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Welcome to the Biocultural Anthropology Lab

Dr. Courtney Meehan

Associate Professor of Anthropology

Associate Dean, Research and Graduate Studies

College of Arts and Sciences

 

RESEARCH

My overarching research interest concerns the evolution of human childhood. Specifically, I focus on infant and child physical, social, and emotional development, parental and alloparental reproductive and investment strategies, and breastfeeding, lactation, and human milk composition. I conduct cross-cultural research in the Central African Republic among the Aka hunter-gatherers and the Ngandu horticulturalists, Ethiopia among the Sidama agro-pastoralists and in the US among local populations. I am a biocultural anthropologist whose research is informed through life history theory and behavioral ecology.

CURRENT PROJECTS

Child Development and Human Cooperative Breeding

My research on child development and human cooperative breeding is focused on understanding the role of parents and alloparents in children’s social and emotional development and the relationships between cooperative breeding and human reproductive and behavioral strategies. I investigate who cares for children cross-culturally, the influence of socioecology on parental and alloparental investment, the role and influence of caregivers on children’s attachment relationship, and the influence of caregivers on children’s growth and nutritional status.¬† This research is being carried out in both Central and East Africa among hunter-gatherers, horticulturalists and agro-pastoralists and in the US.

Aka family (Photo: R. Prescott)
Aka family

 

Human Milk Composition and Maternal-Infant Microbiomes

My research is also focused on understanding the socio-cultural, evolutionary, genetic, and environmental, factors related to human milk composition and maternal-infant microbiomes. Specifically, we are exploring how human milk and maternal-infant microbiomes vary around the world and how our physical and social environments and behaviors are related to microbial diversity and composition.  As part of this project, I collaborate with an interdisciplinary team comprised of biological and cultural anthropologists, lactation physiologists, nutritionists, microbiologists, and computational biologists.  Projects have been undertaken in the Central African Republic, as well as a large international project in Ethiopia, Kenya, The Gambia, Ghana, Sweden, Spain, Peru, and the United States.

Birhanu (INSPIRE field crew member) in Hawassa, Ethiopia