David Samson

David Samson

David Samson, Ph.D. (Indiana University, 2013)
Assistant Professor, Mississauga Campus (UTM)

(905) 569-4295
Office: HSC 358

Research Keywords: Human evolution; primates; hunter-gatherers; sleep; cognition

Website: http://www.utm.utoronto.ca/david-samson/

Research Bio

Dr. Samson has a high-profile research program featured in such venues as BBC, Time, New York Times, and New Scientist. His research investigates the link between sleep and human evolution through revolutionary new approaches, recording sleep data sets and sleep architecture for a range of primates including lemurs, zoo orangutans, wild chimpanzees, and humans living in different types and scales of societies. (He has just received a National Geographic grant to study sleep in Hadza hunter-gatherer communities, for example.) Sleep has been identified as a major factor in human physical and mental health, yet almost no research has been done on the role of sleep in human evolution; Dr. Samson’s research directly addresses the central anthropological question of human uniqueness in comparison to other animals for the major topic of sleep.

He arrives from Duke University where he was a Post-Doctoral Associate and senior research scientist. His Ph.D. from Indiana University was awarded in 2013. Given that his PhD was awarded only a few years ago, Dr. Samson’s established research productivity and creativity in pursuing this topic is phenomenal, with eleven first or sole-authored articles in peer-reviewed journals, and two co-authored articles. He also has five first-authored and one co-authored publications in review, all in major journals such as AJPA, American Journal of Human Biology, American Journal of Primatology, Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health and Evolutionary Anthropology. He produced three of these articles and developed others while teaching a heavy 4-4 course load at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, with teaching accolades from both students and fellow faculty. He is a member of Sigma XI: The Scientific Research Society and the recipient of several fellowships.

Dr. Samson is seen as an exceptional and energetic interdisciplinary scholar using broad, sophisticated research strategies to investigate major behavioural and physiological transitions in human evolution, with results that have significant implications for modern human medical, occupational and life-style issues. Dr. Samson will bring a strong teaching and research program for both evolutionary anthropology and primatology to UTM, launching us in completely new directions while complementing existing faculty. For Anthropology as a whole, he will provide new interactions with our strong health and medical anthropology programs at both the undergraduate and graduate level, as well as offering interactions with cognitive and developmental research in psychology and biology.


2018 Nunn, C.L., and Samson, D.R. Sleep in a comparative context: Investigating how human sleep differs from sleep in other primates. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. In press. DOI: 1002/ajpa.23427

2017 Samson, D.R., A.N. Crittenden, I.A. Mabulla, A.Z.P. Mabulla. The evolution of human sleep: Technological and cultural innovation with sleep-wake regulation among Hadza hunter-gatherers. Journal of Human Evolution. 113: 91-102

2017 Samson, D.R., A.N. Crittenden, I.A. Mabulla, A.Z.P. Mabulla, and C.L. Nunn. Evidence that humans evolved to be natural, nighttime sleep sentinels. Proceedings B. 284: 20170967

2017 Samson, D.R., A.N. Crittenden, I.A. Mabulla, A.Z.P. Mabulla, and C.L. Nunn. Hadza sleep biology: evidence for flexible sleep-wake patterns in hunter-gatherers. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 162(3): 573-582

2017 Samson, D.R., M. Manus, A.D. Krystal, E. Fakir, J.J. Yu, and C.L. Nunn. Segmented sleep in a nonelectric, small-scale agricultural society in Madagascar. American Journal of Human Biology. 29(4):e22979

2017 Bray, J., D.R. Samson, and C.L. Nunn. Activity patterns in seven captive lemur species: evidence for cathemerality in Varecia and Lemur catta? American Journal of Primatology. 79(6):e22648

2016 Samson, D.R., G.M. Yetish, A.N. Crittenden, I.A. Mabulla, A.Z.P. Mabulla, and C.L. Nunn. What is segmented sleep? Actigraphy field validation for daytime sleep and nighttime wake. Sleep Health 2(4): 341-347

2016 Nunn, C.L., D.R. Samson, and A.D. Krystal. Shining evolutionary light on human sleep and sleep disorders. Evolution, Medicine, & Public Health 1:227-243

2015 Samson, D.R. and C.L. Nunn. Sleep intensity and the evolution of human cognition. Evolutionary Anthropology 24(6): 225-237

2015 Samson, D.R. and R.W. Shumaker. Pre-sleep and sleeping platform construction behavior in captive orangutans (Pongo spp.): Implications for ape health and welfare. Folia Primatologica 86(3): 187–202

2015 Samson, D.R. and R.W. Shumaker. Orangutans (Pongo spp.) have deeper, more efficient sleep than baboons (Papio papio) in captivity. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 157(3): 412–427

Graduate Students

Erica Kilius