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Dr. Jennifer Smith, Ph.D. (she/her)

  • Assistant Professor
  • Biology

Dr. Jenn Smith is a behavioral ecologist whose research integrates perspectives from evolutionary biology, animal behavior, genetics, physiology, and urban ecology to understand how natural selection and ecological conditions shape decision-making in social mammals. 

Teaching Interests
  • Animal Behavior
  • Biological Inquiry
  • Ecology
  • Marine Biology
  • Vertebrate Biology
  • Associate Editor, Animal Behaviour
  • Associate Editor, Leadership Quarterly 
  • Guest Editor, Philosophical Transactions for the Royal Society B
Research and Creative Activities

As leader of the Long-term Study on the Behavioral Ecology of California Ground Squirrels, Smith's team of undergraduates combines naturalistic observations with field experiments, genetic and endocrine analyses, and social network statistics to test evolutionary theory. Smith is also internationally recognized for her comparative research on social lives of mammals, especially those of carnivores. This work reveals the evolutionary and ecological forces favoring leadership, cooperation, and inequality. Her recent career awards from the Animal Behavior Society and Phi Beta Kappa reflect her inclusive teaching and mentoring.

  • Joint Ph.D. in Zoology and Ecology, Evolutionary Biology & Behavior, Michigan State University
  • M.S. in Integrative Biology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • B.A. in Biology, Environmental Science Conc., Colby College, Waterville, Maine
  • Coral Reef and Rainforest Ecology, James Cook University, Townsville, AUSTRALIA
  • Management and Ecology of African Wildlife, School for Field Studies, KENYA 
  • Teaching College Science & Mathematics, College of Natural Sciences, MSU
Published Research
Honors and Recognitions
  • 2023 Celebration of Scholarship Recognition, Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, UWEC
  • 2019 Faculty Leadership Fellows Program, Provost Office, Mills College
  • 2019 INSIGHT into Diversity Inspiring Program in STEM Award
  • 2017 Penny Bernstein Distinguished Teaching Award, Animal Behavior Society
  • 2017 Excellence in Teaching Award, N. California Assoc. of Phi Beta Kappa
  • 2017 Letts-Villard Endowed Chair in the Natural Sciences, Mills College 
  • 2017 Quigley Endowed Professorship in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Mills College 
  • 2011 Postdoctoral Research Award for Best Paper, Human Behavior & Evolution Society
  • 2011 American Association of University Women Postdoctoral Fellow, UCLA
  • 2010 Postdoctoral Fellowship, Institute for Society and Genetics, UCLA
  • 2009 Anna M. Jackson Speaker Award, American Society of Mammalogists
  • 2007 P.E.O. Scholar Award, International Chapter of the P.E.O. Sisterhood
Professional Memberships

Animal Behavior Society

Previous Professional Experience
  • 2019-22 Chair of Biology Dept., Mills College, Oakland, California
  • 2019-22 Director, Jill Barrett Undergraduate Research Program in Biology, Mills College
  • 2017-22 Associate Professor and Curator of Vertebrates, Biology Dept., Mills College 
  • 2012-17 Assistant Professor and Curator of Vertebrates, Biology Dept., Mills College
  • 2010-12 Postdoctoral Fellow, Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCLA