Mary Glenn

Wielding a machete isn't a skill most professors must rely on while conducting their research. Dr. Mary Glenn, however, isn't most professors. Mary spent over a decade combing some of the world's remotest jungles as she studied primates. Mona monkeys in Nigeria, Cameroon and Grenada; bonobos in Congo; spider monkeys in Costa Rica; stump-tailed macaques in Mexico...

These days you'll find Mary right here, on the Humboldt State campus, where she's well known for her riveting anthropology lectures. One of her specialties? Forensic science. Like many physical anthropologists, Dr. Glenn possesses a keen understanding of human anatomy. That knowledge has enabled the professor to assist local authorities in identifying human remains in several cases.

"I've called Mary on a number of occasions," says Humboldt County Coroner, Frank Jager. "She narrows down the possibilities for us: the victims age, gender, height, whether or not trauma's been inflicted… She's just tremendously helpful."

Mary's primary research focus, however, continues to be primate behavior and evolution. To that end, she still conducts field research and has authored and co-authored scores of peer-reviewed articles on primate evolution and behavior. As the Director of Humboldt State's Biological Anthropology Research Lab, Mary takes a group of Humboldt students to study monkeys in Costa Rica every summer. It's a unique opportunity for undergraduates to hone their field research techniques.

"The great thing about Humboldt State," says Glenn, "is that everyone here really values the importance of applied learning. Many of my students take a class one semester and then go out and practice what they learned the next, either in a working laboratory, in our community, or in other countries. And it's not just my students who are taking that opportunity—I see students in every department doing that. It's inspiring."

Monkey see, monkey… As an expert primatologist, Professor Mary Glenn can tell you precisely what monkeys do »

"People tend to look at me funny when I first tell them that I study monkeys," explains Mary. "But monkeys, mona monkeys in particular, have led me to some of the most wild places on earth."

Mary has spent well over a decade researching the evolution of mona monkeys and bonobos in the jungles of Africa and Grenada. She's also studied bonobos in Congo, spider monkeys in Costa Rica, introduced stump-tailed macaques in Mexico, and captive emperor tamarins in Chicago. Glenn's key areas of research are in primate behavior, ecology, evolution and conservation.

Mary is the rare professor whose work has, on several occasions, helped solve homicides »

Like many physical anthropologists, Mary possesses a keen understanding of human anatomy. That knowledge has enabled her to assist authorities in identifying human remains in several cases.

"I've called Mary on a number of occasions," says Humboldt County Coroner, Frank Jager. "She narrows down the possibilities for us: the victims age, gender, height, whether or not trauma's been inflicted... She's just tremendously helpful."

"I never planned on doing this and I can't say that I enjoy the work at all," says Mary. "But the family, the loved ones they leave behind, that's who you're really working for in these cases. If I can help bring a sense of closure to their family, then I'm glad to help."

A bone is never just a bone. Mary looks at a femur or skull and sees a surprisingly detailed story »

"You can tell a lot about what a person was like by looking at their bones," says Mary. "A woman's pelvis is generally broader than a man's. A 40-year old man's skull looks smooth, while the cranial sutures in a teenager's skull aren't so tightly fused. The joints of an overweight person often show distinct signs of stress... There are more than 100 traits that you identify and measure. If you know what to look for, the answers to many questions are right there on the bones."

Mary Glenn
Professor Anthropology