Eisenberg, Daniel Thomas Abraham, Northwestern U., Evanston, IL - To aid research on 'Ecological Predictors of Telomere Lengths: A Longitudinal and Cross-population Analysis of Human Biological Diversity,' supervised by Dr. Christopher W. Kuzawa
DAN EISENBERG, then a student at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, received a grant in May 2010 to research on 'Ecological Predictors of Telomere Lengths: a Longitudinal and Cross-Population Analysis of Human Biological Diversity,' supervised by Dr. Christopher Kuzawa . Telomeres are DNA sequences at chromosome ends that shorten with age and are required for proper cell division. Telomere shortening is associated with diminished cell proliferation capacity, which is believed to be a cause of senescence. Given the importance of cell proliferation to blood telomere length (BTL), it has been hypothesized that BTL reflects previous immune system activation and indicates current immune function. Thus BTL could provide a new biomarker of life history allocations and of developmental exposures to infection. Contrary to the shortening of BTL that occurs with age, previous studies have shown that children of older fathers have longer telomeres. By analyzing BTL data from the Philippines, Eisenberg and colleagues showed for the first time that this happens across at least two generations: older fathers not only have offspring with longer telomeres, but their sons also have offspring with longer telomeres. Analyses of how early life infection and growth predicts later BTL are ongoing.
Eisenberg, Dan. 2012. Delayed Paternal Age of Reproduction in Humans is Associated with Longer Telomeres across Two Generations of Descendants. PNAS Early Edition (published online).
Howells, Dr. Michaela, U. of North Carolina, Wilmington, NC - To aid engaged activities on 'Promoting Dialog Between Health Care Providers and Pregnant Women on American Samoa,' 2015, American Samoa
Preliminary abstract: The aim of this research is to develop a tiered, community level approach to engagement that emphasizes a tailored prenatal care educational outreach program for health care providers, nursing students, village leaders, and mothers on the American Samoa island of Tutuila. This project will be conducted from June to August 2015. There are four objectives to this project. Objective 1: Provide educational workshops to maternal health care workers in American Samoa. Objective 2: Provide prenatal care educational workshops at six villages across the island. Objective 3: Conduct prenatal care outreach in nursing training courses on American Samoa. Objective 4: Physically disseminate copies of my Wenner Gren funded dissertation. Through workshops, and the dissemination of findings from this research I will be able to strengthen the connection between the prenatal care needs of Samoan women and the medical community that serves them. This will result in a lasting dialog that will extend the legacy of this research and benefit the local community.
Middleton, Emily Ruth, New York U., New York, NY - To aid research on 'Ecogeographical Influences on Trunk Modularity in Recent Humans: Colonization and Morphological Integration,' supervised by Dr. Susan C. Anton
EMILY R. MIDDLETON, then a student at New York University, New York, New York, received funding in April 2013 to aid research on 'Ecogeographical Influences on Trunk Modularity in Recent Humans: Colonization and Morphological Integration,' supervised by Dr. Susan C. Antón. The ribcage, vertebral column, and pelvis have undergone numerous shape changes throughout hominin evolutionary history, responding to a wide suite of locomotor, obstetric, and climatic selective pressures. The degree to which morphological elements are integrated, or covary, has important implications for the way body form evolves, and this project seeks to understand the pattern of morphological integration in the trunk skeletons of modern humans and our closest living relatives. Most studies of integration focus on interspecific comparisons, but this project specifically investigates how intraspecific variation due to ecogeography and sex affect integration. Skeletal data were collected from a range of modern human populations and from multiple chimpanzee taxa. Preliminary results suggest support for the research hypotheses, with humans possessing weaker relationships among skeletal trunk elements than chimpanzees, which may have contributed to the successful colonization of diverse global environments by modern humans. In addition, human females appear to possess slightly weaker patterns of trunk integration than human males, which may relate to the protection of obstetric dimensions of the bony pelvis in the face of conflicting selective pressures. Additional data analyses are ongoing to further elucidate aspects of the pattern of trunk integration in modern humans and chimpanzees.
