I’m Ben Gleeson. I’m a doctoral candidate studying Human Ecology at the Fenner School of Environment and Society within the Australian National University. I’m fortunate to have Rob Dyball, Lorrae van Kerkhoff, Inger Mewburn, and Geoff Kushnick as my supervisory panel.
I use integrative transdisciplinary perspectives to understand human evolution and the complexity of socio-ecologies that have resulted from it. My tertiary background is in Ecological Agriculture and Biological Anthropology. My recent research focusses on mechanisms of human self-domestication and how these relate to processes underlying human social complexity and sociocultural niche construction.
Survival of the Fitted is a research blog intended to help develop my writing and to disseminate research findings throughout my doctoral journey. I chose this blog title to convey a succinct rebuttal of the competitive mantra of ‘Survival of the Fittest’, a phrase that has misdirected many popular perceptions of the evolutionary process and what it means to us as modern humans. Being ‘fitted’ emphasises ecological integration between individuals, populations, and species, and their socio-ecological contexts.
Modern humans are highly adapted to the cooperative sociocultural niche we occupy. Our culturally-mediated livelihoods rely on shared narratives which we use to interpret reality and to guide and motivate behaviour. Unfortunately, many of our current narratives set us apart from the other organisms and ecological systems that sustain us, and fail to recognise the agency of the non-human world. To stimulate a healthy reintegration between humans and the biosphere on which we depend, we need new guiding narratives: narratives based on accurate ecological and evolutionary perspectives of our existence.
In exploring these themes, I focus on our adaptation to a collaboratively constructed sociocultural niche and the way in which human self-domestication influenced this process. I’m particularly intrigued by the fact that increases in human sociability, associated with ‘behavioural modernity’ and the rise of complex civilisations, followed documented declines in average human masculinity.
A brief outline of my recent academic background:
2016: Advanced Masters in Biological Anthropology (with distinction). School of Archaeology and Anthropology (Australian National University). Topic: Cultural variation of sexual selection as a mechanism in human self-domestication.
2013: Bachelor of Science Honours. School of Agricultural and Wine Sciences (Charles Sturt University, Orange). Topic: Shifted ecogeomorphology in southeast Australian landscapes following European occupation.
2011: Bachelor of Land Management (Ecological Agriculture) (with distinction). School of Agricultural and Wine Sciences (Charles Sturt University, Orange).
2004: Diploma of Viticulture. Hunter Institute of TAFE.
The header image for Survival of the Fitted shows Mount Gulaga, ‘The Sleeping Woman’ of Indigenous Yuin tradition, as seen from Horseshoe Bay in Bermagui, NSW.