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The Students of Anth 70 in the Kalahari
The students of ANTH 70 in the Kalahari

About the Class

Experiencing Human Origins & Evolution (ANTH 70) is an "embedded" course at Dartmouth College co-taught by Professor Jeremy DeSilva and Professor Nathaniel Dominy. The course examined current evidence for human origins and evolution, with a focus on South Africa. Students learned and experience firsthand how fossils, archaeological sites, and living model systems are used collectively to reconstruct and interpret the path and circumstances by which we became human. The course culminated in a 20-day course extension in South Africa enabling students to directly experience and interact with the sites, organisms, people, and challenges discussed in class. Each student chose a topic/ question of interest and drafted project proposals before leaving for South Africa where components of the research were conducted.

About My Project

Learning about baboons utilizing coastal resources at Cape Point Table Mountain National Park
Me (Erica Ng) learning about baboons utilizing coastal resources at Cape Point Table Mountain National Park

Humans and chacma baboons (Papio ursinus) inhabit overlapping areas in South Africa, which can be a point of conflict as humans and baboons compete for similar resources. In the Cape Peninsula, baboon incursions pose a pressing problem for residents. Baboons’ exploratory and adaptive nature allows them to successfully procure human food, which is an efficient resource. Despite a variety of techniques, people continue to struggle with managing baboons. This project evaluates physiological and behavioral implications of human-baboon conflict (HBC) and explores how perceptions of baboons might inform management techniques by surveying South Africans. Studies indicate distinct differences in primates and other animals that scavenge human food, with changes in body fat, time provisioning, and higher rates of disease, injury, aggression, and stress observed in these “urban” animals. Perceptions of baboons vary around the world but seem to be mostly negative, furthering conflict between humans and baboons. Over the course of three weeks in South Africa, I asked the South Africans I met a series of questions to gage perceptions of baboons to gather data for my results. This project will hopefully reach and inform a broad audience of people through this website where visitors can understand and see first-hand the phenomenon and language used to describe it in media. 

Please read my full project proposal for detailed information about the background of this issue, manifestation of conflict, sources of conflict, management, the research question and hypothesis, methods, final product, physiological and behavioral implications, perception, intellectual merit, broader impact, and bibliography. 


About Me

Erica Ng is a Dartmouth '19 majoring in Anthropology modified with Human-Centered Design and minoring in Public Policy. 


Thank you to those at Dartmouth College who made this class and unforgettable experience possible including Professor Jeremy DeSilva and Professor Nathaniel Dominy, Ellie McNutt, Adam Nemeroff, Eli Burakian, my fellow classmates, all the people who met with us in South Africa, the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning, and President Phil Hanlon.