Asst. Professor Vicky Oelze

Vicky Oelze is an assistant professor specializing in biological anthropology.

What made you interested in the anthropological field?
As a young adult, when I was considering what I wanted to become, I came across anthropology as a rather exotic but fascinating discipline that at the time was only offered as a major at two universities in Germany. It turned out to be the perfect fit for me and I never regretted the decision to study physical anthropology as a major, with cultural anthropology and archaeology as minor subjects. Because of my participation in the animal liberation movement I was interested in cognitive ability of great apes, including their tool use and cultural repertoire. But somehow I shifted my interest for a while once I took my first human osteology class. Working with prehistoric human remains was extremely fascinating to me and only during the late phase of my PhD did I find my way back to studying great apes and their feeding ecology.

"Because of my participation in the animal liberation movement I was interested in cognitive ability of great apes, including their tool use and cultural repertoire."
-Asst. Prof. Vicky Oelze

What made you want to move to California and teach at UCSC? And where did you move from?
I moved here from Leipzig in Germany in January 2017. My colleague Lars Fehren-Schmitz was the first reason I came to UCSC. He is a fabulous guy and I always thought his and my expertise would be a perfect match. Secondly, the isotope facilities on campus are legendary, and since I’m an isotope person they provide a great opportunity to expand my research. I also think, as a European, Santa Cruz is probably the coolest place to be living in the US.

What classes do you teach here/ hope to teach?
So far I teach primate behavior and ecology, evolution of human diet, and have also been teaching forensic anthro & bioarcheology. In Spring 2018, I will teach a hands-on class on stable isotope ecology in my new lab (if, hopefully, the lab is finished being remodeled!). I would want to be able to occasionally teach classes outside under the sun and tree canopy…let’s see if I can make that happen one day.

My goal is to build an isotope lab full of happy students working on research questions related to prehistoric human populations and living primates. I hope to make interdisciplinary connections with colleagues from other departments and collaborate on new ideas about prehistoric diets and primate ecology. I would also like to contribute to students having fun, being successful, and I want for them to gain a memorable learning experience. 

"If I want to practice tree climbing I can just walk into the forest behind my office building and get started while deer watch me unpack my gear. Seriously, where else can you have that?"
-Asst. Prof. Oelze

What is your favorite memory/experience so far while being in Santa Cruz?
My favorite experience in Santa Cruz so far has been going whale watching, which I’ve never done before, although I’ve seen many animals in their natural surroundings, including wild chimpanzees and other primates. Marine mammals are simply different and so impressive. I also like to bike up and down campus, and enjoy the view over Monterey Bay from the campus bike path which I think is insanely beautiful.

How is Santa Cruz different than other places you have lived or taught at?
I had taught in Germany before. I feel as though Santa Cruz has a very relaxed atmosphere with both hippie and political essences. Sometimes this very relaxed vibe makes me smile in amusement, but I am also impressed because it is an important part of this society and helps the people here be more open minded, which I appreciate so much. I also think the Santa Cruz campus is particularly beautiful. If I want to practice tree climbing I can just walk into the forest behind my office building and get started while deer watch me unpack my gear. Seriously, where else can you have that?

Where (Indoors) To Find Vicky Oelze
Vicky Oelze will teach ANTH106: Primate Behavior and ANTH107B: Methods and Research in Isotope Ecology in Spring 2018. She also teaches ANTH110F: Evolution of Human Diet and other forensic anthropology and bioanthropology classes on a regular basis.
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By Shanttelle Pierdant and Yesenia Murillo.  Shanttelle and Yesenia are peer advisers with the Department of Anthropology.