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Dr Adam Gordon 

IAS Fellow at Hatfield College, October-December 2023

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  • Durham Tel: +44 (0)191 3344691


Adam GordonAdam Gordon is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University at Albany, State University of New York. The core of Dr Gordon's work examines how ecological forces and social group dynamics (natural and sexual selection) impact the evolution of size and shape variability in living and extinct primates, particularly the evolutionary lineage that includes humans and our extinct close relatives (hominins). His work draws on phylogenetic comparative methods, quantitative genetics, and analytical techniques developed to address missing data in fossil samples.  These approaches are used to test evolutionary models in large samples of living species and then to apply those models to infer specific selective forces that acted on extinct hominins. In particular, Dr Gordon’s work has investigated the role of resource stress and ecological variability on the evolution of body size variation in primates generally, and hominins specifically. 

More recently, Dr Gordon has begun collaborative projects using quantitative genetics methods to test hypotheses about the role of sexual selection in the evolution of size and color in pedigreed mandrills (with Professor Jo Setchell, Anthropology) and about the applicability of Cheverud’s conjecture (a statement about the association between phenotypic and genetic covariation) across traits of increasing plasticity in bone. He is also working with colleagues to develop methods to better incorporate information about the processes that affect fossil site formation when reconstructing paleoenvironments, particularly those relevant to primate evolution. 

At Durham, Dr Gordon will be working with Professor Sarah Elton (Anthropology) to build a collaborative working group with Durham researchers to develop models linking environmental variation to primate morphological variation in the fossil record from novel theoretical foundations including life history theory, metabolic scaling, and sexual selection theory (mediated through metabolism and energy available in the environment). This work will be built on existing expertise in Anthropology and the Behaviour, Ecology and Evolution Research Centre (BEER). The models will be applied to comparative analysis of papionins, a group of living and extinct primates that includes modern baboons that lived through the same environmental changes over the past few million years as the human lineage, and in some cases developed similar responses (e.g., shifting away from arboreal behaviors toward more terrestrial behaviors). The papionins have an extensive fossil record, and Professor Elton and other faculty supervise students working on modern and extinct papionin species, whom Dr Gordon hopes to collaborate with and mentor. 

Dr Gordon graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Maryland College Park with a BS in Paleoanthropology (through the Individual Studies Program, which allows students to develop their own programs of study), and received an MA and PhD in Anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin. His work has been funded by the National Science Foundation (USA) and the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and it has appeared in a variety of outlets including Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, Journal of Human Evolution, American Journal of Biological Anthropology (formerly American Journal of Physical Anthropology), Evolutionary Anthropology, International Journal of Primatology, Environmental Conservation, and various edited volumes.


IAS Seminar - 20 November 2023 - 1.00 - 2.00pm. IAS Seminar Room, Cosin's Hall, Institute of Advanced Study
Human Evolutionary Narratives and Hypotheses: broadening consideration of "unique" human evolutionary developments for testing theoretical predictions in a comparative context 
Registration is essential. Details here

IAS public lecture - 2 November 2023 - 5.30 - 6.30pm, The Chapel, Hatfield College, Durham University
Where Did I Come From? Human evolution, sexual selection, and ecological stress 
Further information here


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