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Monique Borgerhoff Mulder

Monique Borgerhoff Mulder

Professor, PhD Northwestern University, 1987

214 Young Hall Department of Anthropology
University of California,
Davis One Shields Avenue
Davis, California 95616, USA

Office Hours for Winter 2015 :

  • Tuesdays 11:00 - 1:00pm


  1. PhD, Northwestern University, 1987
  2. I trained as a social anthropologist at the University of Edinburgh, and then worked in journalism, teaching and museum archaeology before starting a PhD at Northwestern University, where I wrote a dissertation based on the application of a behavioural ecological and economic model to polygyny in rural Africa – the polygyny threshold model. After a post doc at the Evolution and Human Behavior Program at University of Michigan I took up a faculty position in Anthropology (Evolutionary Wing) at UC Davis in 1991, where I have happily stayed all these years.


Research Interests

I am a human behavioural ecologist working on projects relating to life history, conservation, and global patterns of cultural variation. HBE-ers explore the big "Why" questions about our species, such as why do people marry, what is the basis of gender roles in economic and social behaviour, why has fertility dropped so radically in most parts of the world, why are people such poor conservationists of natural resources, and many others. I worked on these topics recently as a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. I have three major foci of interest.

First, I do fieldwork in East Africa, both alone and with students, investigating issues relating to human life history variation, fertility, marriage, inheritance, divorce, sexual conflict, health and household economics; my current behavioral ecological research focuses on Rukwa villages in western Tanzania. I am currently co-coordinating a collaborative projects on Intergenerational Transmission of Wealth at the Santa Fe Institute and on polygyny with Sam Bowles. I also edit a book series on the Origins of Human Behavior and Culture at the University of California Press.

Second, I work on both the evolutionary and applied aspects of natural resource management, particularly with respect to conflicts over land use and community conservation, see the recent Princeton University Press book "Conservation: Linking Ecology, Economics and Culture".   With students I am continuing to work on meta-analyses of the success of different conservation strategies. In 2006 with collaborators at the University of Minnesota we set up Savannas Forever (Tanzania), now linked to The Whole Village Project at the University of Minnesota, as a Tanzanian NGO designed to seek evaluate practical solutions to the conservation of natural resources. I am currently Chair of the Board of SFTZ. I also work with Collaboration for Environmental Evidence.

Third I am interested in grand global patterns of macrocultural variation. In collaboration with Charlie Nunn, Mary Towner, Cody Ross and Mark Grote we are developing new methods for determining the roles of history and geography in patterning cultural variation.

I also work directly in community development in Tanzania, coordinating the Mpimbwe Project, a platform for a variety of community-based initiatives in the Rukwa Valley. With my husband Tim Caro we were awarded the Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Award in 2009. For blatant self-advertisement, anyone thinking seriously about conducting anthropological research in developing nations should read the entertaining tales of my friends and relations "I've Been Gone Far Too Long".

Finally here you can read more about Tim Caro's and my study site in Western Tanzania (Katavi-Rukwa Ecosystem)


Current Students

Curtis Atkisson, interested in human behavioral ecology and cultural evolution, also statistical, mathematical and computational modeling

Nicole Naar, research on community fisheries in Mexico

Andamile Martin (co-supervised with Tim Caro) working on the bush meat trade in Tanzania

Jonathan Salerno, working on population issues surrounding protected areas in Tanzania

Past Students

Ryan Schacht (postdoc University of Utah)

Asma Mohseni

Emily Fitzherbert (Postdoc, Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Oxford University; WASIMA campaign)

Peter Mgawe (Institute of Social Work, Dar es Salaam - Kijitonyama)

Charlie Nunn (Duke University)

Mary Towner (Assistant Professor, Oaklahoma State University)

Jeremy Brooks (Assistant Professor, Ohio State University)

Margaret Franzen

Jenny Moylan (UC Davis Education Abroad Program)

Chris Holmes (Wildlife Conservation Society, Madagascar)

Craig Hadley (Emory University, Associate Professor)

Kimber Haddix (University of Montana, Professor)

Peter Coppolillo (Working Dogs for Conservation)

Daniel Sellen (University of Toronto)

Daniela Sieff (Independent science writer/film maker)


Selected Recent Publications

Kasper, C. and M. Borgerhoff Mulder (In press). Who helps and why: Cooperative networks in Mpimbwe. Current Anthropology

Schacht, R and M. Borgerhoff Mulder. (2015) Sex ratio effects on reproductive strategies in humans. R. Soc. Open Sci. 2:140402

Lawson, D.W., Borgerhoff Mulder, M. et al. (2014). Ethnicity and child health in northern Tanzania: Maasai pastoralists are disadvantaged in comparison to neigbouring groups. PLos One 9(10): e110447.

