research Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at Durham University, said a male and a female will sing together in the morning time - in what can be both a territorial and a sexual duet.

She said the “hoos” were distinct from each-other in significant ways, to the extent that they may provide clues on the evolution of human speech.

“It gives us clues to the evolutionary roots of complex communication-like language,” she said.

To see the full interview click here

(9 Apr 2015)

Copying varies cross-culturally: People from China rely more on other people’s solutions to complex tasks than people from the UK

(12 Nov 2014) » More about Copying varies cross-culturally: People from China rely more on other people’s solutions to complex tasks than people from the UK

Durham University recognised for advancing gender equality

(4 Sep 2014) » More about Durham University recognised for advancing gender equality

Durham anthropologist Dr Kate Nowak warns about private hunting companies' impact on elephants

Durham anthropologist Dr Kate Nowak has written on the National Geographic's website about the dangers that private hunting companies pose for elephant populations.

She writes that while governments are making increasing efforts to protect elephants and their ecosystems, this effort is threatened by companies that allow trophy hunting and the shooting of wild game for sport.

She recommends that governments impose top-down bans on trophy hunting, lest previous efforts to curb elephant hunting be undone.

Read more on the National Geographic website.

(1 Sep 2014)

Durham MAnth graduate is awarded PhD studentship at Cardiff University

Harriet Quinn-Scoggins, a recent graduate of Durham's MAnth Medical Anthropology degree, has been awarded a fully-funded PhD studentship at Cardiff University sponsored by The Healing Foundation, and based in the School of Medicine and the Cochrane Institute of Primary Care and Public Health.

The MAnth programmes are four-year integrated masters programmes which combine three years of undergraduate study with an additional fourth year of masters-level study.

Harriet's MAnth thesis was conducted within the Parent-Infant Sleep Lab and supervised by Prof Helen Ball. She examined paternal-infant nighttime interactions and how the ideology of the 'new-father' shapes current paternal personal experiences, understanding and knowledge of infant sleep. Harriet says "Although I thoroughly enjoyed my undergraduate years and masters research at Durham University I am happy to have a change of direction and combine my academic studies with my personal interest in the teaching of first aid."

The Healing Foundation is a national charity championing those living with disfigurement through the funding of holistic research for physical and psychological healing treatments and rehabilitation techniques, alongside raising awareness and preventative measures. Harriet's PhD studentship, titled 'A school based intervention for childhood burns and scalds', will work towards raising awareness and preventative measures. She will be designing and testing a program of teaching for primary school aged children on the topic of burns, scalds and first aid. Childhood burns and scalds are a significant problem and have the potential for life long scarring and psycosocial consequences. While preschool children predominate, there is another peak prevalence in older children as they become involved in food preparation,domestic chores, and high risk behaviours outside the home. Most prevention programs address parents, thus effective prevention and first aid knowledge is limited amongst this age group. Thus there is a perfect gap for a school based intervention to reduce avoidable burns and increase effective first aid. Hopefully the message, if successful, will help to inform the next generation of parents.

Read more about the range of degrees offered by the Department of Anthropology at Durham, and the work of the Parent-Infant Sleep Lab.

(1 Sep 2014)

Durham anthropology teaching rated highly in the National Student Survey (NSS)

Durham anthropology undergraduate students have reported high levels of satisfaction with teaching on their course, according to this year’s National Student Survey (NSS).

From a sample of 96 third-year Durham anthropology undergraduates, 94% agreed with the statement “Staff are good at explaining things”, 93% agreed that “Staff have made the subject interesting”, 96% agreed that “Staff are enthusiastic about what they are teaching”, and 95% agreed that “The course is intellectually stimulating”.

Overall, 91% of Durham anthropology respondents agreed that “Overall, I am satisfied with the quality of the course”. This is higher than the average of 87% for all UK anthropology departments.

Durham University as a whole achieved a top ten position among Higher Education Institutions, maintaining its position as one of the highest ranked mainstream UK universities for student satisfaction.

The National Student Survey (NSS) is an independent annual survey that evaluates how satisfied students are with the overall quality of their higher education experience. University-level data can be found on the NSS website, while subject-level data will be published in September on the Unistats website.

Read more about Durham’s success in the 2014 National Student Survey.

(12 Aug 2014)

Durham primatologist features on BBC's Talk To The Animals

Durham anthropology PhD student Andrea Donaldson features in BBC One's "Talk To The Animals" this Thursday, 10th July at 20.00

Andrea will be talking about her work with vervet monkeys in Kenya, and how they use alarm calls to communicate with each other about predators.

Find out more about the work of the Primates and Predators research group

Link to the programme (external BBC website)

(10 Jul 2014)

Anthropology PhD graduates attend graduation ceremony

Anthropology PhD graduates Martyn Hurst, Emilio Berrocal, Lyn Robinson, Carolyn O'Connor and Denise Crane attended their graduation ceremony earlier this month at Durham Cathedral.

The photo shows the PhD graduates with present and past Heads of Department Profs Helen Ball and Bob Simpson.

Find out more about PhD research in anthropology at Durham

(7 Jul 2014)

Haringey Bursary for Durham's MSc Energy and Society - deadline extended to July 21st

In partnership with Haringey Council, a student bursary is available for Durham University's MSc in Energy and Society. The deadline for applications has now been extended to July 21st

The bursary covers UK/EU fees plus an amount to cover expenses for dissertation research towards Haringey’s carbon reduction and inequality goals. Dissertation topics should be developed in dialogue with Haringey and their local partners within the following theme:

Changing households and improving domestic energy efficiency? The role of the Green Deal Communities Funding programme.

