Nina G. Jablonski, PhD

Keynote Speaker | Meeting the Challenge Summit
Invited Speaker | Pre-Meeting of Meeting the Challenge Summit

Dr. Nina Jablonski is a biological anthropologist who is recognized for her contributions to the understanding of primate and human evolution, especially to questions not answered directly from the fossil record. Fascinated increasingly over the years by the important but unheralded roles of skin and skin pigmentation in evolution, she focused her research on the origins of mostly naked human skin and diverse human skin colors. In 2000, Dr. Jablonski and her collaborator husband, George Chaplin, put forward the dual cline theory (or vitamin D-folate theory) for the evolution of human skin pigmentation that accounts for why dark skin evolved under conditions of high ultraviolet radiation (UVR) in the tropics while lighter skin was favored under conditions of lower UVR nearer the poles.

Dr. Jablonski received her A.B. in Biology at Bryn Mawr College and a Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of Washington. She has held academic positions at the University of Hong Kong, The University of Western Australia, the California Academy of Sciences, and The Pennsylvania State University. She recently retired from Penn State and now holds the positions of Atherton Professor and Evan Pugh University Professor, Emerita. Dr. Jablonski is an elected Member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and has received numerous fellowships and grants including a Guggenheim Fellowship. In addition to a body of more than 200 peer-reviewed scholarly papers and book chapters, Dr. Jablonski has written two popular books for adults: Skin: A Natural History (2006) and Living Color: The Biological and Social Meaning of Skin Color (2012), and has co-authored two books for children, Skin We Are In (2018) It’s Just Skin, Silly!, which will be published in later 2023. Her 2018 children’s book is currently a featured theatre production at the Windybrow Arts Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa. From 2013-2018, Dr. Jablonski collaborated with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and many other scholars and educators to produce a curriculum for teaching human diversity in middle schools. This curriculum was featured in the PBS production, “Finding Your Roots: The Seedlings,” which was awarded two Mid-Atlantic Emmy Awards ( A dedicated public scientist and science educator, Dr. Jablonski received an honorary doctorate from the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa in 2010 for her contribution to the worldwide fight against racism. 

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Skin of color patients comprise the majority in California, New Mexico and Texas…and soon will be the majority in Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, New York and Florida.

By 2042, more than 50% of the US population will have skin of color.