Recap of the 2009 AAA Meetings

The 2009 W.W. Howells Book Award winners are Alan Walker and Pat Shipman for their book, The Ape in the Tree:  An Intellectual and Natural History of Proconsul, published by Harvard University Press. From Robert Proctor’s Science book review: “The Ape in the Tree is a fine account of new ways to puzzle out the behaviors of fossilized animals from odd scraps of bones.”

The BAS Student Award Winner for 2009 was Molly Zuckerman for her paper “Making Sex Less Dangerous: Evaluating the Evolution of Virulence in Syphilis.” Honorable mentions went to Matt Nowak for his poster “Group size, social structure, and ranging in lar-gibbons: implications for the ecological constraints model,” and to Carrie Veilleux for her paper “Habitat preference and nocturnal lemur color vision: implications for primate and human evolution.”

The 2009 Distinguished Lecture was presented by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy. The title of the lecture was “Darwin and the Ascent of Emotionally Modern Man: How Humans Became such Hypersocial Apes.”

Program Chair Debra Martin, organizes thee BAS sponsored and cosponsored sessions. This year we had 23 volunteered abstracts that came to us for review – almost all of them requested podium except for 3 that preferred being in a poster session. We accepted all of the abstracts, and organized them into 2 thematic session and 1 poster session. Some individuals were asked if they would shift their papers to posters or vice versa, and everyone did agree. The themes/titles for the volunteered paper sessions included “Evolutionary Perspectives on Morphology, the Brain and Tool Use” and “Biocultural Perspectives on Inequality, Health and Diet.” The posters were grouped into two themes, one having to do with forensics and field methods, and one having to do with cooperative breeding. In addition to these volunteered sessions, there was one organized session on “Bioarchaeology of Captivity and Slavery” organized by Debra Martin and Ventura Perez. We used our invited designations for one of the volunteered sessions, the captivity and slavery session and we co-sponsored a session with Medical Anthropology in immigration and health. All BAS sessions were spread out across the days and time slots, and do not seem to conflict with other biological sessions that did not go through BAS (such as the Presidential session on Darwin). In 2008we had a total of 49 papers and posters, and in 2007 a total of 34. The declining numbers of papers/posters is a concern and we will work to increase the number.

The Reception followed the distinguished lecture. I had requested a room for 100 people for the both events. The lecture was schedule for a smaller room (about 75 seats) and was overly full with people sitting on the floor. The room was too small to set up the reception in the back of the room as planned (and discussed with the hotel in at least 3 phone calls). The inadequate space negatively impacted the reception and it did not last as long as usual.