The Colors of Human Skin

Wednesday, 19 November 2014 - 5:00pm7:00pm

Rainey Auditorium, Penn Museum, 3260 South Street

The Colors of Human Skin

Nina Jablonski

Distinguished Professor of Anthropology
The Pennsylvania State University

No other human physical trait has become laden with more significance than the color of our skin. Anthropologist and paleobiologist Nina Jablonski discusses her groundbreaking research on the physical evolution of skin color in humans and how its meanings, associations, and values have changed over time.


Nina G. Jablonski is a biological anthropologist and paleobiologist who studies the evolution of adaptations to the environment in Old World primates including humans. Her work is focused in two major areas. Her paleoanthropological research concerns the evolutionary history of Old World monkeys, and currently includes an active field project in China. Her research on the evolution of human adaptations to the environment centers on how human skin and skin pigmentation have evolved over time, and includes an active field project examining the relation between skin pigmentation and vitamin D production.

Professor Jablonski is currently collaborating on the development of new approaches to science education in the United States. These approaches have the dual aims of improving the understanding of evolution and human diversity, and of stimulating interest among students in pursuing STEM courses and careers. With the support of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) and active collaboration of Henry Louis Gates, Jr., she is leading a group of 30 scholars in the development of "genetics and genealogy" curricula for K-12 and college undergraduate students.

She also leads a major new scholarly effort to study the effects of race in South African society. With the support of the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study, she is the convener of the "Effects of Race" program, in which a select group of scholars assemble annually to formulate new ways to study race and to mitigate racial discrimination.

Cosponsored by Departments of Anthropology and Biology