Welcome to the Biocultural Anthropology Lab
Courtney Meehan, PhD
Associate Professor of Anthropology
Associate Dean, Research & Graduate Studies
College of Arts and Sciences
Health Equity Research Center Faculty Fellow
My overarching research interest concerns the evolution of human childhood. Specifically, I focus on infant and child development, parental and alloparental investment, and breastfeeding, and human milk composition and human microbiomes. 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 United States. As a biocultural anthropologist, my research is informed through life history theory and behavioral ecology.
COVID-19 and Infant Feeding
We are currently in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic. We are working to understand its impact on mothers and babies. We are studying the SARS-CoV-2 virus and breastmilk, associations between COVID-19 and infant feeding modes, examining host immune responses to infection in breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding women and infants. If you are interested in learning more, please visit wsu.edu/covid-19-infant-feeding.
Human.Milk.Composition and Maternal-Infant Microbiomes
My research is also focused on understanding the behavioral, evolutionary, genetic, and environmental, factors related to human milk composition and maternal-infant microbiomes. We are studying how human milk and maternal-infant microbiomes vary around the world and how our physical and social environments and behaviors relate 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. Research has been conducted in the Central African Republic, as well as Ethiopia, Kenya, The Gambia, Ghana, Sweden, Spain, Peru, and the United States.
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.