Rhode Island College, Anthropology Department


Mary Baker

Assistant Professor of Anthropology


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Ph.D., University of California, Riverside

M.A., University of California, Riverside

B.A., California State University, Northridge


Environmental Studies Program


The LAST Straw


World Anthropology Day 2018



ANTH 103 Introduction to Biological Anthropology

ANTH 233:  Methods in Anthropology

ANTH 265: Anthropological Perspectives on Childhood (Connections)

ANTH 304:  Human Paleontology

ANTH 306:  Primate Ecology and Social Behavior (AQSR)

ANTH 307:  Human Nature: Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior AQSR

ANTH 402:  Evolution for the Capacity for Culture

ANTH 483 Anthropology Field School: Biological Anthropology

Student Field Course Web Page


Capuchin Monkeys

   *  Fur Rubbing

   *  Finger Sucking

   *  Social Traditions

Virtual Fieldwork

Zoo Enrichment

Links to Anthropology Sites

As an undergraduate I worked for Lynn Fairbanks at the Sepulveda Valley Nonhuman Primate Research Facility.  There were about 300 vervet monkeys (Cercopithecus aethiops aethiops) housed in large, outdoor enclosures.  In the four groups that I studied, two were composed of a single matriline, one had two, and one contained three matrilines.  In all four groups there were two adult males who were unrelated to the matrilines and who were transferred (following patterns seen in the wild) about every four years.


During this time I learned much about what it's like to be a baby monkey, born into a group of about 25-30 individuals, who are all related through the female line.  We gathered information about variables affecting maternal care including rank, age, experience, family size and composition, and personality.  I also learned a lot about how males and females negotiate their way through the politics of daily life.

When I went on to graduate school, I planned to go to Africa to study baboons or vervet in their natural habitat, but after I wrote a paper entitled "Capuchin Monkeys and the Ancient Maya" I decided this was the species for me.  I got a small seed grant and went to Costa Rica to study white-faced capuchin monkeys (Cebus capucinus).

I wanted to focus on social intelligence and behavior, but I soon found out that I needed a more focused subject for my dissertation. I became increasingly interested in fur rubbing, an unusual behavior wherein capuchin monkeys rub plants and other materials into their fur.   This became the central focus of my research while I continued to collect data on ecologically and socially shaped  patterns of behavior.








Rhode Island College ● Anthropology ● 600 Mt. Pleasant Ave. ● Providence, RI 02908

(401) 456-8005 ●  FAX (401) 456-9736