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Otterbein Science Lecture Series Presents “The Animal Guide to Finding Love and Raising Kids”

January 06, 2017
Otterbein University

Dr. Jennifer Verdolin will present lecture on animals and human social behavior. 

Westerville, OH— The George W. and Mildred K. White Science Lecture Series at Otterbein University will present a free public lecture by Dr. Jennifer Verdolin at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 2, in the Battelle Fine Arts Center, 170 W. Park St. Verdolin will discuss “The Animal Guide to Finding Love and Raising Kids.” 

When it comes to dating, relationships and family life, it seems humans have some challenges. From fearing rejection to not knowing if someone really likes us, navigating our romantic lives can be a complicated affair. And just when we think we’ve got it all worked out, we start a family and things really get difficult. Whether it’s figuring out how and if to breastfeed (and for how long) or settling disputes between siblings, there are a myriad of issues parents have to figure out. This is where other species can help. Using animal behavior provides a contextual prism to view what is happening in other species and be more objective about what is going on in our own. Through this biological lens, we can explore different ideas of what it takes to have a successful relationship, what it means to parent, and why and how these behaviors evolved in humans and other species. And you just might find that discussing picky peahens, honest elk, and singing siamangs makes the perfect segue into talking about dating in humans. Talking about pregnancy in male seahorses, sibling rivalry in sharks, and coot parents that punish greedy chicks provides the ideal transition to discussing some very sensitive parenting topics. At the end of the day, whether it’s the blue-footed booby, the adzuki bean beetle, or a slew of other species, animals have a lot to teach us about love, relationships, and this thing called family.

Verdolin is an adjunct professor in the Department of Biology at Duke University, as well as the assistant director of the Advanced Inquiry Program of Project Dragonfly in the Biology Department at Miami University. She received her bachelor’s degree from Florida Atlantic University, her master’s degree from Northern Arizona University, and her doctorate degree in ecology and evolution from Stony Brook University. Verdolin’s research explores the evolution of social behavior and mating systems. Her current research includes work on the interaction of personality and social network dynamics. Her first popular science book, “Wild Connection: What animal courtship and mating tell us about human relationships,” was released in 2014 (Prometheus). She is the featured guest of the segment “Think Like a Human, Act Like an Animal” on the nationally syndicated D.L. Hughley Show and was featured in the BBC One Documentary “Animals in Love.” Her second popular science book, “Raised by Animals: How dolphins bond, why meerkats babysit, and other lessons from families in the wild,” will be released in April 2017 (The Experiment).

The George W. and Mildred K. White Science Lecture Series at Otterbein University was established in 1987. The George W. and Mildred K. White Science Seminar Fund sponsors the annual scientific seminars. Through these seminars, national leaders in science and technology share their insights about the future of scientific endeavor. Past speakers have included Dr. Robert Grubbs, 2005 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry; Dr. Tina Henkin, 2006 winner of the National Academies of Science Pfizer Prize; Dr. Steven Pinker, Harvard professor and renowned experimental psychologist; Dr. Andrea Ghez, an international expert in observational astrophysics; Dr. Sean B. Carroll, a leading voice of evolutionary science in the U.S.; animal behaviorist Dr. Steve Nowicki; and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Dr. William D. Phillips.  For more information, visit www.otterbein.edu/sciencelectureseries

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