Dieter Steklis observing a gorilla father

Noted primatologists Netzin and Dieter Steklis will discuss “Gorilla Fathers: Do they help us understand the importance of the human family?” during a free lecture at the Academy Village on Wednesday (May 23).

Their talk is sponsored by the Arizona Senior Academy and will begin at 3:30 p.m.  The husband-and-wife team will cover their lifetime of work following great ape and monkey families to learn about primate parenting as a way to gain greater understanding of human father-child and other family relationships.

The Steklis’ are experts in the study of monkeys and apes as a result of their field based research in the natural habitat of gorilla families. Their talk will explore the social organization of mountain gorillas and their life histories.

In addition to their own research, the Steklis’ collaborative research includes comparative studies of primate family systems, with a particular focus on the mountain gorilla. Working with the McClelland Institute supported by the Fathers, Parenting and Families Initiative, they research paternal care in gorilla communities, individual gorilla life histories and personalities.

In their talk, they will explore reasons for some of the commonalities in human and gorilla fathering, and how these relate to similarities between human and ape cognition, social organization, temperament, and life history.

The Steklis’ lead an annual U. of A. summer Primate Field School in Rwanda, where students gain insights into the connections between biology, behavior and ecology of several primate species, including chimpanzees and gorillas, and explore how their understandings based on authentic field work help build conservation programs world wide.

Dieter Steklis, Ph.D., is co-Division Chair at the University of Arizona South, Professor of Psychology and Adjunct Professor of Family Studies and Human Development at the U of A.  After earning his Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley, he joined Rutgers University in 1974, retiring in 2004 as Professor Emeritus of Primatology. He began his relationship with the University of Arizona in 2005.

Netzin Steklis is Adjunct Research Specialist and Instructor in the Family Studies and Human Development, U. of A.  Her academic career includes degrees in Anthropology and Biology from the University of Chicago and in Ecology and Evolution from Princeton University.

Together, they have held leadership positions with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, a non-profit organization dedicated to gorilla research and conservation in Africa. The Steklis’ received the Champions of Wildlife Award in 2002 for their work in conservation. They have written books, articles and been featured internationally in magazines, television broadcasts and radio programs (www/ They are renowned for their expertise in comparative primate neurobiology, primate behavior and conservation, and the evolution of human behavior. In recognition of their gorilla work and primatological expertise, they both serve as members of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Gorilla Foundation.
Submitted by Yetta and Ken Goodman, Academy Village Volunteers

Do Great Apes Make Great Dads? May 2012
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