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.

Last week, South Florida's nature came alive for me as much through sound as through sight: the flapping of wings as a great blue heron soared up over a river; the plashing of water when an alligator slipped off the riverbank to swim away; the huffing of a manatee taking a breath at the water's surface before she slowly sank again to the river bottom to munch grass.

If you're reading this after a night of inadequate sleep, or disrupted sleep, you have company. The National Sleep Foundation reports that over half the people in their survey experienced at least one symptom of insomnia "at least a few nights per week" over a year's period.

Male seeks female — and makes a direct advance towards mating. That's one version of the drive to reproduce in the animal kingdom.

Gay marriage should be legal in this country. Inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender expressions, people deserve the right to celebrate their love publicly — and to gain the legal and financial securities that marriage may bring.

Anyone who's lived or bonded with dogs knows that they express their personalities in distinct ways. Once in a while, a video clip comes along that highlights this fact for us in an amusing way. Have a look at this video — it's less than a minute — published earlier this year and sent to me last week by a friend:

Once upon a time, documentary film maker Chris Palmer rented a bunch of wolves from a game farm to aid the making of an IMAX film called Wolves. That decision, Palmer told NPR back in August, was better for the species than the intrusive process of habituating wild wolves would have been; the use of non-wild wolves was disclosed in the movie's credits.

Even as the Ebola crisis in West Africa exceeds 8,000 cases and 3,800 deaths — and as Thomas Eric Duncan's family, friends and neighbors mourn his death in Dallas from Ebola — global outrage has erupted over the decision by health officials in Spain to put down a dog whose owner is hospitalized for Ebola.

Heroic acts carried out by a wide variety of animals — elk and elephants, horses and goats, dogs and cats — are on offer in Jennifer Holland's just-published book, Unlikely Heroes: 37 Inspiring Stories of Courage and Heart from the Animal Kingdom.

"One of the great responsibilities we have as a society is to educate ourselves, along with the next generation, about which substances are worth ingesting and for what purpose and which are not. ... If I knew that either of my daughters would eventually develop a fondness for methamphetamine or heroin, I might never sleep again. But if they don't try a psychedelic like psilocybin or LSD at least once in their adult lives, I will wonder whether they had missed one of the most important rites of passage a human being can experience."

"Come see!"

That's the vocal code in our house, when one of us wants to summon another to show off a small treasure: the flash of a red fox streaking our backyard; a pink-inflamed cloud as sunset approaches; a snake, sinuous and fine, curving black against the green of high-summer grass.

In the realm of prehistoric art, there's a type of small figurine made of stone, bone or ivory that is famous. It features exaggeratedly large breasts, hips and buttocks.

On Monday, the animal advocacy organization PETA released material in support of its campaign to shut down a series of experiments on infant rhesus monkeys carried out at the Laboratory of Comparative Ethology, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Any of us connected with the school calendar — teachers and academic staff, students and their parents — are right now plunging into new beginnings.

September brings a fresh season, also, in the publishing world, in theater and dance and music, and in some sports.

In Elizabeth Gilbert's brilliant novel The Signature of All Things, Alma Whittaker, the central character who was born in Philadelphia in 1800, is destined for a highly unconventional life as a woman in science.