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Fieldwork in Shuar communities

The Shuar are an indigenous group (pop. 60,000-100,000) inhabiting the western edge of the Amazon basin in Ecuador and Peru. Shuar subsistence centers on small-scale gardening, hunting, fishing, and foraging. However, market economic activities such as wage labor, the raising of livestock, and cash-crop cultivation are increasingly common, especially in communities closer to urban centers. My fieldwork is conducted in collaboration with the Shuar Health and Life History Project (founder and co-director: Larry Sugiyama, co-director: Josh Snodgrass), which has conducted ongoing research for more than 15 years. My work among the Shuar focuses on identifying behavioral and physiological strategies for coping with energetic stressors such as infectious disease and nutritional depletion.

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Cross-cultural research on aging and health

I am interested in understanding how social inequality becomes biologically embedded and generates disparate trajectories of health and aging. To this end, I am a collaborator in the World Health Organization's Study on global AGEing and adult health (SAGE, PIs: Paul Kowal and Somnath Chatterji). SAGE is composed of nationally representative samples of older adults from China, Ghana, India, Mexico, the Russian Federation, and South Africa, as well as smaller comparative samples of younger adults from each of these countries. SAGE collects data in a variety of domains relevant to health and aging including demographics, socioeconomic status, healthcare, perceived health and wellbeing, physical and cognitive function, health-related behaviors, chronic conditions, interpersonal sociality, and biomarkers of immune and cardiometabolic function. 

Minimally invasive biomarker collection

I am a member of the Global Health Biomarker Lab (Director: Josh Snodgrass, Lab Manager: Geeta Eick). The lab focuses on the development and implementation of minimally-invasive methods to collect biological measurements in community-based settings. These methods make it possible to collect biomarker data in field settings where conventional collection methods (e.g., venipuncture blood draws and immediate sample processing) are not feasible. A particular area of focus is the development and validation of assays to measure biomarkers using dried blood spots samples. Assays performed at the lab include markers of immune function, metabolic status, and neuroendocrine activity.

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