McCabe, Collin Michael, Harvard U., Cambridge, MA - To aid research on 'Unwelcome Guests: Human-rodent Cohabitation and its Implications for Disease Transfer in Sedentary Agricultural Populations,' supervised by Dr. Richard Wrangham
Preliminary abstract: Rodents have inhabited human settlements since at least the advent of agriculture and sedentary lifestyles. This close contact between humans and rodents has been, and still is, a source of many emerging zoonotic diseases. However, little is known about what drives species to commensal lifestyles, and even less is known about whether these commensal species are more likely than non-commensal rodents to carry novel zoonotic pathogens. The aim of this study is to investigate certain behavioral and ecological factors that favor commensal living and pathogen burdens in East African rodents. I hypothesize that more exploratory rodent species with broader diets will more likely be commensal, and will likely have higher pathogen burdens. I plan to live-trap rodents in central Kenya from a community of 25 wild species, in both recently settled human agricultural villages and adjacent, undisturbed habitats to determine each species' level of commensality and the features of these wild rodents that favor commensal living. I will also obtain biological samples from these rodents to determine the zoonotic pathogen burdens. By enriching knowledge of rodent disease ecology, this project will provide data to hone or even transform our understanding of selective pressures of zoonotic pathogens on early agriculturalists.
Shirley, Meghan, U. College London, London, UK - To aid research on 'Body Composition and the Brain: Investigating Life History Trade-offs in Living Humans,' supervised by Dr. Jonathan Wells
Preliminary abstract: Energy resources in any given environment are finite. Life history theory examines trade-offs between competing functions such as maintenance and reproduction across an organism's life course. For early humans, the evolution of a metabolically expensive brain was likely associated with reorganized energy investment and/or alterations in life history strategy and behavior. Insight into how the human brain was afforded may be most readily achieved with attention directed to investment 'decisions' at the level of organs and tissues. For example, Aiello and Wheeler's (1995) 'expensive tissue' hypothesis proposed that a reduction in the size of the human gut enabled encephalization. Research has demonstrated tissue trade-offs in a range of animals, yet empirical studies of human investment strategies remain rare. With the collection of MRI and body composition data from healthy adults, this project will investigate trade-offs between the human brain and other 'expensive' tissues of the body, trade-offs between the brain and adipose tissue, and also positive brain-body phenotype associations. Further, the study will examine the effect of early life experience on phenotype. This data will add to knowledge of the variability with which modern humans 'strategically' manage energy investment and lead to more robust inferences concerning hominin life history evolution.
Garofalo, Evan Michele, Johns Hopkins U., Baltimore, MD - To aid research on 'Genetic and Environmental Effects on Skeletal Growth Variation,' supervised by Dr. Christopher Britton Ruff
EVAN M. GAROFALO, then a student at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, received funding in May 2010, to aid research on 'Genetic and Environmental Effects on Skeletal Growth Variation,' supervised by Dr. Christopher Britton Ruff. Adult morphology and variation are the result of complex interactions between genetic and environmental effects during the growth process. Health, disease, and socio-economic status are important for the regulation of the growth trajectory, particularly during infancy and early childhood. However, genetic differences, increasing in prominence during adolescence, contribute significantly to growth profiles and the attainment of adult morphology. Thus, the primary goal of this project is to partition the relative importance of environmental and genetic influences on the timing and nature of the growth process. Multiple skeletal variables, each differentially sensitive to environmental and genetic influence, were examined to assess the skeletal growth of individuals from St. Peter's Church (Barton-upon-Humber, UK) -- a socially stratified and relatively genetically homogeneous population. In this study, there is no effect of socioeconomic status on long bone length, stature, body mass or articular dimensions. However, long bone diaphyseal cross-sectional cortical and medullary areas (considered to be highly environmentally sensitive) show marked differences, primarily during infancy and early childhood, with reduced or no differences for young adults. Early results and palaeopathological observations suggest socioeconomic groups differences may be related to sustaining more prolonged durations of metabolic distress in the higher socioeconomic subadult sample.
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.