Applications will be considered on the quality of a research proposal put forward in relation to the above theme. The actual project undertaken will be developed with guidance from course tutors and in dialogue with Haringey council.

Applicants for the bursary should hold an offer of a place on the MSc Energy and Society. If you do not already have an offer, please apply via the university’s online application website.

Bursary applications should use the attached outline and be submitted by 21st July 2014 as email attachments to:

Find out more about Durham's MSc Energy and Society

For further information about Haringey Carbon Commission, see:

Priority will be given to applicants resident in the borough of Haringey.

(7 Jul 2014)

Dr Paolo Fortis organises Art & Anthropology Workshop

Durham anthropologist Dr Paolo Fortis has organised a workshop at the Royal Anthropological Institute on Art & Anthropology to be held on Friday 4th July 2014.

Five speakers, including Paolo, will address the past and future contributions that anthropology can make to the study of art. Paolo's talk is entitled "The aesthetics of power and alterity among Kuna people".

Find out more about the workshop


(2 Jul 2014)

Durham anthropologist Frances Thirlway appears on BBC Newcastle radio to discuss smoking in the NE

PhD researcher Frances Thirlway appeared on BBC Newcastle's Breakfast Show on 24th March to contribute to a discussion on smoking in the North-East of England.

Frances' research is a multi-generational ethnography of a former mining village in County Durham, with a specific application to smoking as cultural practice. Her work relates to identity, class and culture, and is strongly rooted in local history.

Click here to download an audio clip on Frances talking on the show (courtesy of BBC Newcastle)

(19 Jun 2014)

Dr Nayanika Mookherjee participates in Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict

Dr. Nayanika Mookherjee from the Department of Anthropology at Durham was invited as an expert and delegate to the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict held in London from 10-13th June, which was co-chaired by UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and UN Special Envoy and actor Angelina Jolie.

The summit brought together government representatives including 79 Ministers from 129 countries; 1,700 delegates in total including 8 UN Agency Heads, as well as presidents and prosecutors from the ICC and international tribunals, and over 300 delegates from conflict affected countries.

There were more than 20 expert sessions looking at every aspect of ending sexual violence in conflict from children affected by conflict to investigating and prosecuting these crimes, to the role of faith leaders, military and peace-keeping reforms and how to prevent and respond to sexual violence in humanitarian emergencies.

Dr. Mookherjee is currently on a British Academy mid career fellowship examining 'war babies.'

Read more about the summit on the BBC News website.

(18 Jun 2014)

Anthropology success in the Durham Student Union Staff Awards

Two members of the anthropology department have been honoured in the 2014 Durham Student Union "Staff Awards". These awards are voted for by students across the entire university.

Dr Jo Setchell won the "Super Supervisor" Award, while Dr Trudi Buck was nominated for "Lecturer of the Year Award – Social Science and Health".

Read more about the Durham Student Union Staff Awards

(19 May 2014)

Dr Katarzyna Nowak blogs about the US domestic ivory ban

Durham anthropologist Dr Kate Nowak has blogged for National Geographic about the forthcoming blanket ban in the U.S. on domestic ivory use imposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

Contrary to other commentators who have questioned the effectiveness of such a blanket ban, Dr Nowak argues that the USFWS's strategy will be effective in driving down illegal trade within U.S. national borders, and make the U.S. better positioned to engage in constructive diplomatic dialogue with other nations facing the problem of high illegal ivory flows.

Read Kate's blog at National Geographic here

(16 May 2014)

Durham Anthropology: A top-10 department at a top-10 university

According to the 2015 Complete University Guide, Durham is the only university to rank in the top-10 for every single course offered, including Anthropology. Durham ranks 5th overall, and is placed 4th in the UK for graduate prospects.

Read more about Durham's ranking


(13 May 2014)

Anthropology staff win teaching awards

Two members of the Department of Anthropology have won teaching awards, as publicised in the latest edition of the Quality Enahncement at Durham (QED) newsletter.

Dr Sandra Bell won the Excellence in Doctoral Supervision Award, given to PhD supervisors who exhibit outstanding interest and enthusiasm in training PhD students.

Dr Fire Kovarovic won an award for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, for her undergraduate and masters level teaching of palaeoanthropology.

Download Issue 18 of QED to find out more

(28 Apr 2014)

Dr Ernesto Schwartz-Marin wins ESRC Transformative Research grant

Congratulations to Durham anthropologist Dr Ernesto Schwartz-Marin, whose proposal ‘Citizen Led Forensics: DNA & data-banking as technologies of disruption-a novel way to learn and intervene in the search for the disappeared in Mexico’ has been recommended for funding of £196k through the ESRC's Transformative Research call.

(10 Apr 2014)

PhD student Ben Kasstan wins award for 'Interfaith Project of the Year'

Durham Anthropology PhD student Ben Kasstan has won the 'Interfaith Project of the Year' at the 6th Annual Union of Jewish Students awards.

Ben was awarded this prize for setting up the Muslim-Jewish Forum in Durham. The forum focuses on unity and cohesion, whilst simultaneously celebrating differences. Along with the Durham Islamic Society, Ben has organised many events including a discussion of Islamaphobia and anti-Semitism, the former in relation to the hijab (headscarf) and the latter concerning the Y-word football debate. Ben initiated an interfaith Shabbat meal, hosting Jews, Muslims and Christians.

Read more about Ben's UJS award

(10 Apr 2014)

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