Aichele, S.R, Borgerhoff Mulder, M., James, S. and K. Grimm (2014). Attitudinal and behavioral characteristics predict high risk sexual activity in rural Tanzania youth. PLoS ONE 9(6) e9987.

Fitzherbert, E., T, Caro, P.J. Johnson, D.W. Macdonald and M. Borgerhoff Mulder (2014). From Avengers to Hunters: Leveraging Collective Action for the Conservation of Endangered Lions. Biological Conservation 28(3): 841-850.

Schacht, R., K. Rauch, and M. Borgerhoff Mulder (2014). Too Many Men? The Violence Problem. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 29(4): 214-222.

Salerno, J. D., Borgerhoff Mulder, M. and S.C. Kefauver (2014).  Human migration, protected areas, and conservation outreach in Tanzania. Conservation Biology 28(3): 841-850.

Power of the Past. A review of The World until Yesterday. Diamond, J. (2013). Nature 493: 477-478.

Mgawe, P, Borgerhoff Mulder, M., Caro, T. and S.J. Seel (2013). Historia ya Kabila la Pimbwe. Mkuki na Nyota Publishers. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Borgerhoff Mulder, M. (2013) Why an Ape with Complex Cumulative Culture Dominates the World: Different Views. Evolutionary Anthropology 22:34-39.

Brooks, J.S., Waylen, K.A., and M. Borgerhoff Mulder (2012). How national context, project design, and local community characteristics influence success in community-bases conservation projects. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 109:21265-70.

Towner, M., Grote, M.N., Venti, J. and M. Borgerhoff Mulder (2012). Cultural Macroevolution on Neighbor Graphs: Vertical and Horizontal Transmission among Western North American Indian Societies. Human Nature 23: 283-305.

Borgerhoff Mulder, M., M. Msalu, T. Caro and J.Salerno (2012). Remarkable rates of lightning strike mortality in Malawi. PLOS One 7:1-4

Borgerhoff Mulder, M. and B. A. Beheim (2011). Understanding the nature of wealth and its effects on human fitness. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 366:344-356.

Borgerhoff Mulder, M., S. Bowles, T. Hertz, A. Bell, J. Beise, G. Clark, I. Fazzio, M.Gurven, K. Hill, P. Hooper, W. Irons, H. Kaplan, D. L. Leonetti, F. Marlowe, S. Naidu, D. Nolin, P. Piraino, R. J. Quinlan, R. Sear, P. Shenk, E. A. Smith, and P. Wiessner 2009. The Intergenerational Transmission of Wealth and the Dynamics of Inequality in Pre-Modern Societies.  Science 326: 682-88.

Borgerhoff Mulder, M. and K.L. Rauch 2009. Sexual Conflict in Humans: Variations and Solutions. Evolutionary Anthropology 18: 201-214.

Borgerhoff Mulder, M. 2009 Serial monogamy as polyandry or polygyny? Marriage in the Tanzanian Pimbwe. Human Nature 20: 130-150.

Brown, G. R., K. N. Laland, and M. Borgerhoff Mulder. 2009. Bateman’s principles and human sex roles. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 24(6):297-304

Borgerhoff Mulder, M., Caro, T and A. O. Msago. 2007. Integrating anthropological, archeological, biological and historical research in a long term conservation study in the Katavi ecosytem. Conservation Biology 21, No. 3, 647–658.

Borgerhoff Mulder, M., Nunn, C.L. and M. Towner.  2006. Macroevolutionary studies of cultural trait variation: The importance of transmission mode. Evolutionary Anthropology 15: 52-64.

Full CV

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