I am a biocultural and nutritional anthropologist interested in human reproduction and the socioecology of young child health in East African communities.
My work brings together research in human biology, food and nutrition, and ecological anthropology to understand how responses to environmental uncertainty shape caregiver-infant interactions and the neuroendocrine mechanisms that link food and resource insecurity to health outcomes during critical periods of infancy and childhood.
This research began with a multi-year study (2004-2006) near Lake Eyasi, TZ that examined how variations in the developmental environment of semi-nomadic Datoga households influenced the health and growth of children under two years of age. The study focused specifically on maternal perceptions/responses to young child vulnerability and how perceived vulnerability shaped mother-infant interaction and caregiving. I also examined how maternal perceptions of infant vulnerability link to clinical measures of child well-being, and the nutritional consequences of the various strategies mothers use to balance the needs of pastoral households against demands from each child.
In addition to my work on child health, I am also interested in human-animal health systems, zoonotic infection and the role that resource scarcity plays in perceptions of environmental health.
I am involved two projects which tie to my interests in ecology and health: a multinational project funded by a seed grant from the Livestock-Climate Change Collaborative Research Support Program (LCC-CRSP) that examines the interactions between climate change, livelihood decisions and child health among pastoral communities in Niger and Tanzania, as well as the fourth phase of the Global Ethnohydrology Study, which focuses on lay perceptions of water quality, environmental contamination, and human-animal health linkages across several sites around the world. I am also involved in two projects that directly relate to my interests in infant and child health: a project in the DRC which examines the effects of war stress on birth weight and epigenetic profiles, and a proposed project in western Kenya which plans to examine the household dynamics of orphan fostering and the health effects of sibling caregiving.
I teach a number of graduate and undergraduate courses including: Culture & Medicine, Anthropology of Global Health, Global Issues in Pastoralism, Evolutionary Medicine, Human Sexuality & Culture, and Maternal Health & Nutrition.