• Professor Emeritus
  • Specialization: Primatology, mountain gorilla behavior and conservation, biological mechanisms of primate social behavior; Central and E Africa
  • Degree and University: PhD UC Berkeley, 1974

H. Dieter Steklis, Ph.D., is a Professor in the School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences at the University of Arizona, with an affiliated faculty appointment in Psychology, Program in Ethology and Evolutionary Psychology. Dr. Steklis’ present research—much of it done in collaboration with his wife and University of Arizona faculty colleague Netzin Steklis, Ph.D.—concerns female mountain gorilla life history, the evolutionary psychology of human-animal relationships, evaluating the effectiveness of therapy dog visits for improving human health and wellness, and charting the evolution and adaptive function of emotional awareness in humans and other animals. Dieter and Netzin Steklis co-direct the Human-Animal Interaction Research Initiative (HAIRI), and co-lead a summer Primate Studies Field School (administered by the U of A Office of Study Abroad) in Rwanda, Africa.

Dieter Steklis earned his Ph.D. in Anthropology in 1974 from the University of California, Berkeley. That year, he joined Rutgers University as an Assistant Professor, retiring in 2004 as Professor Emeritus of Primatology. From 2005-2016, he taught at the University of Arizona South, primarily in Psychology, and served in several administrative leadership positions (Associate Dean, Division Chair) before moving to his present faculty position in the School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences.

In addition to his academic career, Steklis has held several leadership positions in the private not-for-profit sector, including serving in science and conservation leadership positions with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. His relationship with the Fossey Fund began in 1991, when he was appointed director of the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda (1991-1993). Subsequently, he served as the fund’s Executive Director (1993-1995), and as Chief Scientist and Vice-President (1995-2005). His many years of collaborative research with his wife on mountain gorilla behavior and conservation has been featured in scholarly journals and books, national and international magazines, radio programs, and numerous television broadcasts (including National Geographic). In recognition of their collaborative conservation work, in 2002, he and his wife received the Explorers Club “Champions of Wildlife Award.”

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Steklis photo


Select Recent Publications

Books and Book Chapters

Steklis, H.D. and Lane, R.D. "The unique human capacity for emotional awareness: Psychological, neuroanatomical, comparative and evolutionary perspectives." In: Emotions in Animals and Humans: Comparative Perspectives. S. Watanabe and S. Kuczaj ed., pp. 165-205. Tokyo: Springer. 2013.

Steklis, H.D. "The changing nature of human nature." In: M. Egan (ed.) The Character of Human Institutions. Pp. 307-328. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Pubs. 2014.

Steklis, H. D. and Steklis, N. G. (eds.) Men, Fatherhood and Families. First Edition. San Diego, CA: Cognella Academic Publishing. 2015.
Steklis, H.D. and Steklis, N.G. Human-Animal Interrelationships. First Edition. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall-Hunt Publishing Company. 2017.

Research Articles

Erdman, P., LaFollette, M.R., Steklis, N.G., Steklis, H.D., Germone, M.M., and Kogan, L. "Guide to Human-Animal Interaction Education." Human Animal Interaction Bulletin 6:37-46, 2018.

Cronk, L., Steklis, D., Steklis, N., van den Akker, O., and Aktipis, A. "Kin terms and fitness interdependence." Evolution and Human Behavior 40:218-291, 2019.

Eckhardt, W., Steklis, H.D., Steklis, N., Weiss, A., Fletcher, A., and Stoinski, T. "Personality Dimensions and Their Behavioral Correlates in Wild Virunga Mountain Gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei)." Journal of Comparative Psychology Dec 22: 1-16, 2014.

Schaefer, S. A. and Steklis, H.D. "Personality and Subjective Well-Being in Captive Male Western Lowland Gorillas Living in Bachelor Groups." American J. of Primatology 76(9):879-889, 2014.