Perhaps because of warming temperatures in the oceans, lobsters, once abundant in the waters surrounding Long Island, have decreased there and are now more plentiful in the cooler waters of Maine. Malin Pinsky, an assistant professor of ecology and evolution at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, is leading a team researching these shifts.

Generosity as Insurance Policy

Why are some societies more generous than others? Why, when there is no evident payoff, do people help one another? A team of graduate students at Rutgers University–New Brunswick and Arizona State University, taking part in the Human Generosity Project, will spend three years trying to better understand the meaning of cooperation and generosity. Their goal is to learn how people, particularly those in developing nations, give to those in need in order to receive reciprocal consideration if it’s ever necessary.

“We will see how generosity has helped the Maasai cope with drought and disease, using a system that makes sure everyone comes out of the hardship and no one is left behind,” says graduate assistant Dennis ole Sonkoi, a native of Kenya who grew up in the Maasai community.

The Human Generosity Project received a $2 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation, which supports research that advances human progress on topics ranging from evolution and forgiveness to love and free will. Researchers—working in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Fiji, Mongolia, and the American Southwest—will examine the notion of generosity, ask why some humans are more giving than others, and try to figure out if generosity is an essential adaptation of the human species.

Lee Cronk, a professor in the Department of Anthropology in the School of Arts and Sciences, says that research has demonstrated that giving time and money makes people happier, but the Human Generosity Project will examine the more adaptive behaviors found in cultures in which generosity is second nature—a kind of evolutionary payback.

“What we may look at as being generous, they look at like an insurance policy for the future,” he says. “They are not expecting to be repaid, but want to make sure that if something does happen, they won’t have to worry.” — Robin Lally

The Financial Toll of Domestic Abuse

For women victimized by domestic violence, a working knowledge of money can help them break the cycle of pain and recover from the abuse. Indeed, financial literacy might even help women avoid abusive partners in the first place. “We talked with survivors about why they had a hard time leaving the relationship and what comes up is money—access to money or knowledge to manage money once they have it or are  building assets,” says Judy Postmus, in comments appearing in U.S. News & World Report. Postmus, the director of the Center on Violence Against Women and Children at the School of  Social Work, coauthored a study that appeared recently in the Journal of Consumer Affairs. The study found that a financial-education curriculum created by the Allstate Foundation and the National Network to End Domestic Violence led women to do significantly better over time with financial self-sufficiency and act with more confidence in managing money—and reducing financial stress. The program instructed survivors on how to recover financially from an abusive relationship, including information on separating joint accounts, improving credit damaged by an abusive partner, and creating economic safety plans. In financially abusive relationships, one partner often controls the money and might steal the other person’s identity or prevent her from working.

A Sea Change

Climate change seems to be pushing several species of fish and crustaceans northward along the east and west coasts of North America, a development that could have adverse effects on birds, marine mammals, and those who depend on fishing for food and income. “As temperatures have warmed in the waters off our coasts, animals with a low tolerance have just picked up and shifted,” says Malin Pinsky, a marine biologist at Rutgers who is leading a team researching these shifts. “We don’t yet know whether fish are actually swimming or whether they’re simply reproducing more slowly in their old ranges and faster in their new ranges.”

The number of lobsters, for example, once abundant off Long Island, has decreased there; meanwhile, they are more plentiful in the cooler waters of Maine. Summer flounder and black sea bass, common to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, are now more plentiful off the coast of New Jersey. Pinsky, an assistant professor of ecology and evolution at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (SEBS), has been documenting this trend in published accounts and exploring its implications. He and his team have found that the shift northward is happening at different rates among the species, not because of their biological differences but due to the rate and direction of climate change in their waters. The research for the data is available at Oceanadapt.rutgers.edu, created by Pinksy and his colleagues. — Ken Branson

Jim Miller, another climate scientist affiliated with SEBS and a professor in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences, has discovered that global warming is occurring at an accelerated pace in many high- altitude regions around the world. Among the consequences could be water shortages, according to a study appearing in Nature Climate Change that Miller coauthored.

“Somewhere on the order of one billion people a day don’t have access to good clean water,” Miller says. “Climate change will exacerbate that and what happens in mountains is going to be a major part of that.”

In the United States, areas such as Southern California and Arizona, which rely on water from the mountains, stand to bear the brunt of the impact. Throughout the world, the rate of temperature change often accelerates with a gain in altitude. In the past 20 years, temperatures above 13,000 feet have warmed 75 percent faster than at altitudes below 6,500 feet. — Rick Remington