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Biocultural Anthropology Culture, Ecology & Evolution

Robert J. Quinlan, PhD

Professor of Anthropology

Research & Teaching: Cultural & evolutionary ecology; medical anthropology; anthropological demography; ethnobiology; collaborative ethnographic science; cross-cultural comparison; field & analytical methods; Caribbean; Africa.

I’m interested in the nexus of culture and biology in families, livelihoods, reproduction, health, and development. My research examines life-course or life history development (influences on timing of major life events) and environmental uncertainty in small-scale production systems in low-income nations and historical populations.  I have also been involved in collaborative and interdisciplinary research in medical anthropology and ethnobiology concerning traditional health-related beliefs and practices and their integration with “Western” biomedicine.

Environmental Influences on Family, Fertility, and Mortality. My main research concerns family, parenting, fertility, and mortality. My PhD dissertation (2000, University of Missouri) and MA thesis (1995) examined households, parenting, and fertility using ethnographic mixed-methods in a rural Caribbean village in the Commonwealth of Dominica.  Since then, much of my research has examined environmental effects such as economic shocks, marginalization, famine, and warfare, on the timing of life course events such as age at marriage, age at first birth, age at weaning, interbirth intervals, and age at death.

I hope to advise graduate students interested in studying topics related to family formation, conjugal stability, divorce, parental and allo-parental care, household composition, kinship, fertility, childlessness, cooperative childrearing, extended family and intergenerational relations in marginalized communities, small-scale production systems or historical populations.  I especially hope to advise students who are interested in both qualitative and quantitative analytical perspectives.

Selected Life History/Life Course, Family & Kinship Related Publications 

Environmental Uncertainty & Resilience in Small-Scale Production Systems.  Environmental predictability has important influence on decisions people make about investing their time, attention, energy, assets, etc.  My cultural and evolutionary ecology research focuses on effects of environmental shocks and uncertainty in shaping production, reproduction, and decision making.

Selected Risk & Resilience Related Publications 

Antimicrobial Use in Livestock, & Drug Resistant Bacteria among Agro-Pastoralists. This interdisciplinary research, coordinated through the Allen School for Global Health, examines veterinary care, antimicrobial use, and antibiotic resistance among Maasai, Arusha, and Chaga people in Tanzania.  Arusha and Chaga farmers tend to employ certified veterinarians to administer antimicrobials, while Maasai, with much larger herds, tend to treat livestock themselves. Comparing Maasai homesteads to each other, there appears to be no association between use of veterinary antibiotics and antimicrobial resistance. Maasai fecal samples, however, show a higher prevalence of antibiotic resistant E. coli than do neighboring ethnic groups.  This higher prevalence of resistance may be due to reliance on subsistence dairying for a large proportion of Maasai diets.

 Selected Medical Ethnobiology & Antibiotics Related Publications