UNM Distinguished Professor of Anthropology Jane Lancaster has been presented with the Human Behavior and Evolution Society’s Lifetime Career Award for Distinguished Scientific Contribution. The award is given to researchers who have made distinguished theoretical or empirical contributions to basic research in evolution and human behavior. HBES, an interdisciplinary society for the study of human behavior and evolution recognizes her contributions as one of the founders and promoters in the fields of Evolutionary Anthropology, Psychology and Biology.
Lancaster was also been appointed as a Distinguished Professor by UNM, one of the highest accolades possible for faculty members.
“Jane Lancaster’s promotion to distinguished professor and lifetime achievement award from HBES are both well deserved and demonstrate the quality and breadth of academic and professional contributions that she has made to Anthropology in her exemplary career,” said Anthropology Department Chair Michael Graves.
Lancaster’s original professional interest was the study of primates. Over the years, she has moved to the study of human behaviors, particularly involving reproduction and parental investments in offspring. Among her many achievements, Lancaster is the author of a classic book in the field “Primate Behavior and the Emergence of Human Culture.” She also edited a book series on teen parenthood, child abuse and neglect, and parenting through the life course.
Colleagues say Lancaster has also had an influence in shaping the field of anthropology by forming a professional journal and bringing together the voices of young scientists. Her open access journal “Human Nature: An Interdisciplinary Biosocial Perspective” welcomes papers that transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries in anthropology and the sciences. It is one of the highest ranked journals in Anthropology as measured by “Journal Citation Reports.” One of Lancaster’s great professional
strengths is in editing and publishers have asked her to organize a series of short books that look at human behavior through the lens of the evolutionary and cross-cultural records. She is now in the process of contacting colleagues to contribute to the book series, and envisions publication of two or three a year over the next few years.
Lancaster was hired at UNM in 1985 because of her interest in biosocial anthropology. UNM Professor of Anthropology Hilliard Kaplan, a colleague, says at UNM Lancaster’s influence greatly helped move the department in a direction where the sub-disciplines could thrive and work together.
Evolution doesn’t come easily, and it is especially complex in academia. UNM’s Department of Anthropology, like other departments across the world has moved from a departmental model with several specialties, usually dominated by one subfield to a more inclusive model where the focus is on a few subfields, each developing expertise specific to its objectives. Researchers may collaborate on shared areas of interest, but the goal is to position the Department for continued excellence and relevance. Kaplan says Lancaster’s influence was crucial in bridging the gap at UNM. He also points to her enduring interest in her students, “When I think of Jane he says, “I think of all the people she has helped to make a big contribution. She’s done that with students who thought out of the box and has promoted them and really made them into successful academics.”
Lancaster, who was recently named as a Distinguished Professor at UNM says she is honored by the award, and is especially pleased that it came from colleagues who she’s known and worked with over the decades. “We’ve all worked to develop the area of evolutionary anthropology and behavioral ecology. It’s a pleasure to think about what’s been accomplished,” she says.
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