Jane Lancaster, Distinguished Professor Emerita of Anthropology at The University of New Mexico, has been elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences (AAAS). She joins other eminent anthropologists selected for the honor, including the late Mary Douglas Leakey and Margaret Mead. Lancaster is one of 252 outstanding individuals in 30 sections within five classes elected to the American Academy in 2021. 

The Academy was founded by John Adams, John Hancock, and others who believed the new republic should honor exceptionally accomplished individuals and engage them in advancing the public good. Academy members are world leaders in the arts and sciences, business, philanthropy, and public affairs. They are based across the United States and around the world. These elected members join with other experts to explore challenges facing society, identify solutions, and promote nonpartisan recommendations that advance the public good. The primary criteria for election are excellence in the field and a record of continued accomplishment.

“We are honoring the excellence of these individuals, celebrating what they have achieved so far, and imagining what they will continue to accomplish,” said David Oxtoby, president of the American Academy. “The past year has been replete with evidence of how things can get worse; this is an opportunity to illuminate the importance of art, ideas, knowledge, and leadership that can make a better world.”

Lancaster arrived at the UNM Anthropology department in 1985 and was named a Distinguished Professor in 2012. She is a 40-year anthropologist with an international reputation for her research on hominin biosocial evolution. Lancaster has studied primates and humans in both contemporary and ancient contexts and specializes in what used to be called physical anthropology, known today as human evolutionary anthropology. Lancaster's training was as a primatologist and paleoanthropologist, and she has added expertise in contemporary human reproduction viewed through the lens of evolutionary ecology.

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.

Lancaster founded Human Nature, an interdisciplinary journal, in 1990. Human Nature is a forum that integrates physiology, psychology, sociology, and behavioral ecology with an evolutionary eye that has transformed these fields. The publication honored her last year for her contributions to research. Also, she was highlighted during Women’s History Month in March 2021 for her work as one of the leading women in Anthropology at UNM. Lancaster is considered a pioneer in the human evolutionary sciences.

"Jane’s influence on the social science goes beyond her ground-breaking publications unifying biology and social science, on the human life course, and  on women in diverse environments. She dedicated much of her time to training and promoting young scholars, especially those with promise from underrepresented minorities. Over the course of several decades, her ideas have rippled through many young minds, affecting the course of their careers and their contributions to science," said Hillard S. Kaplan, UNM Emeritus Professor of Anthropology.

"This is a much deserved honor for our colleague, Jane Lancaster, after a long, highly productive career in  which she has been a pioneer in the relatively new and exciting field of evolutionary anthropology. Professor Lancaster has also been a seminal figure in the study of biologically based behavior of both non-human and human primates. In addition, she was founding, and long-time, editor of the highly reputed journal, Human Nature, which was based at UNM for many years under the management of several major publishers. Human Nature, along with her own research and many publications on sexuality, parenting, the life cycle, and more, and the creation of a world-class doctoral program in evolutionary anthropology at UNM are Jane Lancaster’s enduring and living legacies. She has also been a pillar of academic service during her many years here since 1985," said Lawrence Guy Straus, Leslie Spier Distinguished Professor Emeritus at UNM.

"As a UNM Distinguished Professor, Jane Lancaster is one of the most prominent anthropologists and human evolutionary scientists living today," said Robert Hitchcock, adjunct professor of Archaeology and Evolutionary Anthropology at UNM. "A pioneering female anthropologist who helped usher in a new era of women’s scholarship in anthropology, Dr. Lancaster has produced a series of landmark publications on the female life course, parental investment, the division of labor,  pregnancy, sexual behavior, life history theory, and the demographic correlates of paternity.  In primate studies she has worked on the similarities and differences between humans and non-human primates, building on ground-breaking research with vervet monkeys in Zambia. Her work is intriguing not only because of its high scientific quality but also because of the breadth of areas that she has covered during the course of her career. She is richly deserving of recognition by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences."

For more information and a list of new members, visit Honoring Excellence, Electing New Members.