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Michelle Merrill, Ph.D.

"The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems." --Mahatma Gandhi

Classes I Teach

Anthr1 :: Introduction to Biological Anthropology: in-person lecture or online

Anthr1L :: Biological Anthropology Lab

Anthr19G :: Surviving the Future: The (Re)Emergence of Sustainable Cultures

Anthr2 :: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology


Curriculum Vitae

General Research Interests

Orangutan (Pongo abelii)
Orangutan, Pongo abelii

Sustainability: finding solutions for the continuing co-existence of humans and other life on this planet.

Primate Behavior

      • social learning
      • tool use
      • cognition
      • communication 

Evolutionary Theory 


Download a 2MB video of an orangutan at Suaq Balimbing making and using a feeding tool. Read or listen to a recent NPR Radio Expidition to Leuser Ecosystem (where I worked) and learn about the orangutan conservation work of my friend Dr. Ian Singleton, and the earlier report about the orangutan cultures work I and my colleagues reported in the journal Science. My entire dissertation is available as PDF files here.


(Pan paniscus, a.k.a. pygmy chimpanzees) (photos by F.J. White) .

Early Hominids and Human Origins

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." --R. Buckminster Fuller

Current and Recent Projects

Orangutan Pongo abelii
Orangutans, Pongo abelii

Teaching introductory Biological Anthropology, Cultural Anthropology and Sustainability courses.

Working on the GreenSteps campaign with the Cabrillo Climate Initiative Task Force, advising the Cabrillo Sustainability Council student club, supervising students working on the Cabrillo Climate Action Plan , and participating in the Cabrillo College Sustainability Alliance.

Engaged Interdisciplinary Learning in Sustainability (EILS): Enhancing STEM Education through Social and Technological Literacy project funded by the National Science Foundation, connected to UCSC SEED and the proposed Loma Prieta Regional Consortium.

Developing curricula, teaching and consulting on sustainable technology, evolutionary biology and ecological and social systems such as the Sim-Bio-Sys: Simulating Biological Systems workshop and ANTHR 19G: Surviving the Future: The (Re)emergence of Sustainable Cultures

Previous Projects

I completed my Ph.D. in the Department of Biological Anthropology and Anatomy at Duke University. My entire dissertation is available as PDF files here.

Orangutans Pongo abelii
Orangutans, Pongo abelii

Tool use by orangutans and other non-human primates. Download a 2MB video of an orangutan at Suaq Balimbing

making and using a feeding tool, or see a Windows Media file of orangutans.

The origins of culture, social transmission of information, and interpopulation variation in the great apes. You can listen to a report about the orangutan cultures work I and my colleagues reported in the journal Science, or read about cultural variation in the chimpanzee.

Field studies of orangutans in Indonesia. Click here to see more about the Suaq Balimbing Research Station.

Cooperative behavior and alliances between unrelated individuals in non-human primates and other mammals.

The evolution of infanticidal behavior in female mammals.

Teaching Evolutionary Biology, Primate Biology and introductory Biological Anthropology courses.

Replication Coordinator for the Digtial Bridge Academy.

Field studies of bonobos (Pan paniscus) at Lomako Forest, Equateur, Zaire.

Bonobo Pan paniscus
Bonobo, Pan paniscus

Field studies of elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) at Año Nuevo, California.

Working on an Ecological Literacy graduation requirement and/or certificate program and/or developing a multidisciplinary Environmental Studies program at Cabrillo College.

Participating in the Sustainability Curriculum Working Group at UC Santa Cruz.


Michelle Merrill's Homepage



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