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.

For Margaret Renkl, a cedar waxwing is "A flying jungle flower. A weightless coalescence of air and light and animation." The squirrel at her squirrel-proof finch feeder surprises by "pulling it to his mouth like an ear of sweet corn at a Fourth of July potluck." The old dog howls "for his crippled hips" and "because it's his job to protect this house, but he is too old now to protect the house."

Working elephants of mountainous Myanmar and northeastern India haul timber or transport people by day, then return to the forest at night.

In his new book titled for these elephants, Giants Of The Monsoon Forest: Living And Working With Elephants, geographer Jacob Shell describes the lives of these animals with details at once compelling and disturbing.

Off the western coast of Norway are sea caves graced by stick figures painted more than 2,000 years ago. Colored red from the iron-oxide pigment used by Bronze Age artists, the figures appear to be in motion, with arms and legs splayed.

Rats' faces express joy when the animals are tickled.

Fairness matters to monkeys; when food offered to their social partners is of higher quality than what they themselves receive, they become highly agitated.

Pigs experience hope, which we know because if raised in decent conditions they anticipate that pleasurable things will happen to them.

In the city of Kabul, Afghanistan, there is a "green, leafy oasis" called Shahr-e Naw Park — a place that briefly became a staging ground for conservation scientists.

In The Snow Leopard Project and other Adventures in Warzone Conservation, Alex Dehgan describes how his Wildlife Conservation Society team hid stuffed animals throughout the park, simulating as best they could the wildlife the scientists might find on their upcoming survey mission in a remote, rugged province called Nuristan.

Higher sea levels, displacement of millions of people, disrupted agriculture, and more extreme weather events are predictions for the future in an October U.N. climate report.

An amazing animal rescue video surfaced last week, in the wake of the floodwaters caused by Hurricane Florence. In Leland, N.C., six hunting dogs had been abandoned in chain-link kennels, unable to escape the rising waters.

Do prehistoric fossils belong only in a museum or educational center that communicates science to the public? Is it ever right for commercial fossil hunters to sell dinosaur skulls to movie stars for display in their living rooms?

Ecological statistics pertaining to bees carry a sting: More than 75 percent of the world's 115 primary crops require pollination or thrive better through interaction with pollinators.

Bees are the primary pollinators in the animal kingdom, yet sudden and massive die-offs of these insects began in 2006 and continue now, with a 30 percent annual loss reported by North American beekeepers.

A slim mahogany-colored cow, Dolly was an attentive mother to her first four offspring, all boys, at Kite's Nest farm in Worcestershire, England.

Then Dolly II, a pale-colored girl, was born and became the recipient of that bovine love.

In The Secret Life of Cows, published this week in the U.S. by Penguin Press, farmer Rosamund Young tells the story of what happened when Dolly II grew up and gave birth herself.

This post is my last for 13.7: Cosmos & Culture.

For 6 1/2 years, I have had the privilege and the pleasure of writing commentaries — about 50 every year — for NPR on animals, anthropology, human evolution, nature, gender and higher education.

The blog's science and culture commentary is being discontinued by NPR — and, so, it's time to say goodbye.

Consider this list of names for hamburgers that are now, or have been, on the market: Thickburger, Whopper, Big Mac, Big Boy, Chubby Boy, Beefy Boy, Super Boy.

Notice a pattern there?

Writer Carol J. Adams does. This list comes from her book Burger, published last month. As the hamburger business gradually grew over time, Adams explains, so did the size of the hamburger — and the gender associations.

Over the past few years, I've spent many hours reading up on — and a morning observing — the smart, sassy behavior of octopuses.

Much of the U.S. remains firmly in the grip of winter, even as the sports-enthused world prepares to cheer on athletes in snow-and-ice-centered events at the Winter Olympics.

Late last year, an infant elephant in the state of Kerala in India fell into a well as the baby's herd moved to cross a river.

Together, villagers and government officials mounted a five-hour rescue, using heavy earth-moving equipment to clear a path of packed-down soil that allowed the youngster to climb out.

Have you ever walked out of a movie theater and said to your companion, "Wow, the science in that film was awesome?"

A Sunday column by David Sax in The New York Times quotes a cheering statistic from the Association of American Publishers: Sales of "old-fashioned print books" are up for the third year in a row.

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.

Join me for a memory exercise involving food and family: Think back to the main-course meals your grandparents served you. And, if you're middle-aged or older, like me, your parents, too.

How many vegetarian or vegan dishes were among those main courses?

Have you spent quiet time poring over a set of maps? Maybe of a region halfway around the world that you've always wanted to visit — or even the mountains or coastlines of your home area?

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,

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.

You know that voice we tend to use when speaking to babies?

It's a sing-song voice, one with higher pitch, shorter phrases with simpler grammar, slower speech rate, more repetitions, and greater contrast in our vowels. It's called "motherese" or, more accurately, IDS (for infant-directed speech).

Dogs are celebrated everywhere these days for the clever things they and their brains can do, and the science of dog cognition continues to soar in popularity.

As a cat person, I can't help but add that cats, too, show off their savviness for science.

Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen's memoir set for release on Tuesday, is a virtuoso performance, the 508-page equivalent to one of Springsteen and the E Street Band's famous four-hour concerts: Nothing is left onstage, and diehard fans and first-timers alike depart for home sated and yet somehow already aching for more.

Smack in the middle of this summer of American political and societal turmoil, I'm hearing a lot about how important it is to seek out and listen to people whose ideas diverge from one's own.

None of us should want to dwell in an echo chamber. Taking up this philosophy, today I embark on a series of conversations (to appear about once a month) with people whose ideas diverge significantly from my own.

The goal? To get past hard-and-fast assumptions, to open up a space for dialogue, and see what happens.

First up: hunting.

A slim volume arrived in the mail this spring and captivated me because the author's joy in doing science and experiencing nature spills out on every page.

Now the book is published, with a pretty nifty title: The Simple Beauty of the Unexpected: A Natural Philosopher's Quest for Trout and the Meaning of Everything. Its author is Marcelo Gleiser.

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?

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

Alex Honnold doesn't like to watch his friends "free solo" on big rock formations like El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.

"Free solo" means that the climber uses only his or her body to climb: There are no ropes, no partner, no bolts drilled into rock for stability and support. There's also no room for error: One mistake and the climber falls and dies.