Wednesday, March 28th 2012

Building Babies: Interview with Katie Hinde

After almost two years of work, Building Babies is off to the presses, due to be out late August/early September! Building Babies: Primate Development in Proximate and Ultimate Perspective is a volume co-edited by me, Katie Hinde, and Julienne Rutherford about the many mechanisms and broader adaptations involved in – you guessed it – building a (primate) baby. To celebrate the completion of this volume, the hard work of the Lady Editors (as we came to call ourselves), and our accomplished, intelligent chapter authors, I have interviewed Katie and Julienne about the book editing process. With Katie’s interview I’m including the table of contents for the first half of the book; with Julienne’s the second half.

I also think it’s worth noting that this book was edited by three anthropologists at the assistant professor level, all three of whom write science blogs.

Building Babies Table of Contents (Part 1)

PREFACE (Hinde, Clancy, & Rutherford)


  1. Inflammation, reproduction, and the Goldilocks Principle: Kathryn B. H. Clancy
  2. The primate placenta as an agent of developmental and health trajectories across the lifecourse: Julienne N. Rutherford
  3. Placental development, evolution, and epigenetics of primate pregnancies: Kirstin N Sterner, Natalie M. Jameson, and Derek E Wildman
  4. Nutritional ecology and reproductive output in female chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes): variation among and within populations: Kevin B. Potts



  1. Prenatal steroids affect development and behavior in primates: Adam Smith, Andrew Birnie, Jeff French
  2. Navigating transitions in HPA function from pregnancy through lactation: implications for maternal health and infant brain development: Colleen Nyberg
  3. Genome-environment coordination in neurobehavioral development: Erin Kinnally
  4. Building Marmoset Babies: Trade-offs and Cutting Bait: Suzette Tardif, Corinna Ross, Darlene Smucny



  1. Lactational programming: mother’s milk predicts infant behavior and temperament: Katie Hinde
  2. Do bigger brains mean better milk? Lauren A. Milligan
  3. Infant gut microbiota: developmental influences and health outcomes: Melanie Martin & David Sela

Interview with Katie Hinde, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University


Katie Hinde, giving her exit seminar at UC Davis

Katie Hinde, giving her exit seminar at UC Davis

What was the inspiration for this volume?

I had been interested in doing an edited volume that showcased the state of the art in terms of understanding primate development. Maternal effects and infant development was a target of substantial research effort in the 80’s and 90’s and was now experiencing a major interdisciplinary resurgence. It also dovetailed nicely with my “Russian nesting doll” academic strategy; little doll- write empirical papers; medium doll- write the review paper that puts those empirical papers in context within that domain of research; large doll- edit the book volume that puts that domain of research into a broad intellectual context. Of course there is the X-large doll- write a text book, but no effing way am I tackling that jazz. Of course, I was well aware of the conventional wisdom to “never edit a book before tenure” so I set the idea on the back burner and focused on little and medium-sized nesting dolls.

But in May of 2010 Janet Slobodien from Springer sent me an email inquiring if I would be interested in editing a book for the Developments in Primatology series on maternal nutrition. I was kicking it around when two weeks later Julienne invites me to participate in your symposium at the AAPA meeting in MPLS “Eating for two: maternal ecology and nutrition in human and non-human primates.” Hmmmm… The conventional wisdom wasn’t “never CO-EDIT…” So I pitched the idea of editing a book to Julienne. I can still remember how nervous I felt on the phone because I was really hoping she would say “Yes” but expected that she would be smarter than me and say “No.” But she was in, and proposed inviting you to join us since at that time I still didn’t know you. And then, well, the actual work started.

What was the experience like editing this book?

Without question it was a major learning experience. I am very pleased that I did this so early in my career because I think I learned some skills that will serve me very well moving forward. I learned a lot about writing; from evaluating earlier drafts of contributed chapters, to assessing the comments of the many external reviewers, and by always reading through the eyes of the intended audience. While writing my dissertation, the goal of my writing was very much about representing my thoughts on paper. But as an editor, I shifted my perspective to “how can the thoughts be communicated most effectively to the reader.” I loved your earlier post about terrible first drafts and how revising is “killing your darlings” because we are so attached to our words. Cutting them up and throwing some away can be devastating. As an editor, they aren’t my darlings, so I could be more objective about the reader’s perspective, instead of predominantly my own. And now I am working to translate that perspective to my own writing efforts.

And although it may seem minor, I learned how to ask for help when I needed it, offer help when I suspected it was needed, and accept help when it was offered to me. I am so proud to have been part of such an excellent team that we were able to escort a 600 page volume from concept to publication in two years.

What is the main contribution this book makes to anthropology? To evolutionary biology?

This book’s contribution is in showcasing the multi-, inter- and trans-disciplinary approaches to studying primate development. Everyone will learn something new reading this book, no matter if you are studying the development of capuchin play behavior in Costa Rica or glucocorticoid receptor density in the hippocampus in infant rhesus. By integrating information from complementary approaches we can build a more comprehensive understanding of primate development. Unfortunately there is sometimes a dearth of cross-talk among anthropologists, psychobiologists, neuroscientists, ethologists, immunologists, microbiologists, and biologists. Here we bring those perspectives together.

How does this book intersect with your own research and pedagogical interests?

Um. I am totes interested in primate development, duh. I am also hoping that this book motivates others to become interested in integrating developmental investigations into their own research programs. I hope that with more minds trying to understand how infants are shaped by the placenta, mother’s milk, and behavioral care, we will have exponential progress in untangling the processes of ontogeny. Beyond informing us about the elegance of the natural world, such research can have major translational potential for human health, longevity, and social relationships.

Why should someone buy this book?

Because they are studying for their qualifying exams. I know I used that excuse to justify the purchase of several ludicrously expensive books.

Seriously though, the hardback copy version of this book is expensive. Part of that is the length of the book- if it was less informative it would be less expensive. However, if you study primate infant development you will unquestionably find it a valuable and up to date resource. Moreover the chapters here present novel and unique syntheses not found elsewhere in the literature. Best of all, if your institution subscribes to the Springer Book Series, you can order a free e-book version or a paperback version in the US for $25. Details can be found here. As we approach the publication date we will compile a list of institutions that have access to the “MyCopy” mechanism.

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