Whittier College

Office of Public Relations

13406 Philadelphia St.

P.O. Box 634

Whittier, CA  90608-0634 

Jan. 2, 2002                                                   Contact:  Judy Browning

Reference:  01/02: 38                                               at (562) 907-4216 

Joan Roughgarden at Whittier College 

Joan Roughgarden, professor of biological sciences at Stanford University will present “Evolution's Rainbow: Gender and Sexuality in Nature and People,” at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 25, in Lautrup-Ball Cinema at Whittier College.  

Her appearance at the college is in conjunction with the January Interim class “The Role of Science in Defining Gender,” taught by Cheryl Swift, associate professor of biology, and is being sponsored by the biology department, the women’s studies program and Garrett faculty master’s house.  The talk is free and open to the public.

Roughgarden was born Jonathan in 1946, and in 1998, became Joan in what has been called a profound transformation that led her onto new paths in science.  Her research focuses on the relationship between evolutionary biology and ecology, and involves a combination of theoretical ecology and field studies.  At Stanford, her research group works on the mathematical description of processes such as the evolution of community structure, and population dynamics in varying environments.

In her book forthcoming book Evolution’s Rainbow, Roughgarden writes that biologists have been unsuccessfully trying to cram the immense variation in nature—the rainbows, as she calls them, both in gender and mating—into overly simple, outdated categories.  “There are two sexes,” she has said, “but how you package those sexes is all over the waterfront.”  

Roughgarden recently wrote, “The extent of same-sex sexuality is becoming clear—over 300 species are described in detail in the primary literature. This pertains to us as members of the queer community, and to those of us who identify as gay and lesbian.”

“But of more relevance to trans-people specifically, is the discovery of more and more species with multiple genders within each sex—several types of males and several types of females, some of which resemble the other.  This then undercuts any biological argument that a single gender norm is natural, and offers a science perspective on category construction that otherwise is limited to humanist conceptualizations.”

Roughgarden has a B.S. in biology and an A.B. in philosophy from the University of Rochester, and a master’s and Ph.D. in biology from Harvard University.  At Stanford she has served as director of the Earth Systems Program since 1992, and she has taught in the geophysics and biological departments their since the early 1970s.  She was named as a Guggenheim Fellow and a Stanford University Fellow, and served on the editorial boards of American Naturalist, Oecologia and Theoretical Population Biology. 

Roughgarden also participated in the 1988 national workshop, Ecology for a Changing Earth in Santa Fe, NM., and the 1987 national workshop, Perspectives in Theoretical Ecology at Asilomar, in northern California.  Her books include Anolis Lizards of the Caribbean: Ecology, Evolution, and Plate Tectonics (Oxford University Press 1993), Perspectives in Ecological Theory (Princeton University Press, 1989), in collaboration with R. May and S. Levin, and The Science of Ecology (Macmillan Publishing Company1979).

Located 18 miles east of Los Angeles, Whittier College is an independent,
four-year college offering traditional liberal arts majors and strong pre-professional
programs taught in the context of the liberal arts.  Whittier Law School, which is
accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of
American Law Schools, is located on a separate campus in Costa Mesa.

Whittier College Office of Communications
13406 Philadelphia » P.O. Box 634 » Whittier, CA 90608-0634
Tel: (562) 907-4213 » Fax: (562) 907-4927