Inspired to study natural history by her upbringing on a farm in upstate New York, Nina Jablonski is now a biological anthropologist and paleobiologist. Jablonski also works as an Evan Pugh University professor of Anthropology at The Pennsylvania State University. She is involved in five research initiatives: human and primate evolution, evolution of Old World monkeys, evolution of bipedalism in the human lineage, evolution of human skin coloration, and evolution of environments and mammalian faunas of East Asia.

Jablonski chose to pursue an undergraduate degree in biology at Bryn Mawr College, concentrating on the then-nascent field of molecular biology. She then elected to attend The University of Washington to receive a graduate degree in biological anthropology. Her Ph.D. work took her to Hong Kong where she continued her research and eventually started studying the evolution of Old World monkeys in East Asia in the late 1980s. In 2010 she earned a doctorate in philosophy, honoris causa, from Stellenbosch University. She has continued working with Stellenbosch University by leading a major new scholarly initiative titled “Effects of Race” aimed at studying the effects of race in South African society.

She has written over ten scholarly books. In 2018, she published her first children’s book titled Skin We Are In. Jablonski is passionate about sharing her knowledge and helping gain interest in STEM fields for younger generations. She 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 stimulating interest among students in pursuing STEM courses and careers.

Layout 1

Born: 1953

Hometown: Buffalo, NY

Education: Ph.D. in Anthropology 

Occupation: Anthropologist, paleontologist, university professor

Expeditions: Paleontological field expeditions to China, Nepal, Pakistan, Kenya and Tanzania

Favorite Place to Be: A safe place

Best Discoveries: The first fossil chimpanzee, found in a collection of monkey fossils in a museum! That skin pigmentation is an evolutionary compromise between protection of the body against UV rays and production of an essential vitamin made possible by UV rays

Favorite Item in the Field: Clean drinking water

Personal Hero: Martin Luther King, Jr.

Hobbies: Reading, jobbing, watching wildlife 


Book: Skin: A Natural History

Advice: Don’t work for recognition. Do the work you love to the best of your ability and recognition will flow naturally to you.