As naked apes, our species evolved different levels of skin pigmentation in response to the varying levels of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) that reach the Earth’s surface at different latitudes and elevations. Our bodies need some UVR but not too much.

As primates, we are highly social and highly visual animals.

In this presentation she’ll discuss why a scientific understanding of and evolutionary perspective on human biological variation — and why we can’t help but notice it — might go a long way towards ameliorating some of our society’s social issues with “race”.

Leslea Hlusko is an associate professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley. Her research investigates how genes influence skeletal variation and how that has evolved through time, with a special interest in understanding our own evolution. In addition to a lab-based genetics research program she has directed field paleontology projects in Kenya and Tanzania, including a recent project at the famous Olduvai Gorge ( At Berkeley she teaches an award-winning large undergraduate course on human biological variation.

Lab website:

If you are interested in joining along on a trip to Tanzania with her, check out:

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