McHale, Timothy Sean, U. of Nevada, Las Vegas, NV - To aid research on 'Investigating Acute Steroid Hormone Change in Response to Competition among Hong Kong Juvenile Boys,' supervised by Dr. Peter Gray
Preliminary abstract: The aim of the proposed research is to investigate steroid hormone response to physical and non-physical forms of male-male competition among juvenile boys in Hong Kong. The goal of this research is to provide novel insights into the proximate mechanisms that mediate competitive social behavior in boys and to assess the factors that potentially contribute to acute reactive changes of adrenal steroid hormones during juvenile development. Three independent research studies will be conducted during a 1) head-to-head table tennis tournament, 2) soccer match and soccer scrimmage, 3) and a math competition. Boys' before and after saliva samples will be collected to evaluate hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity, using biomarkers: dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), androstenedione, cortisol, and testosterone. Liquid chromatography--tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) will be used to measure the hormone concentrations of the samples, the most technically sophisticated and accurate method of analysis available. I hypothesize that children may have evolved an endocrine pathway that is unique to the juvenile stage of development, such that DHEA and androstenedione, rather than testosterone, will acutely rise in order to meet the physical and cognitive demands of social competition. I predict that boys will experience acute increases in DHEA and androstenedione in all three studies. Additionally, I predict acute hormone changes will be associated with psychosocial variables, such as competitor type (in-group vs. out-group), self-reported individual performance, and outcome of the contest (victory/defeat). Testosterone is predicted to exert no measurable effects in all three studies.
Leidy Sievert, Dr. Lynnette, U. of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA - To aid research on 'Do Women Who Think They Know Really Know? Validating Signals of Ovulation'
DR. LYNNETTE LEIDY SIEVERT, of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Massachusetts, received funding in November 2002 to aid research on signals of ovulation in women who believe they know when they ovulate. Sievert tested whether or not women who think they know when they ovulate really do know, by assessing the concordance between perceived signals of ovulation and an elevated level of urinary LH, a biological indicator of ovulation. Participants were ages 18 to 46, had regular menstrual periods, were using no form of hormonal contraception, and believed they knew when they ovulated. Fifty-three women began the study. Signals of ovulation reported at initial interview included cervical discharge (68%), abdominal pain (64%), increased libido (30%), changes in mood or energy (25%), basal body temperature (17%), and other, infrequently reported symptoms (45%). Signal reporting varied in relation to smoking habits, body mass index, and health status. Thirty-six women provided a total of 87 urine specimens for LH testing. Thirty-seven of the specimens tested positive for an LH surge, for a concordance rate of 43%. Using the first tested cycle from the 36 women who provided urine specimens, 13 demonstrated an LH surge, for a concordance rate of 36%. The mean level of accuracy among the 15 women who contributed three to six urine specimens was 49%. It appeared, then, that between one-third and one-half of women who thought they knew when they ovulated were correct.
Crews, Dr. Douglas Earl, Ohio State U., Columbus, OH - To aid conference on 'Evolution Theory, Life History, and Human Longevity,' 2009, Ohio State U.
'Evolution Theory, Life History, and Human Longevity'
February 5-7, 2009, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
Organizer: Douglas E. Crews (Ohio State University)
This conference brought together a diverse group of researchers, representing anthropology, medicine and biology, to link their research programs into the broad theme of human life history (LH) evolution. The multi-disciplinary perspective was crucial to examining how LH characteristics link diverse species such as fruit flies and rodents to primate and human
LH evolution. Crosscutting anthropological, biocultural, biomedical, and gerontological interests, this conference focused upon similarities of systems in biology and LH. Papers addressing such issues as reproductive costs, evolutionary pressures, and longevity in fruit flies and humans set the stage for an interdisciplinary exchange of concepts and methodologies. Reports on LH of non-human primates and among fossil hominins explored how modern human life histories and longevities may have developed. Concluding papers examined how modern humans senesce and experience frailty and late-life due to
biocultural forces acting over a 70+-year lifespan. This integrative conference ranged from senescent alterations in fruit flies to the trade-offs encountered by humans as they have evolved.
Garruto, Dr. Ralph, State U. of New York, Binghamton, NY - To aid engaged activities on 'Using Anthropology to Build Research Capacity and Inform Public Health Policy in the Republic of Vanuatu,' 2016, Vanuatu
Preliminary abstract: The Republic of Vanuatu, an island nation in the South Pacific, is undergoing a rapid health transition as the result of modernization and accompanying changes in diet, activity, and lifestyle. Our previous research has demonstrated that obesity is rapidly incresing in prevalence in urban areas, and that rural areas with tourism are at risk due to rapid culture change, including increased access to processed and packaged foods. The goals of our engagement project are four-fold: 1) To inform the Ministry of Health of our findings in order to stimulate the development of targeted intervention strategies; 2) to provide training in anthropometrics, statistics and survey techniques to Ministry of Health workers in order to facilitate wider surveillance of health transition in Vanuatu; 3) to inform community members in the urban capital, Port Vila, of our findings through public forums held in community centers; 4) to disseminate our results to rural areas and islands through community presentations and the creation of informative posters on the health transition, obesity, hypertension and associated risk behaviors, smoking, alcohol and other drug use, to be posted at community centers and first-aid posts; and 5) at the request of the government, to develop a plan to build research capacity for the nation.