Thayer, Zaneta Marie, Northwestern U., Evanston, IL - To aid research on 'Intergenerational Programming of Stress Reactivity: Role of Epigenetic Mechanisms,' supervised by Dr. Christopher Kuzawa
ZANETA THAYER, then a student at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, received funding in April 2011 to aid research on 'Intergenerational Programming of Stress Reactivity: The Role of Epigenetic Mechanisms,' supervised by Dr. Christopher Kuzawa. Anthropologists have a long history of studying biological responses to environmental stress from diverse perspectives. Within our field the effects of maternal psychosocial stress on biology and health in the next generation is becoming a topic of increased interest. This research project evaluated the intergenerational effects of maternal stress experience among an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse sample of pregnant women from Auckland, New Zealand. Women who had lower socioeconomic status and who experienced ethnic discrimination had higher evening cortisol in late pregnancy and gave birth to infants with elevated cortisol reactivity and altered gene regulation (methylation) profiles. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that maternal social environment impacts maternal and offspring biology. Notably, the types of stress exposures that impacted cortisol in the present study are relatively novel from an evolutionary perspective. Thus the evolved capacity for an intergenerational transfer of information could be maladaptive in the contemporary ecology when activated in response to structural inequalities within society. Future research evaluating diverse sources of stress and a range of biological responses in offspring are necessary to clarify whether modifications in offspring biology reflect adaptation or biological impairment.
Astorino, Claudia Marie, City U. of New York, Lehman College, New York, NY - To aid research on 'Does Human Sex Indicator Morphology in the Skull Co-vary With Age and Ancestry?,' supervised by Dr. Eric Delson
CLAUDIA MARIE ASTORINO, then a student at City University of New York, Lehman College, New York, New York, was awarded a grant in April 2013 to aid research on 'Does Human Sex Indicator Morphology in the Skull Co-vary with Age and Ancestry,' supervised by Dr. Eric Delson. The human skeleton exhibits sexual dimorphism, or differences in physical form between males and females of the same species. This dissertation project investigates how sex, age, and ancestry inform the shape and size of sexually dimorphic features of the skull in recent modern humans. The research phase supported by this grant enabled 3D laser scans to be collected from a large, documented collection of skulls from both domestic and international skeletal collections. Over 300 adults and 50 subadults were scanned at the Smithsonian National Museum of National History (Washington, D.C.), Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle (Paris, France), University of Coimbra (Portugal), University of Bologna (Italy), and the University of Dundee (Scotland). Differences among human groups defined by sex, age, and/or ancestry were investigated by placing curves of 3D points on the surface of the laser scans and comparing their positions among groups of specimens. This study will help to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the range of sexual dimorphism in the recent modern human skull.
Escasa, Michelle Jickain, U. of Nevada, Las Vegas, NV - To aid research on 'Female Sociosexuality, Mate Preferences, and Sex Steroid Hormones of Lactating Women in Manila,' supervised by Dr. Peter B. Gray
MICHELLE J. ESCASA, then a student at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Nevada, received a grant in April 2011 to aid research on 'Female Sociosexuality, Mate Preferences, and Sex Steroid Hormones of Lactating Women in Manila,' supervised by Dr. Peter B. Gray. This project investigates the influence of lactation on female sociosexuality and mate preferences in urban Manila, a population with long-term breastfeeding, low contraceptive use, and quick return to cycling. From an evolutionary perspective, female ancestors were likely spending more time pregnant and lactating rather than ovulating. Moreover, a majority of conceptions in natural fertility societies occurred in lactating, ovulating women. These considerations suggest that lactating women face important life history allocation trade-offs between mating and parenting effort that may be manifested in their sociosexual behavior and mate preferences. Breastfeeding (n=155) and control (n=105) women were recruited to provide a saliva sample (for testosterone and estradiol analyses) and complete a face and voice preference task to determine preferences for masculinity. All participants also completed a questionnaire that assessed sexual functioning, sociosexuality, and relationship satisfaction, along with demographic variables. Breastfeeding women report differences in commitment to their relationship, jealousy levels, sexual functioning, and preferences for high-pitched voices. Further analyses incorporate the age of the infant and the cycling status of participants. Cultural and life history factors will be discussed and will serve as a framework for the findings.
