Indiana State University Newsroom

Professor to discuss bonobos at Indiana State

March 30, 2009

On Tuesday, March 31, a professor of gender studies and anthropology will speak at Indiana State University as part of the Biology Seminar Series, "From Molecules to Ecosystems."

Dr. Amy Parish, a professor at the University of Southern California, will speak at 4 p.m. in room 12 of the Science Building. Parish will speak about an on-going study she has been a part of for the last 15 years concerning bonobos, or great apes, entitled, "Bonobos: A Female Dominated Society."

In all of her research, Parish uses an evolutionary approach in order to shed light on the origins of human behavior. She has made ground-breaking discoveries about this little known close relative of humans: females form real and meaningful bonds in the absence of kinship, females attack and dominate males, and all possible age and gender combinations participate in sexual interactions. Aside from her research on bonobos, Parish also has a project on male mate choice decisions in human females.

Parish earned her bachelor's from the University of Michigan and went on to get her PhD at the University of California-Davis. Since graduating, Parish has taught at the University College in London and pursued post-doctoral research at the University of Giessen in Germany on the topic of reciprocity.

Her work has been featured in many science and news programs including a profile in Ms. Magazine and she has appeared on Nova, National Geographic Explorer, NPR and Discovery Health Channel. She is on the board of directors for the Arusha Project, a non-profit organization devoted to helping HIV infected women in Tanzania. Other activities include a position on the board of directors of Up the River Endeavors, which is devoted to addressing sustainable development, global peace and social justice.

Parish is the second annual Women in Science Speaker. "Women in Science" is a celebration of the many contributions that women scientists have made to society. In addition, it serves to recognize that today's women scientists are important mentors ensuring the success of tomorrow's scientists.

"Dr. Parish is an excellent choice as the Women in Science speaker," said Rusty Gonser, assistant professor of biology at Indiana State University. "Her research challenges the status quo of male/female relationships."

Although women make up almost 60 percent of enrolled undergraduates in the United States, they make up only 40 percent of the professors in academia. The discrepancy in the sciences is even greater. For example, in biology, women in the United States have earned master's degrees in the same numbers as men for two decades, yet, fewer women actually earn PhDs, and the number of principle investigators in science research that are women has not risen.

"Despite these barriers, women have made significant contributions to important scientific disciplines ranging from genetics to medicine to conservation biology," Gonser said.

The series, sponsored by the ISU department of biology and St. Mary-of-the-Woods College science and math department, the Lilly Endowment, Enrollment Services, and the School of Graduate Studies, brings in internationally recognized research scientists to speak to students and community members. For more information, visit or call 812-237-2501. Refreshments will be served from 3:30 to 4 p.m. with the seminar beginning at 4 p.m.


Contact: Rusty Gonser, Indiana State University, assistant professor, at 812- 237-2395 or 

Writer: Jennifer Spector, Indiana State University, Media Relations Intern, at 812-237-3773 or