Barbara J. King

Writer Michelle Goldberg published an op-ed piece last week in the Washington Post with a headline that conveys, in microcosm, an arresting story: "Feminist writers are so besieged by online abuse that some have begun to retire."

Last week, South Florida's nature came alive for me as much through sound as through sight: the flapping of wings as a great blue heron soared up over a river; the plashing of water when an alligator slipped off the riverbank to swim away; the huffing of a manatee taking a breath at the water's surface before she slowly sank again to the river bottom to munch grass.

This past weekend, when I visited my mother in her assisted living home as I do once or twice a week, I brought along a present. That's not unusual: She and I share a craving for chocolate, and I often bring her new varieties of dark chocolate, her favorite, and other little gifts from my travels.

Some 55,000 years ago, a person — whether female or male, we don't know — lived in Manot Cave in the western Galilee area of what is now Israel. Judging from the partial skull recovered from the cave, and described in Nature last week by Israel Hershkovitz of Tel Aviv University and his co-authors, the person was anatomically modern and closely related to the first modern humans who went on to colonize Europe.

Earlier this week, three scientists, a famous actor-activist and a congresswoman spoke on Capitol Hill about why maternal-deprivation experiments conducted on infant rhesus monkeys at an NIH lab in Maryland do not represent ethical or effective science in the 21st century.

I was one of those scientists.

Babies "social reference" by checking out their parents' facial expressions and voice tones when they encounter a new or strange object or event in their environment — then base their own reactions on mom's or dad's. They look to their parents as they wonder: Is it OK to stay calm, or is it time to worry?

When the British newspaper The Mirror reported in late December that a UK mother named Denise Sumpter was still breast-feeding her daughter Belle, who is 6 and a half years old, two experts were invited to weigh in on the practice.

What was the top word of 2014?

Merriam-Webster Dictionary says it was "culture," based on increased frequency of use. "Of the top 10 words in the running for the honor, culture had a 15% year-over-year increase in look-ups on the dictionary company's website and in its app."

As a writer, my main beat is animals. Yes, I take up all kinds of science-and-society issues rooted in anthropology and psychology, ranging from human evolution to contemporary health, fitness and parenting, to rights for those who express their gender identity or sexual orientation in diverse ways. But animals are at the core of what I care about most intensely — and 2014 has been a fun year for conveying, here at 13.7 and elsewhere, what I have learned.

Because I teach biological anthropology, I'm reading a lot of student work this week that focuses on the African apes, chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas. During this end-of-semester grading marathon, I've got a festive balance going: grade a handful of papers; grab a Christmas cookie; grade a handful more; wrap a present or two.

What happens in a small, semi-rural community in a southern state when an "out" transgender student decides to speak up for his civil rights?

Here in Gloucester County, Virginia, where I live — not far from the Historic Triangle of Yorktown-Williamsburg-Jamestown — the answer is that all hell breaks loose.

Scrolling through my Twitter feed this weekend, I saw a tip to follow biological anthropologist Bryce Carlson at Purdue University. I did — and wow! A fascinating new window on the science of extreme human endurance opened up.

If you're reading this after a night of inadequate sleep, or disrupted sleep, you have company. The National Sleep Foundation reports that over half the people in their survey experienced at least one symptom of insomnia "at least a few nights per week" over a year's period.

Male seeks female — and makes a direct advance towards mating. That's one version of the drive to reproduce in the animal kingdom.

Gay marriage should be legal in this country. Inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender expressions, people deserve the right to celebrate their love publicly — and to gain the legal and financial securities that marriage may bring.

Anyone who's lived or bonded with dogs knows that they express their personalities in distinct ways. Once in a while, a video clip comes along that highlights this fact for us in an amusing way. Have a look at this video — it's less than a minute — published earlier this year and sent to me last week by a friend:

Once upon a time, documentary film maker Chris Palmer rented a bunch of wolves from a game farm to aid the making of an IMAX film called Wolves. That decision, Palmer told NPR back in August, was better for the species than the intrusive process of habituating wild wolves would have been; the use of non-wild wolves was disclosed in the movie's credits.

Even as the Ebola crisis in West Africa exceeds 8,000 cases and 3,800 deaths — and as Thomas Eric Duncan's family, friends and neighbors mourn his death in Dallas from Ebola — global outrage has erupted over the decision by health officials in Spain to put down a dog whose owner is hospitalized for Ebola.

Heroic acts carried out by a wide variety of animals — elk and elephants, horses and goats, dogs and cats — are on offer in Jennifer Holland's just-published book, Unlikely Heroes: 37 Inspiring Stories of Courage and Heart from the Animal Kingdom.

"One of the great responsibilities we have as a society is to educate ourselves, along with the next generation, about which substances are worth ingesting and for what purpose and which are not. ... If I knew that either of my daughters would eventually develop a fondness for methamphetamine or heroin, I might never sleep again. But if they don't try a psychedelic like psilocybin or LSD at least once in their adult lives, I will wonder whether they had missed one of the most important rites of passage a human being can experience."

"Come see!"

That's the vocal code in our house, when one of us wants to summon another to show off a small treasure: the flash of a red fox streaking our backyard; a pink-inflamed cloud as sunset approaches; a snake, sinuous and fine, curving black against the green of high-summer grass.

In the realm of prehistoric art, there's a type of small figurine made of stone, bone or ivory that is famous. It features exaggeratedly large breasts, hips and buttocks.

On Monday, the animal advocacy organization PETA released material in support of its campaign to shut down a series of experiments on infant rhesus monkeys carried out at the Laboratory of Comparative Ethology, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Any of us connected with the school calendar — teachers and academic staff, students and their parents — are right now plunging into new beginnings.

September brings a fresh season, also, in the publishing world, in theater and dance and music, and in some sports.

In Elizabeth Gilbert's brilliant novel The Signature of All Things, Alma Whittaker, the central character who was born in Philadelphia in 1800, is destined for a highly unconventional life as a woman in science.

On Tuesday, I posted syllabi for the two undergraduate anthropology classes I will teach this fall: Evolutionary Perspectives on Gender and Primate Behavior. As the academic year at my college nears its start, I can't help but reflect on the extra layers of complexity involved in syllabus construction nowadays compared to when I first started out as a teacher in the 1980s.

A central question I grappled with earlier this week as I wrote and revised my syllabi was whether I should include trigger warnings.

Canyonlands National Park in Utah is "a landscape of canyons, mesas and deep-river gorges" that invites its visitors to revel in nature. An hour's drive from Moab and part of the Colorado Plateau, Canyonlands sprawls across 337,000 desert acres.

The question of why the Ebola virus seems to so badly frighten so many people seems, at first, to have an obvious answer.

Ebola, after all, is an incurable hemorrhagic virus with a mortality rate that soars in some outbreaks to 90 percent of those infected. Symptoms in sufferers with advanced disease go beyond high fever and gastrointestinal misery to bleeding from the mouth, nose, ears and eyes.

For Philip Lymbery, head of the U.K.-based Compassion in World Farming and his co-author Isabel Oakeshott, a visit to California's Central Valley amounted to an encounter with suffering.

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