Howells, Michaela Emily, U. of Colorado, Boulder, CO - To aid research on 'The Impact of Psychosocial Stress on Gestation Length and Pregnancy Outcomes in American Samoa,' supervised by Dr. Darna Dufour
MICHAELA E. HOWELLS, then a student at University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, was awarded funding in April 2011 to aid research on 'The Impact of Psychosocial Stress on Gestation Length and Pregnancy Outcomes in American Samoa,' supervised by Dr. Darna Dufour. The objective of this research is to determine the relationship between chronic maternal psychosocial stress on spontaneous abortion, gestation length, and neonate body size. In order to achieve this goal, the grantee conducted a biocultural, longitudinal, prospective study of pregnancy outcomes in 184 women experiencing significant shifts in cultural identity in American Samoa. Two interrelated indicators of psychosocial stress -- Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) antibody concentration and status incongruence -- were paired with monthly maternal interviews to assess the effects of stress on pregnancy outcomes. EBV antibody concentrations represent a broad, non-specific response to psychosocial stressors. Status incongruence is related to a woman's status within the community and arises when an individual is unable to resolve traditional and nontraditional markers of status. This study follows from their first prenatal care appointment through to their pregnancies natural conclusion and will help clarify the effects of psychosocial stress on pregnancy outcomes. Pregnancy outcomes will be assessed in terms of neonate size for gestation. Possible outcomes include spontaneous abortions, preterm births (? 36 weeks) and full-term births. This study aims to add to our knowledge of the factors associated with pregnancy loss, premature delivery, and infants born small-for-gestational-age in a non-western population of women.
Nelson, Dr. Robin Gair, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY - To aid research on 'Residential Context, Non-Kin Care and Child Health Outcomes in Jamaica'
DR. ROBIN G. NELSON, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York, was awarded a grant in April 2011 to aid research on 'Residential Context, Non-Kin Care and Child Health Outcomes in Jamaica.' This study explores the relationship between residential context, parental investment, and child health outcomes in Jamaica. It centers on an examination of the growth and development of children living in state-sponsored homes, and children who are living with biological family members. Ethnographic, anthropometric, and biometric data were collected from 125 children living in state-sponsored children's homes, and 119 children living with their biological family members in Manchester Parish. Follow-up data were collected from 70 of 125 children who were still living in childcare facilities. Preliminary analyses reveal statistically significant correlations between residence in a state-sponsored care setting and anthropometric health indicators. There are also statistically significant gendered differences in the health outcomes between girls and boys living in these state-sponsored homes. These findings parallel ethnographic data detailing highly variable and gendered childcare practices in these homes. Future analyses will compare anthropometric and biometric data of children living with biological kin, and that of their peers living in the children's homes. These findings aid in our understanding of the ways that variability in kin investment and care setting come to correlate to particular health outcomes. This study navigates the intersection of evolutionary theory and biocultural studies of child care practices and health outcomes.
Valeggia, Dr. Claudia R., CONICET, Formosa, Argentina - To aid research on 'Fertility Patterns and Energy Availability of Foraging Wichi in the Argentine Chaco'
DR. CLAUDIA R. VALEGGIA, CONICET, Formosa, Argentina, was awarding a grant in May 2003 to aid research on 'Fertility Patterns and Energy Availability of Foraging Wichi in the Argentine Chaco.' This study was part of the Chaco Area Reproductive Ecology Program, a long-term project that seeks to understand the interactions between environment, behavior, and reproductive biology of foraging groups in the Argentine Chaco. The aim of the study was to collect baseline data on how demographic and fertility patterns of Wichí people (n = 800) relate to changes in seasonal variation in energy availability and foraging practices. Preliminary results indicate a high fertility rate (8.6 births per woman), a relatively short inter-birth interval (average: 2.3 months 3.6) and a high infant mortality rate (46%). A birth seasonality effect was evident, with conceptions taking place between April and July. The Wichí of these communities were in good nutritional status, only 2% of adults (all women) were considered undernourished. Furthermore, there was a considerable percentage of overweight and obesity. As many as 55% of men and 54% of women were overweight (Body Mass Index > 25), whereas 17% of both men and women were obese (BMI >30). There were no apparent differences in energy availability across the annual cycle. However, there was considerable seasonal variation in the frequency and type of subsistence activities and in diet composition. A marked sexual division of activities was also evident and that seems to explain the differences in energy availability between women and men. Further analyses will explore the interaction between seasonality, division of labor, and fertility.