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H. Dieter Steklis, Ph.D.

Professor | Program Director, Anthropology
Faculty Program: 
Anthropology, Psychology
Phone (SV): 
(520) 458-8278 ext. 2122

H. Dieter Steklis, Ph.D., is Professor and Program Director for Anthropology at the University of Arizona South, (Affiliated) Professor of Psychology, Program in Ethology and Evolutionary Psychology, and Adjunct Professor of Family Studies and Human Development at the University of Arizona. Dr. Steklis’ present research focus is on the comparative study of primate family systems, with a particular focus on mountain gorilla paternal behavior. His research on the forms and functions of gorilla paternal behavior—done collaboratively with his primatologist wife Netzin G. Steklis—is based in and supported by the Fathers, Parenting and Families Initiative of the U of A’s McClelland Institute. The research project investigates broader connections to individual life history and personality characteristics of mountain gorillas, and explores the implications for the evolution of human fatherhood. Additional research projects, much of it done in collaborations with his wife and colleagues at U of A, include the nature of human-animal relationships, especially the evolution of human empathy for animals, and more broadly the evolution of human empathy, conscious awareness, and emotional regulation. Each July, Dieter and Netzin Steklis co-lead a Primatology 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. In 2005, he began teaching at the University of Arizona South, primarily in Psychology, and in subsequent years (2008-2012) he held several administrative leadership positions (Associate Dean, Division Chair). Over the course of his scientific career, Steklis’ teaching, research and publications reflect multidisciplinary interests, including primate neurobiology and psychology, primate behavioral biology, primate conservation, and the evolution of human behavior.

In addition to his academic career, Steklis held several leadership positions in the private not-for-profit sector, including serving as Program Director for the Ammonius Foundation ( and 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”. In recognition of his expertise on great apes, Steklis was appointed to the Scientific Advisory Board of the Gorilla Foundation and to the Board of Directors of the Great Ape Trust.

Dr. Steklis CV